Growing up in Alabama, cooking was a central part of family life for Becca Salmonson. When she was just a little girl, her mother had to begin using a wheelchair, “but she still taught me how to cook. She would tell me each ingredient and each step, and always finish with ‘a pinch of love.’ Whenever I called her for a recipe – which was always just in her head, not written down – she would call back and say affectionately, ‘Sugar, I forgot one thing, a pinch of love.’ My Southern roots are still nurtured today by her pinch of love.”
As a college student, the creativity that Becca’s mother had encouraged in the kitchen had its outlet in studying aerospace engineering. “I wanted to design airplanes, but I kept hearing, ‘Honey, this is a man’s world,’ so I decided to take my mom's advice and go into advertising and marketing.”
Hired by the clothing giant Gap, she began showing her innovative streak early. “New hires were required to work in the stores to become familiar with the clothing lines. I started asking questions and making suggestions, like ‘This jacket isn’t selling, but if we changed the button, we’d sell a dozen right away.’ Fortunately, the person who was my supervisor liked my ideas and encouraged me to move into merchandising instead of advertising/marketing.”
Her career with Gap spanned Baby Gap, Old Navy, and Gap Outlet. When she married and had children, eventually the heavy travel schedule became difficult, so Becca became a consultant in Learning and Development and helped created Gap University.
“When I was traveling overseas a lot, I read food magazines and invariably felt that good recipes could be better, healthier. I loved experimenting, bringing food I made to the office. Co-workers began asking me to make food for them. They even wanted to pay me to do that, but I’m from the South, and you don’t do that,” she laughs.
The idea was planted, and Becca decided that if she was going to make food for other people, she should go back to school to study nutrition, especially diets for special needs. She received board certification as a nutrition counselor. “Cooking for people felt like going back to my roots,” she says.
Another tipping point came when Kevin, a dear friend from her yoga class, was diagnosed with cancer. Becca had been experimenting with various food categories, but Kevin particularly asked for granola. The issue he was facing was that his chemotherapy treatments made a lot of foods taste metallic. The granolas he had tried masked that taste with sugar, and she wasn't about to let that happen!
“I tried umpteen iterations, tweaked and tweaked. Finally, with lemon and a certain spice combination, I was able to achieve snack bites that Kevin loved and that were healthy for him to eat. Kevin was the spark, he was put into my life to steer me in this direction.”
“I've come full circle, from my mother’s ‘pinch of love’ in every recipe, to designing airplanes, then clothing, and now designing food. I always knew it would be my life at some point – ‘healthyfying’ food. I’m a nurturer at heart, so I am going to do what I do best - mother the world, one healthy person at a time.”