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Name: Shannon Wilson
Occupation: Nutritional consultant and owner of Healthy Cooking With Mr. Wilson catering service
Age: 36
City: Detroit

ESSENCE.COM: Shannon, you have a career built around food and healthy eating. How did you get your start in the kitchen?
When I was about 7, my mother would sometimes cook late, and after coming in from playing all day, I would be hungry. Most of the time my mother would be frying chicken and she never would let me have a piece before dinner, so I would just sit in the kitchen watching and hoping she’d give in to my puppy dog sad face. She rarely did, so as soon as she would turn her back, I would snatch a piece of chicken and walk into my bedroom to devour it. After a few years of observing and swiping, I began to learn how to prepare the foods that I enjoyed eating. I got my big break when my entire family had gotten sick except for me, so I had to step up to the plate, no pun intended, to cook for everyone. The rest is history.

ESSENCE.COM: That’s a memorable start. So what’s a cooking tip that works everytime?
WILSON: My best cooking tip is use more natural and fresh products when you prepare your foods. Also try to eat more raw vegetables or lightly steamed vegetables.

ESSENCE.COM: Now have you ever had a mishap while cooking?
WILSON: I was making brownies and mixing them up on the counter when I didn’t realize a bottle of cayenne pepper tipped off the shelf and emptied into the bowl. I baked the brownies and I served them to some kids. After they ate them, all the kids were running around screaming for water because their mouths were burning. The funny thing, though is, after a few of them got some water they still wanted the brownies.

ESSENCE.COM: So what’s your signature recipe?
WILSON: I have quite a few signature dishes but the one that stands out is one that I usually share with everybody, my Wheat Pita Pizza. I love quick but effective dishes and this recipe signifies my specialty at taking traditional recipes and converting them into healthy dishes that retain their traditional taste.