The journey of life is not a smooth path from beginning to end, but is like a roller coaster containing highs and lows. But no matter how low one is, it is never too late to turn it around.
Huskies Cross Country alumnus, Kenzie Osborne, has faced her fair share of challenges which have led to understanding and finding her true passion: food.
"As a young girl, I always loved food. I was the kid that would sneak into the fridge and take the smallest sliver of cake, to make sure no one would notice," Osborne explained. "Then, a few minutes later, I'd go back for another slice. My family always ate together, and as high-performance athletes, we all ate a lot of food. Eating was always something I loved to do."
Unfortunately, over time her love and passion for food slowly became her worst enemy.
"In high school, my love of food turned into an obsession for food. I was obsessed with what I ate," Osborne said. "I tracked everything, and I listened to every diet book out there. I lost touch with my passion for trying new ingredients and cooking with my family - all I could focus on was the nutrition."
It ultimately developed into a severe case of anorexia nervosa, which is an eating disorder characterized by weight loss and difficulties maintaining a healthy weight. When Kenzie was 18 and enrolled in a Biochemistry and Nutrition program at a University in the US, the disease hit its worst.
"After my first semester, I was forced to withdraw and given about six months to live. To put things into perspective, I would only allow myself to eat about five foods. There was no flavour in the food I "allowed" myself to eat - meaning no salt, no sugar, no fat, no nothing."
Osborne's parents thought the best way to help their daughter recover from this life-threatening disease was to reignite her passion for food she had as a child. Her parents and brothers spent their days supporting her through every meal and sitting at the table for countless hours until she would finish the plate. They tried to find the best way to provide the support she needed, but it was difficult to find an answer.
The most significant change was when she was scrolling through the internet and found the Food Network. The shows being aired such as GGG, Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen got her creative juices flowing again.
"I'm so thankful to have such supportive and caring parents. When I became interested in the Food Network, they jumped right on board and played the games with me in the kitchen. We challenged ourselves to make the wildest meals we could. After a few months, I was finally starting to try the foods that I had feared for so long. I wasn't focused on my fear of the food, I was focussed on how I could use it in whatever game Guy was playing, whatever Chopped basket Ted Allen threw at the chefs, or whatever wild task Chef Alton had up his sleeve," Osborne described.
"I challenged myself to think of food as art, an expression of emotion, a challenge, a puzzle, and a representation of culture. My parents and I would then sit down together and laugh at the craziness that was created! I can't believe how incredible my parents were. The sacrifices they made and the smiles they put on their faces to support me through the toughest times were amazing. Playing the games and sitting down to share a meal was where my passion for food and flavour truly came back. I finally began to remember why I loved food so much - it was incredible."
Osborne's rediscovered passion for food got her thinking about the next steps in her life, and upon learning that Chef John Higgins, a judge on Chopped Canada was a George Brown Alumni, Kenzie began looking into the college. She gave George Brown a call and talked to Chef Moira Cockburn, the head of George Brown's Culinary Nutrition Management program. At this point, Kenzie was interested in the relationship between wellness and food, but was hesitant to apply to the program. All her reluctance changed with that one phone call.
"After about an hour-long call with Chef Moira, I was convinced GBC was the place to be. Her view of food, health and wellness was exactly aligned with my own. She was focussed on promoting balanced eating, and enjoying all food groups. I could hear the passion and kindness in her voice, and I knew GBC would be the perfect environment to support my transition from anorexia to becoming a chef."
This passion for food extended from the kitchen to the keyboard. Kenzie started a blog titled "R.I.P Eating Disorder" to express her personal thoughts and feelings. This was followed by a second blog as part of one her courses in which students were tasked with writing about different food and culinary techniques. These two blogs merged and developed into her current page, "Behind-The-Plate with Chef Kenzie Osborne."
Kenzie's passions have now led to her to strive to become a food writer, but not the type that critiques restaurants. Instead, Kenzie seeks to bring an alternative perspective to the industry. She wants to travel the world and share stories about chefs, home cooks and foodies. In her mind, these are the stories that need to be told.
"Unfortunately, these stories aren't commonly told. Instead, the media focuses on featuring the 'big wig chefs', the 'impressive techniques' and the 'trendiest foods'. I wanted to shed a light on the stories and inspirations 'behind the plate'. To me, food is so much more than just what's physically on the plate. Every dish represents a unique story - and I wanted to be the one to share them with the world."
Osborne also has a background as a high-performance athlete, including 15 years of gymnastics as well as competing as a member of an NCAA tennis team. During her time at George Brown, she was also a student-athlete as a member of the Huskies' cross country team, something that she credits with helping her physical and mental well being.
"The team at GBC was absolutely incredible. From the coaches to the training staff to my teammates - it seemed like I was a part of one big family. I don't think the coaches and staff knew it - but they played a huge role in supporting my mental health," Osborne said. "In joining the team, I really did gain another huge support system. I could rely on everyone to bring me up, boost my spirits, and relieve me from the stress that was going on in my life."
The support from the team assisted her to put together a very successful campaign in the Fall of 2019. She collected three top-10 finishes, which included a career-best fifth-place at the Fleming Invitational.
Osborne has been through her fair share of challenges, but through leaning on her passions for food and writing she's been able to find a smoother path and target more highs in life. Kenzie is well on her way to achieving her goals.