Ever since we started working on the project that led up to today’s Myth, I have been blessed to meet extremely talented and dynamic entrepreneurs. A lot of the talents I’ve met in personal has brought their profession and passion together and decided to jump into chasing the dream of creating a more sustainable future.
Today’s Stellar is one that is in parallel pursuing two passions in his life that may seem completely unrelated. On a daily basis he is injecting a fresh perspective of how we can enjoy food in a more responsible and sustainable way through the dishes that he creates; and for a very long time, he has relentlessly continued to pursue his passion in acting even after moving across the ocean from the US to Spain.
Through this interview, we get to know him a bit more and how through his different disciplines of work transpire a strong alignment to his values – which is to be creative, appreciative and respectful to this world and beyond. Meet Shayan Shojaee, an actor and a cook that advocates for sustainable eating.
Hi Shayan, tell us a bit about yourself and what is the inspiration behind your work as a private cook, and how does that transpire in your work?
As a child, I was often left to my own devices at home. I couldn’t just get in the car and grab whatever is missing from a recipe as I was too young to leave the house alone (let alone drive), so I started experimenting with things in the fridge and the pantry, playing with the most unusual ingredient combinations and ways in cooking.
The kitchen of my childhood home was like a surprise basket, every time I go there I started seeing raw ingredients and imagining them in dishes. Sometimes they tasted great, other times they were horrible.
It was, and still is my creative outlet, to experiment with flavors and use what you have instead of following a recipe and running to the shops all the time.
This process allows me to discover and re-discover each note and element in our food and spices.
Right now, I am creating menus and healthy snacks that I make to order on a limited basis and deliver within my community. I like to keep it an intimate circle with my customers and for them to experience this creative process with me.
I understand that your passion for food goes beyond creating new dishes. You’re also actively advocating for people to eat better and eat sustainably. Can you tell us more about that?
My father and his father were both chefs, so food has been an integral part of my upbringing. I grew up learning how to appreciate food, knowing that it is sacred and not a right, but a privilege. This mentality forms the core of my beliefs and why I want to promote sustainable eating. Sustainable eating isn’t just eating healthy but to eat responsibly and be conscious of what you consume and appreciate where your food came from.
We, as humans, overfish, over harvest and over produce food. Approximately 40% of the fresh products in grocery stores become waste, yet it is such a cliché that we have food problems in parts of the world. What we have is not a food shortage issue, but inequality in food distribution. There is enough food in the world to feed every single human being 3 full meals a day. But we do not know how to distribute it to the places that need it, so we just toss it.
Many organizations resort to sending cans of food to places where they do not have access to fresh produce. In my opinion we are solving a long-term problem with short-term and unsustainable solutions. Until there is interest from authorities to take a serious look at the root-cause and for parties to fix that, such as shortage of water or unusable soil for crops, we are just putting patches on wounds that do not allow people to be independent of help from the outside.
So, part of my mission is to encourage people to grow their own food when they can. Apart from being responsible for our own supply and aware of the shortage the current system is creating, it is such an empowering process to watch that the time and effort you put into planting a seed can one day nourish your body as well and watch that holistic cycle repeat itself.
You’ve chosen a very different path than most of us, to pursue a career in acting, at the same time promote sustainable eating and lifestyle through your private hospitality business. Looking back at the journey so far, is there anything you would like to tell your past self that you wish you knew back then? A tip for someone with a passion about acting or cooking, that is still thinking if they can do this!
I have always wanted to act because it allows me to live all the experiences and circumstances in life to fulfill my curiosity about the world, people, culture and live a specific time in history. However, I went into advertising first because it was supposed to be a creative outlet that brought more stability. No one told me that there was a huge business side of advertising such as accounting, sales…and I was hit with reality. It wasn’t what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be. Only then did I have the courage to pursue my dream.
When I look at my own path, I would tell my former self that not everything has to be lined up perfectly for you to start a project and take opportunities. Being a perfectionist, I want have everything set before going so that when I go I take little risk. Even now I am still learning how to just jump in and not worry about the logistics. You can never tweak and prepare for every single scenario before you start the project, so just go for it.
It’s an interesting question here looking at my dual passions. The truth is, if you’re only passionate about acting, I would encourage you to release your creativity in other areas of interest within the industry as well. For example, learn how to direct, or write. Because the scary part about acting is, even for Meryl Streep, when she wraps up an act that night she goes to bed being unemployed. We’re not Meryl Streep so you have to make sure you have a way to sustain yourself in between auditions. But more importantly, you have to be able to release your creative energy into something else as well to keep you going.
On the other hand, if you’re passionate about cooking I would tell you the exact opposite. Drop everything and start now. In the culinary world, the earlier you start and the harder you work, the more you are rewarded. The best chefs I have met during my time in the kitchen are those that made up their mind early and put all their energy into excelling everything they learn.
“Finally, once you have a voice remember that you can influence people and choose your story to tell. Tell people about things you care about, make the change that you have always wanted to make.”
Shayan Shojaee, Actor & Sustainable Chef
Finally, what part of being in the Myth community would you look forward most to?
I look forward to meeting people from all kinds of backgrounds and professions where our different minds and expertise towards contributing to a bigger cause in making the world a better place.
I hope that we can come together to put solutions to areas that are dear to us. For example, someone might be able to help me get closer to my dream in addressing issues about food distribution whilst I chip in and help others with their cause as well.