Bermuda’s Jonathan Lowe is cooking for the stars
Jonathan Lowe had given up cooking – or so he thought.
Covid-19 nudged him back in a big way, as shown by his recent appearances on Brandon Marshall’s popular podcasts.
He stepped in for celebrity chef Nancie on I Am Athlete, the “candid, unscripted weekly discussion” between Marshall and other former NFL greats: Chad Johnson, Fred Taylor and Channing Crowder. He has also had screen time on I Am Woman, a spin-off of the show.
The opportunities rose through House of Athlete, Marshall’s lifestyle wellness brand that Mr Lowe partnered with last year.
“Just out of the blue they put me in front of the camera,” he said. “I didn’t know what questions I was going to be asked. I didn’t know anything. It just went like that.
“Everybody’s been liking the food; things have been going well. In terms of connections with the players I get along with everybody. It’s just positive.”
The chef gained experience at several restaurants in Bermuda while studying food and beverage management at Johnson & Wales University’s Florida campus. At Sheffield Hallam University he received a master’s degree in food consumer marketing and product development.
“My family has been doing pop-up kitchens since I was a child so I just fell right into it,” he said.
“To be honest with you I gave up cooking for a little bit. I was kind of done with it. I was in the hotels a lot; I worked for a lot of different caterings. It’s a very taxing career and a lot of times it’s not as rewarding as it is taxing.”
His master’s degree in hand, he left the UK and joined Dr Smood, an organic food company with stores in Miami and New York.
“I wanted to get more into the food selling, the food science business part of it,” said Mr Lowe. “Everything [at Dr Smood] is non-GMO, organic, non-dairy, no chemicals; no pesticides.”
He was there for nearly two years before the pandemic hit and the company let go 80 per cent of staff.
“So although I honestly gave cooking up, corona came and I needed to do something so I could make some income.”
He got back to work creating meal plans and was paired with a company looking for a vegan chef.
“I first did it with my sister,” he said. “She’s an educator in Bermuda, Teresa Woolridge. She got cancer and wanted to do a plant-based diet based on the research she did. She found a lot of people were having success with it. So I started with that.
“And then more so I got more experience doing it when I was with Dr Smood because the majority of the food was vegan – from the cheeses to the mayonnaise; everything.“
And then a celebrity chef friend put him in touch with Mo Wells, the director of pro performance at House of Athlete.
“And then after being in contact with Mo I had one athlete, then one athlete went up to three, three went up to five, now I’m cooking for up to 50 people. And then all of a sudden they asked me to come cook one night just for a group of ladies, for I Am Woman – I didn’t even know I was going to be the chef on the show.
“It was just like a snowball effect. Everything just came at once.”
With responsibility for breakfast, lunch and dinner, his days at the Florida facility can sometimes stretch from 5am until 1am. He is fortunate in that they have also connected him with potential clients.
“They have NFL friends, NBA friends …. I was getting these people hitting me up on Instagram; I was getting calls from them. Next thing I knew I had a bunch of NFL players I was cooking for.”
Having never acted before “a little bit of liquid courage” helped when he was suddenly thrust into the limelight.
“I’m nervous every day I go in,” he said. “In my opinion being nervous is natural. It’s either be nervous and be scared and don’t go for it or be nervous and just push through it.
“A lot of times I feel the real anxiety is just in your mind. It’s just the problems we create in our head that aren’t really there. But I was definitely nervous, especially for the first one.”
He spends his days at House of Athlete, the training centre in Weston where the podcasts are filmed.
When it comes to sports however, basketball is more his thing. Mr Lowe played on the Bermuda team and also as an undergraduate. In the UK he travelled with the Sharks, a professional team in Sheffield.
“I was never officially signed but while I was over there my [now five-year-old] son was born so I decided to give that up and come back to Miami. I was just concerned about being in my son’s life.”
As for the future, he is now focused on his partnership with I Am Athlete and growing his company.
“I do want to get into some options to bring something back to Bermuda,” said Mr Lowe, who was last here in October. “I have a couple people I’m working with. I’m also doing some financial literacy classes. My next plan is to more or less educate myself in finances. I want to get in some investments, make some passive income and I want to build a team, a cooking team so I can continue to expand.
“Because I have a lot more athletes; a lot of people hitting me up.”
Follow Jonathan Lowe on Instagram. Watch I Am Athlete on YouTube, iTunes and other streaming channels