Eating healthy is not a fad, it’s a lifestyle
Rena Lee moved to Hart County when she was 10 years old. Even at that young age she had already established a passion for health, wellness and plant-based cooking.
Despite that passion, with a degree in Christian Media Management, Lee never thought of any kind of career in the health or cooking field.
However, she still enjoyed plant-based cooking, especially when it involved teaching others how to cook for their own health. Lee is a vegan and loves showing people how delicious vegan foods can be. She said it’s far from just eating “rabbit food.”
After college, word of her cooking skills spread. In fact, a former boss in media management approached Lee with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
That boss also served as the director of a Christian lifestyle center in Sydney, Australia and asked Lee if she’d be interested in working at the center as a cook.
“I said why not,” Lee laughed. “Actually I thought I was just going to be like an assistant cook but I quickly came to find out I was THE cook.”
A lifestyle center is a wellness retreat where people can elect to go to get natural, holistic help for any health challenges they may face, like weight issues, diabetes, depression or even to kick a smoking habit, among others.
Guests go through counseling sessions and have hands on learning with numerous facets pertaining to health, depending on their needs. Lee was in charge of making sure these guests had a healthy, delicious diet for the duration of their stay.
Cooking for people in all walks of life wasn’t easy, but Lee pulled it off. She even went to cook for another affiliated lifestyle center in Melbourne while in Australia. Hosting plant-based cooking classes for guests was one of the most enjoyable aspects for Lee.
“I didn’t have a lot of experience,” she said. “I just shared what I knew with people. It was quite an experience. As a Christian, we believe that God has created our bodies. It’s the same thing with a car. There is the maker and they know exactly what’s best for the car.”
The lifestyle center wanted to sponsor Lee for another two-year minimum stay on her work visa, but the visa was denied. Lee saw it as a blessing in disguise.
“I felt impressed that God wanted me to come back home and help my own community,” said the 27-year-old.
Along with her mother, Haiwon Kim, Lee opened a health food store and flower shop called Sweet Pea on Carter Street in Hartwell.
“We want to do a lot more in the community, giving health classes, cooking demonstrations or cooking classes,” said Lee. “Food is more than just something that tastes good or to fill your belly. People don’t realize how much it affects everything simple little thing. You can live a more vibrant, healthy life. You don’t have to speed up the process (of aging). You can enjoy life with your loved ones better.”