We sat down with badass cancer-beating, responsibility-juggling chef and entrepreneur Kelly Boyer, aka the woman behind PALETA. In case you missed Felicity’s 5-day cleanse, PALETA provides meal delivery, pressed juice detoxes, and snacks, all with a focus on healthy living.
While the word “meal” usually makes us cringe because it conjures up thoughts of cooking and lecturing our kids to put their dishes in the sink, the word “delivery” makes us salivate. All hail Kelly, patron saint of dinnertime!
1. What made you decide to start your own business?
There were a few factors that built up over time. My cancer diagnosis at age 21 definitely changed the course of my life and how I live it. I’m just a nice Polish girl from the midwest who was weaned on sausages and fried foods with ranch dressing! The illness changed all that and my entire family began to weave the thread of health and fitness throughout the fabric of all our lives. Once I was healthy, I had a great career in Human Resources after attending grad school in Chicago at Northwestern/Kellogg. I almost exclusively worked for entrepreneurial companies that were building new brands or starting new divisions or were being built from the ground up. I became passionate about BUILDING things.
I ultimately left corporate America to take some time off and ended up enrolling in culinary school for almost two years. I’m a classically French trained chef and became pretty unhealthy after all the cooking with butter and cream. I reverted back to my old healthier ways by adjusting the cooking techniques I learned in school to apply to more healthful recipes. I started learning more about organics and sustainability and then became licensed as a nutritionist to have an even deeper understanding of how and what is best to eat. Because of my own life path, I truly believe that a healthier lifestyle saved my life. I KNOW that what you put into your body really matters. And because of my love of FOOD, I knew I could create CLEAN recipes that put a healthy twist on haute cuisine. Once I started looking and feeling better, friends asked me to help them with their meals so they could achieve their own health and fitness goals. And then it spread word of mouth to their personal trainers, physicians, dietitians, neighbors, family, co-workers … and BOOM! PALETA was born.
2. Who has been your biggest inspiration?
The one person who has inspired me the most deeply is my Grandmother Leona who passed away about 7 years ago.
My brothers and I were lucky to have all our grandparents as an integral part of our lives growing up. We rarely went a week without seeing them. My Grandma was a housewife who raised 4 boys and my mom. She didn’t have a career outside of the home. But the home she made was something to be envied. I’ve never met anyone kinder or more patient. I doubt she ever said a harsh word to anyone. I really think she was an angel walking on this earth and had a sweetness and light about her that I’ve never seen before or since.
She inspires me to be kinder and to be more patient (which is not my strong suit!). She helped me be a better listener and gave me a love of FAMILY that I take with me everywhere. Even in my professional life, I use her influence to help me maintain an ongoing standard of integrity, even when it’s hard. It’s her that I want to make most proud in everything I do.
3. What has been your biggest obstacle?
My extremely rare ovarian cancer diagnosis at 21 years of age was a game changer. Immediately after graduating from college I was told I might have a year to live at most and the doctors would do whatever they could to make me comfortable.
At 21 years old I had no concept of mortality. I still had all my grandparents and dozens of great aunts and uncles. My own grandfather lived to be 103! Wrapping my head around the probability that I would not make it to 22 was devastating… at first. Then began the long journey of surgeries, chemotherapy, holistic treatments… you name it, we tried it. After a yearlong battle, we WON! And I say WE because it was a team effort led by my parents and brothers and extended family.
It’s now been almost 29 years of remission, so I’d say I’m sticking around for the long haul and I feel blessed. The biggest challenge in all of this would most obviously be the potential loss of my life, but once I was in recovery I had to address a deeper sadness. I had to have a complete hysterectomy when I was 21 so I was not able to have children. It’s something I mourned for most of my adult years. I grieved quietly, but it ran deep. It wasn’t until someone very special said to me, “Some trees were made to bare fruit, and some trees were meant to provide SHADE. Providing shade is your purpose.” It touched and moved me in a way nothing ever had before and it was only then I began to heal and let go of that loss. I realized my life had great purpose and value in spite of it. I’ve never looked back! And I’m truly blessed to have amazing Godchildren and nieces and nephews. They are the lights of my life.
4. How do you juggle everything?
I came out of the womb a multi-tasker. I am very good at compartmentalizing the multitude of things I have to get done in a day. I can’t live without TO DO LISTS. If I don’t write it down, it does NOT get done. And while I try again and again to use my beloved iPhone to track my to-do lists, I’m still pretty old-school in that I like to have a tiny notebook with me at all times so I can track my lists of things to do and I get a ridiculous satisfaction out of crossing things off. I do use my phone at all hours of the day and night to shoot myself messages as things pop into my head when it’s not convenient to pull out my notebook. When I wake up at 3am with an idea, I simply roll over, mumble something into SIRI, and then deal with it the next day. I also make it a painful habit to tackle the top 5 MOST CHALLENGING things I have to do in a day FIRST. I cringe every morning when I do it, but then I enjoy the relief of facing the toughest part of my day early on. It makes for a better day ahead.
5. What’s your favorite way to relax?
It USED to be cooking at home, but now that it has become my life’s work and my days revolve around food, not so much! I try to separate myself from the joy I get out of my work and the pleasure other things in my life bring to the party. There are 2 things that are my GO TO. First, I love to swim laps. I like the exercise, but more importantly, I love the peace and serenity of being under the water moving forward on of my own steam. No cell phones, no horns blaring, no one asking me questions. It’s MY time away from the world. Second, I really enjoy reading. I have been an avid reader since I was a little girl and used to devour 2-3 books in a weekend. Life gets in the way of that sometimes, so it’s only been in the past few years that I started picking up books again. It takes me to another world. You can hardly get my attention when I’m deeply entrenched in a book. My Mom just gave me a KINDLE and it’s my new favorite possession. I take it with me everywhere. If I have to wait in a line for something, out it comes so I can sneak in a few pages and it helps distract me from the little stressors we all have throughout the day. It’s the BEST way to tune out. And, it just makes you smarter! You’re reminded of the power of words and how beautiful language is.
6. What is your favorite four-letter word?
M F’er! NOT very original of me (or very nice!), but I’m not sure what I’d do without it!