Behind Closed Doors: Zoe Johnston

Zoe Johnston is in the business of making people feel good. And her chosen medium is food. This holistic chef, health coach, consultant and food stylist is making everything look and taste just a little bit better. I met her years ago in a Kundalini class and have been happily watching her growth as a woman who leads, and shares, a life of delicious food, spontaneous dancing and inspiration at every turn. Let's just say pleasure is her driving principle.

What is your food philosophy?

Real food should be enjoyed. I’ll try anything twice (even if it’s on your plate) and recommend everyone do the same. I make it a priority to curate my kitchen with local, organic, seasonal produce and animal proteins that excite and inspire me.


How did you get into cooking?

I wonder about this one sometimes. I grew up with wonderful parents who cooked more out of necessity than passion. Both are incredibly curious and creative but for the most part stuck to a roster of 4 or 5 rotating meals. My sister Isabel and I can both spend hours - days - in the kitchen. We think it came from our grandmothers and skipped a gene. I think learning about nutrition while getting my health coaching certification also triggered a lot of exploration in the kitchen. More than anything though, I love eating.


How do you start the day?

Weekdays I’ve been happily married to a morning routine that’s proven to be really beneficial to me: Sobagh Kriya, journal, creative write, read, movement, dry brush and cold shower. If I’m lucky enough to be anywhere near the ocean I’ll sub that out for my cold shower. I’m thankful to Desirée and the Benshen Course in helping develop this routine. I found a lot of growth and grounding in using that course over the start of the pandemic. I usually top that all off with a cold brew and breakfast bowl depending on my hunger levels before diving into work for the day. Weekends I ditch the routine and hunt down the closest market, breakfast burrito, etc. and let my hunger lead the way.

What's always in your fridge?

I use fresh herbs in everything: as salad greens, in sauces, smoothies, jams, baked goods etc.. So I always make sure to have those and fresh produce from the market or my local farm box in my fridge. Right now it’s hyssop, parsley, basil, cilantro, marjoram and tarragon. I’m not a regular supplement taker at the moment however I eat kimchi every day. Other than that I rarely go without a jar of homemade salsa verde, Dark Horse Fermented Dijon, some kind of nut milk or raw milk (when I can get my hands on it), tinned fish, cold brew, and something to soothe my sweet tooth from the market (Body + Soul Vegan Brownie and you’ll never have better).


What’s always in your pantry?

Garlic! Fermented and/or raw along with other spices from Alive Herbal on Nostrand (get their dried apricots from Uzbekistan). Olive Oil, though I always seem to run out. Lemons! Something funky and inspiring - right now I have Tart Vinegar and the CAP Coconut Butter. Nut butter for banana ice cream or by the spoon. Dark chocolate. Coffee Beans. Garbanzos and/or white beans. Excessive amounts of cumin and Maldon salt. And Queen Majesty’s Scotch Bonnet + Ginger hot sauce . Wow, trust me.


What do you turn to, to make you feel your best: food and all the other practices?

There’s no point in feeling guilty, serves no purpose! Enjoy! I try my best to follow this mantra and lead with my intuition. Other than that my feel good list would be: the ocean, my family, my friends, ice cream, farmer's markets, yoga (SKY TING TV works every time), this playlist and the reminder that I’m exactly where I need to be. I’ve also been seeing Chris at Eastern Scholars for biweekly acupuncture/adjusting/therapy as well as Thomas of Paradox Process for a mental tune up when needed. 

Favorite kitchen tool?

I want to say something advanced and cool but a blender is it for me. My friends also insist I put everything in a bowl, which I concur. Honorable mentions go to a solid cooking playlist.


What would we be most surprised to find in your kitchen?

Currently I have a box of Krispy Kreme mini’s from a friend that I’m chipping away at.


What ingredient are you most excited about right now?

Raw dairy has my heart.

Dream dinner party guests?

I have most of them already! One person I’d love to eat with again is my Grandma, I think she’d really love to see how my passion for food has developed. I remember the last time I ate at a restaurant in New York with her and she ordered the Steak Frites for 2 to herself despite my Grandfather’s recommendation to order a smaller meal. I think she ate it all. I liked that.


Who is inspiring you in the food world right now?

Laila Gohar, Sophia Roe, Frederik Bille Brahe, Alexis Nicole, Marjory Sweet, Frank Prisinzano, Vilda + Lydia, Caro Santos-Neves.


What are some of your favorite cookbooks?

I don’t love to cook exactly the same meal twice or read the same thing twice, hence why my cookbook collection’s pretty low. I usually lean on the library and internet if I want to find inspiration in a recipe. My inspiration is usually whatever produce is in season and/or instagram honestly. Though I recently ordered a copy of Marjory Sweet’s Farm Lunch and it’s really everything I want and need in a cookbook. I love how she uses a template as a way of teaching so that it arms us with a good framework but also inspires us to follow along via intuition and whatever’s ripe.


Go-to meal that you make for yourself more often than not?

Blanched greens a la Altro Paradiso via Marjory’s Cookbook. Rice or some other easy grain. Kimchi. Farm Egg. Yuzu Koshu. Umeboshi. Avocado. It’s super easy/I usually prep for two days on one day and feel it ticks all the boxes.


How do you end your day?

Mmmmm, it depends, lately it’s been dinner with a close friend or a chill night in with a movie. I like to either start or end my day with some reading. When I’m solo I’ll usually take a Magnesium bath after a walk around the neighborhood and a call with a friend or family member.


This one’s adapted from my friend Alysa. Forgive the lack of measurements I just eyeball/taste test it and suggest you do the same.

Cocojune Original Coconut Yogurt (I find about ¼ a large container to work for 1 fat salad). -If you can’t find this in your area a full fat greek yogurt would do. Also Anita’s coconut yogurt. I find most other non-dairy yogurts I’ve came across to be a bit too runny for this.

Fresh Garlic (peeled)

Chopped Herbs (choose your own adventure): Mint, Dill, Chives, Parsley, Cilantro, Basil, Tarragon, Marjoram Lemon Squeeze + zest (lime works too!)

Salt + Pepper to Taste

Aleppo Pepper (red pepper flakes work too)

Dash Olive Oil if it’s super thick (I find some batches of Cocojune are much thicker than others)

CAP Coconut Butter (optional but I find it leaves a more luxurious mouth feel)


I throw all the above in a blender! I like my yogurt to herb ratio to be pretty equal and as for garlic - really I add as many cloves as I have the patience to peel.

Blend a bit (don’t overdo it the garlic chunks and herby bits are nice to nibble on). I like to throw this on top of a big bed of greens + herbs (lettuce, parsley, cilantro usually), add some roasted veg on top (parsnips and zucchini do really nice depending on the season) and a piece of protein (seared salmon is my go to but chicken or eggs go lovely as does a slab of tofu!). This can also be used as a lovely dip, spread, etc.

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