Humboldt County native, Rachele McCluskey, is abundant in life’s most precious resource – good health. With bright azure-colored eyes and glowing skin, McCluskey is a walking advertisement for the plant-based diet she endorses at her growing business, Foodwise Kitchen.
This August, McCluskey is celebrating one year since opening Foodwise in downtown Arcata, Humboldt’s bohemian university town. The high ceilings, elegant style and natural light of the commercial kitchen at Foodwise create the perfect background for McCluskey’s cooking classes and pop-up dinners. Not strictly raw or vegan, Foodwise embraces the raw power of organic fruits and vegetables, buttressed by macronutrients from plant-based proteins.
McCluskey’s vibrant, often raw, dishes are inspired by her passion for culinary exploration and her commitment to harnessing the medicinal power of food.
McCluskey attended the Living Light Culinary Institute in Mendocino in 2011, where the education is experiential and hands-on. After the month-long “raw food boot camp,” she was driven to share the amazing benefits of a raw diet with her community. While fine-tuning her personal food philosophy, which includes incorporating warm foods to stay healthy in Humboldt’s cold, damp climate, McCluskey spent years preparing to launch Foodwise. Today, her Sunday afternoon meal prep classes, cooking classes and plant-based dinners bring in foodies of all stripes. Some are curious about raw and vegan food, but mostly, they want to learn new methods of cooking nutrient-dense and beautiful dishes at home. Whether someone attends a class for fun or to seek the tools needed to attain better health, Foodwise Kitchen will leave participants respecting, even celebrating, the food-health connection.
“I believe most diseases can be prevented by eating different things,” says McCluskey. “I think the reason most people don’t, is [because] they don’t know how to cook.”
Given the values of Foodwise Kitchen, the incorporation of cannabis into McCluskey’s food philosophy was a natural progression. The ambiguity around making medicinal, cannabis-infused dishes can be even more daunting than cooking a healthy dinner – already a daily challenge for many. While the path to self-medicating with edibles is fraught with horror stories of overdosing, McCluskey sees no reason to overcomplicate the marriage of culinary arts and cannabis. Utilizing the many health benefits of coconut oil, McCluskey makes her own non-dairy, organic canna-coconut oil by heating finely ground flowers with oil over low heat. Always using modest doses of any oil in her cooking, she created two approachable and delectable Foodwise dishes for “The Emerald’s” canna-friendly foodies.
“The cheesecakes are where it all started,” McCluskey explains over a slice of her signature Raw Vanilla Bean Cheesecake drizzled with a Cacao-Canna Sauce. By soaking, then blending raw cashews, Foodwise Kitchen produces a variety of delicious cheesecake flavors, allowing her guests and customers to indulge in a dessert that won’t cause a sugar spike or digestive turmoil. For this recipe, McCluskey added a light drizzle of her cacao-canna sauce, garnished with baby strawberries from the culinary garden outside. If recreating this dish at home, your guests can easily opt out from the edible component – the raw vanilla bean cheesecake is decadent and flavorful on it’s own.
For the savory soup recipe, McCluskey sourced ingredients by popping across the street to the North Coast Co-op, where the natural grocer’s huge selection of organic, locally grown produce allows endless creativity at neighboring Foodwise Kitchen. Quickly transforming a bushel of summer vegetables into a fragrant bowl of soup, McCluskey incorporates cannabis with a modest dose of medicinal canna-coconut oil to sauté diced garlic and onions. Locals know that summer can bring a chilly fog to Humboldt’s rugged coastline, creating the perfect weather for an afternoon bowl of soup. She also works with several local, organic farms to source farm fresh Humboldt County produce directly for Foodwise Kitchen.
McCluskey often partners up with like-minded, plant-based chefs throughout the Pacific Northwest to host pop-up dinners like her upcoming Summer Nights Harvest Dinner, August 25th and 26th. In addition to a variety of classes like “Homemade Baby Food,” “DIY Kombucha” and “Plant-Based Cooking on a Budget,” McCluskey looks forward to hosting canna-friendly food classes and events in the near future. Whether it’s raw, vegan, infused, or simply healthy dishes you’re looking for, Rachele McCluskey wants to help you get cooking.