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INSPIRE ME! : Michelle Wagner

Posted on 11-08-2012 by Elise Joan

Nothing in the World brings me more joy than meeting a kindred spirit.  and i found JUST that in the marvelous Michelle Wagner.  Seldom do we find friends who have so many talents, it's hard to pinpoint just ONE that inspires us.  Michelle is a phenomenal chef, blogger, fitness-ista, and all around inspiring person.  She is a culinary genius, who is able to whip together in record time, DELICIOUS meals, that you would swear took hours to prepare.

There are many great chefs out there, no doubt.  but there is something extra-special about Michelle.  maybe... it is the fresh foods she buys from local farmers' markets.  maybe it's the fact that her super-healthy meals taste as rich and decadent as their full fat counterparts.  maybe it's her flair to improvise dishes on the spot with no recipes, just her uncanny awareness of creating taste-bud exploding flavor combinations with little more than some honey and cayenne pepper.  BUT.... if you ask me.... i secretly believe that what makes Michelle so special, is that she cooks from the heart, and infuses all her meals with her radiant joy & LOVE of life.

Michelle makes cooking (and even food prep) an ART.  She can adroitly chop onions while carrying on a philosophical discourse on the latest book she's read, or the current state of the LSU defensive line.  From Michelle, i have learned about proper knife techniques, the value of  a good grill- pan, and the many ways to transform your quinoa left-overs into brand new works of culinary art.  I am fortunate enough to live 2 blocks away, and get to enjoy her miracle cuisine.... but if you're not so lucky, michelle can help you channel your OWN inner food goddess on her blog: www.thecuriousfig.com .  it is filled with michelle's insights on food, flavors, and a passion for delicious wellness.  She is champion of creating quick healthy and scrumptious meals for those of us on a tight budget.  She gives tips, shares recipes & resources, and gives you the tools & support you need to create fun, fast, whole delicious meals for yourself and your loved ones.

so do yourself and your body a favor, and check out thecuriousfig.com.

**you can also contact michelle for consultations and kitchen make-overs, so you have all the necessary tools for easy, fun food prep.

and now....without further introduction.... the gloriously talented MICHELLE WAGNER 🙂


How did you first become interested in cooking?

I always enjoyed being in the kitchen as a child thanks to my southern mother. I loved watching her cook everything from green beans, collard beans, and pork roast to her amazing homemade spaghetti. However, my own active experiences in the kitchen didn’t begin until college when I moved into my first apartment. I began watching the Food Network—Rachel Ray, Giada, and Ina Garten—and became so fascinated by their ability to create such wonderful, simple meals. At first, I was a recipe girl all the way and couldn’t cook anything without explicit step-by-step instructions. That has changed over time, but I still love browsing recipes from some of my original favorite chefs (including my mom)!

What drives your passion?

I view the kitchen as a space for me to tune into myself and tap into my creativity. There’s almost nothing better than combining flavors or foods to come up with something I’ve never tasted before. But just as importantly, the kitchen is a place where I can forget the rules and fly by the seat of my pants, and the worst thing that might happen is cooking something that tastes less than awesome, but could also result in something really rewarding. As in life, cooking is about the journey more than the destination. There is more to learn and explore every day (and with each trip to the farmer’s market)!

What inspires you?

I find inspiration in many places. As I mentioned, the weekly Santa Monica farmer’s market is a plentiful source of inspiration! I love meandering between booths and discovering what looks fresh and in season. I am a firm believer in sourcing local and organic goods because it’s better for both your body and the environment, and it also nourishes your relationship with the food you put in your body by broadening your knowledge. It’s incredibly empowering to understand where your food comes from and how it nourishes you. On that note, I am also inspired to cook by my priority to live fit and take care of myself.

5 of your favorite things:

Current favorite things:

  1. My Ninja Blender
  2. Zico chocolate coconut water
  3. My julienne vegetable peeler (it makes noodles out of zucchini!)
  4. Instagramming practically everything I come into contact with
  5. If You Want to Write by Barbara Ueland

How would you define your cooking style?

I touched on this briefly, but my cooking style is definitely relaxed. There was once a time that I couldn’t turn the oven on or decide what to cook without a recipe in front of me. That, of course, has significantly changed in that I now let my intuition and the seasons guide my cooking. As far as technique is concerned, I like to use a variety of methods to produce a meal. Sometimes that means a simple raw kale salad using no other tools besides a knife and a salad spinner, and other times it means using my Ninja to make dough, sauce, and banana ‘ice cream’, the oven to bake pizza, and a burner to caramelize onions all in one night. Can you tell I love my Ninja?

What sets you apart in your field?

I think part of what makes me unique is that I hardly ever make the same meal twice. Because I am constantly coming up with new (and sometimes random) things, it’s just more fun for me to allow my cooking style to continue evolving rather than repeating the same thing again.

5 “must have” ingredients

Free-range eggs (because they can transform leftovers), garlic (my favorite way to add flavor), high-quality unsalted butter (a little goes a long way in adding richness to foods; butter should not be feared!) Sriracha (to amp up the heat), and peanut butter (does this require an explanation?)

What are your greatest challenges?

My own goals sometimes intimidate me. I am bad about second-guessing myself (in life, not in the kitchen); I am most certainly my own worst critic.

What are you manifesting in your life right now?

I just moved to Santa Monica from Atlanta, GA almost two months ago with my boyfriend, Joshua, for pretty much no solid reason other than to simply embrace the heck out of life and opportunity. In the last year or so I graduated from college and was rejected from the graduate program I banked on getting into, subsequently causing me to feel pretty anxious and upset about my path and life in general. Realizing that was a pretty shameful outlook, I made it my mission to search for the window among the closed doors. I also made the choice to open myself to any and all opportunities around me, which has had a profound effect on my life and also led to the move to California. So, right now I am manifesting openness and embracing life’s abundance of frequently disguised opportunities.

What’s your roadmap for finding your “Bliss”?

I’m slowly figuring out just how to locate my ‘Bliss’, but I know that it starts with paying attention to the things that make me feel alive and excited, and that definitely includes spending lots of time in the kitchen, (slowly) working on my blog, writing, and spending as much time in the Santa Monica sunshine as possible. I also believe that happiness comes in many forms, and that you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing or follow the common path. I am constantly working on putting that adage into practice by putting energy into those things that make me feel joyful and trusting that things will work out as they are meant to.

5 things that make you happy:

  1. Cooking (of course)!
  2. Traveling. Everywhere.
  3. A great sweat session, whether that is a solo run, an amazing yoga class with Elise, a hike with friends, or a trip to the Santa Monica Stairs.
  4. Trying a type of food/food preparation or flavor that I’ve never tasted.
  5. My boyfriend, friends, and loved ones (including my kitties).

One thing you could not live without:

SLEEP! And, I’m reluctant to admit, my iPhone.

If you could share ONE thing about yourself with the world, what would it be?

Zico chocolate coconut water. Seriously.

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