My name is Marco Knox and I am the founder, chef, and coach. Sort of like a Buddha Bowl if you will, all of the healthy things that you need - mixed into one!
I have been cooking since I was 12 years old. And I got my first start at my big brothers’ restaurant; ‘The Bridge’ - a large waterfront seafood restaurant at the foot of the bridge that leads you to beautiful Ft. Myers Beach, Florida. I would come down from the Great Lakes State of Michigan and spend a month or so during summer break. I earned my stripes by cleaning the parking lot, touching up the paint, and other odd jobs around the property. But my curiosity and awe of what was happening in the kitchen was always drawing me away from the ‘job’ at hand. My brother, a very successful restaurateur and chef, saw the same passion in me that he possessed and gave me my first chance to work in the kitchen. Now it wasn’t glorious, my first summer was spent washing dishes and scrubbing everything in the kitchen, I had that place shining! Eventually though, he allowed me to do some prep work and I was hooked! I became a favorite amongst the kitchen staff for my quick work and consistency. I knew then that being a chef was my calling and went back home ready to get a job in the industry. One small problem – I was still under 16 years old and I couldn’t get a job like the one I had at The Bridge. I learned that the only reason my brother could allow me to work at his restaurant was because we were directly related. While I was disappointed that I couldn’t get a job yet, I knew my day would come eventually. In the meantime, I decided I would educate myself by reading about restaurants, famous chefs, and food preparation while anxiously awaiting the next summer break and my chance to go show my brother what I had learned.
I spent the next three summers working at The Bridge and learning the fundamentals of cooking. Then the summer of 1992 arrived along with my opportunity to get a ‘real job’ I was now 16! It was in New Baltimore Michigan at the ‘Green Turtle’, a family owned restaurant that served a wide array of dining options, that I got my second real job. I started out in the dish tank, but that didn’t last very long. The owners recognized something in me and actually gave me a shot as a prep cook and a line cook which I took full advantage of by working hard and learning more and more about being a chef.
I continued working in restaurants into my mid to late twenties. Everything from ‘fill ‘em and bill ‘em’ concepts, to 5-star dining and world class resorts. I won’t say I learned it all, we are all constantly learning and growing, but I learned a lot – from the Five Mother Sauces to growing all of your own produce and creating menus from the harvest.
Like a lot of folks that work in the restaurant industry, I burned out and needed a change. So, I jumped into the fitness industry. I had always been pretty athletic and took good care of myself, so it seemed like a natural fit. And it was, I loved it so much that I started my own personal training business and eventually worked my way to a Strength and Conditioning Coach for the local Arena Football team. Life was great! But as I neared my thirties, I decided that I needed to start focusing on what I thought was a more long-term career field.
I don’t regret any of the paths that I have chosen to follow, but it wasn’t until recent years that I didn’t look back and wonder why I left the fitness industry. But I did, and became a multi-line road sales rep with ironically, my big brother that was now retired from the restaurant business. He now had a sales agency and a booming business. We traveled the eastern United States selling our lines to big box retailers and made a great living doing so. Years went on and I was working for some of the largest apparel brands in the business, life was great again!
The fall of 2017 will always be a life changing time for me. It was during my annual doctor visit that I received news that frightened me to my core. A little family history - my father died at an early age from heart disease and diabetes and I had always sworn that I wouldn’t ‘go out like the old man’. But here I was at age 40 facing hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, and an overall poor health grade. What did I do wrong? I mean I thought I ate healthy, I worked out regularly, and felt pretty good. The truth was I wasn’t living my best life. I had gotten pretty out of shape. It’s a strange thing that we humans do…this denial behavior, and trust me, I was leading the pack when it came to denial! I just chalked it up to my age and this is just what happens, I mean c’mon I am 40 now, right? Wrong! I was denying my dharma, my flow, my best life, and I was doing it by making extremely poor food choices. Me, a chef, a fitness professional, a person that should absolutely know better, no excuse! The truth was, I had gained over 35 lbs. of body fat and was 250 lbs. All my clothes were busting at the seams, I couldn’t walk up or down the stairs without feeling completely winded, and I had severe back pain, I mean laying on the ground and staring at the ceiling begging for relief type of back pain. The time for change was now!
The solution didn’t come to me right away, I did the whole ride my bike and get a gym membership thing for a few months, but the results were inconsistent at best. I would lose 10 lbs. here, gain 5 lbs. back there, it wasn’t a real change, and I needed a real change or else I was repeating my father’s mistakes. That’s when I discovered the plant-based lifestyle. Mind you, I was a chef and I had always prided my chef skills by the wide variety of meat, poultry and seafood dishes that I could prepare. How could I cook without those ‘staples’…where would I get my protein, and how would I get enough B12? Learning comes to us in all sorts of forms – mine hit me through a few awakening documentaries which spawned into extensive studying and a new way of living.
It started with eliminating dairy and only consuming chicken and pork, no red meat. The impact was noticeable in a couple of weeks. Inflammation that I didn’t even realize was negatively impacting me went away. So, I decided to go all in and eliminate all meats. And after a few months, it was working. I mean really working! I had not consumed a single animal product for 8 months and I now weighed 205 lbs. and felt better than ever! I was riding my mountain bike through trails with some of the best local riders and keeping up, my back pain was completely gone and my clothes, well I needed new clothes because nothing fit anymore, they were all too big!
But the question still remained, was what I was doing from a food perspective actually healthy or was I robbing my body of nutrients? I had pretty much known from my own research, and quite frankly how great I felt, that what I was doing was indeed very healthy but the numbers don’t lie. So after one year, I went back in for my annual physical and had my blood work done – a full lab; cholesterol, glucose, everything. Not to my surprise, everything checked out, and not only did it check out, it drastically improved. I went from all of the aforementioned health issues to all of them no longer even remotely a concern. Cholesterol was perfect, even better than perfect, hypertension and diabetes, no trace!
I walked out of the doctor's office that day smiling from ear to ear and what felt like a green glow (you know, plants) surrounding me – that day the Phytogenic Chef™ was born! It is my calling, my purpose, my dharma to share this story and help others that are in the same place I once was. I wasn’t living a bad life, I just wasn’t living my best life and now I am, and so can you!
Marco – The Phytogenic Chef™