There is a sensational rhythm to her walk, the way she speaks, even her actions in the kitchen. She has her own styles and characteristics. Born to an American father and a Sri Lankan mother, she is blessed with a glowing beauty, stimulating smile and of course her long legs earns bewildered looks from those in the vicinity.
Being in the top 40 contestants of season 8 MasterChef USA, beating 50,000 plus contestants and enduring a five-month audition process, Jessica introduced some of the Sri Lankan cuisines with a touch of sophistication to them.
Strongly influenced by her grandmother, a Dutch-Burgher descent, who guided Jessica’s culinary journey with her expert hands, Jessica recalls about her childhood with unity, laughter and the sweet aroma emanating from the kitchen as her grandma concocted the most flavorful dishes.
“CEYLOVE; From Sri Lanka with Spice” written by Jessica is indeed a treat to all food lovers. The book perfectly conveys her admiration and respect for her inheritance and mother’s homeland through a collection of family recipes, stories, travels and life experiences. Her culinary makings draw on her Sri Lankan origins as well as her fashion and modeling background. She focuses on providing modern and fresh takes to traditional Sri Lankan dishes, often fusing with other cuisines from around the world.
What is quite special about this book is that 90% of its photographs and designs were done by her. “Sri Lankan food should come first” Jessica said admiring Sri Lankan cuisine.
Having graced the covers and billboards of the world, BiZnomics takes pride in speaking to this amazing woman who took our own Sri Lankan cuisine to the global platform;
I tried my best to show people that eating Sri Lankan food carries a host of pleasures, from style, color, aroma, ambience, and pleasurable palate from fingers to mouth contact – eating with our hands.
Q&A With – Jessica Heath
Q; What made you want to take part in MasterChef?
A;It was an incredible opportunity that literally came right to my doorstep. The auditions happened to be right in the heart of Washington DC, my hometown, so I jumped at the chance to showcase my Sri Lankan culinary skills.
Q: How did you know you had what it takes to become a Master Chef?
A:Sometimes in life you neverknow anything for certain, yet there is burning desire to move forward and try. It is your inner voice that says ‘I can do this’. You survey the competition and innately know you have what it takes. That is essentially what happened to me. It helped that I had the knowledge of an exceptionally colorful cuisine under my belt.
True to its reputation as one of the most elite fashion events in South Asia, the 17th CFW 2020 Summer kicked off in the heart of Colombo in all of its glory within a span of 3 days from the 13th to 15th of August, showcasing the creativity, talent, and passion of 27 local designers. Resilient in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was held with strict health precautions to ensure the safety of the participants. The audience was encouraged to maintain social distancing and wear masks at all times. The event was live-streamed in an attempt to allow fashion enthusiasts to experience Sri Lanka’s most prestigious fashion show on a global scale.
The fashion industry being the environment’s top 5 polluting industries in the world, CFW 2020 took the initiative to introduce the revolutionary concept of ‘Responsibility in fashion’, the first of it’s kind in the world, highlighting the urgency of the need for sustainability and circularity in the industry and providing designers with the knowledge and tools to approach it with actionable plans. The incorporation of the Responsible meter has played a key role in shaping this change, making the process of fashion designing more transparent, accountable, and responsible by urging the designers to implement more sustainable methods of manufacturing and disposal.
According to Mr. Ajai Vir Singh who is the Visionary, Founder and Managing Director of Colombo Fashion Week, ‘This was in the works for the last couple of years and we really wanted to be the first fashion week in Asia, if not the world, to introduce a system of accountability which encouraged and celebrated the responsibility in Fashion, which is such an urgent need. This system of the audit is very different to what is available, it does not take the route of policing and accusing but of training, of aligning hearts so that this path of change is embraced by all designers and stakeholders to lead towards positive impact.’ He went on to state that the system educates the fashion consumers and is the next step in Responsible fashion which can be enabled across various fashion platforms with relative ease.
Providing upcoming designers with a platform to showcase their creativity and gain recognition has always been a key aspect of the HSBC Colombo Fashion Week. This year was no different with the first day of the event on the 13th of August in Shangri-La Colombo, solely focusing on 13 outstanding emerging designers. They are namely, Achala Leekoh, Ayesh Wickramarathne, Chamanka Pehesara, Divya Jayawickrama, Harinda Gunawardena, Hirushi Jayathilake, Himashi Wijeweera, Joanne Kulamannage, Mikail Hameed, Nilusha Maddumage, Ranga Senevirathne, Thamoda Geegamage, and Udarika Dalugama. These high-caliber young designers were mentored by the CFW mentorship panel after their selection, enabling them to refine and perfect their skills to put on an unforgettable show, stunning the audience with their elegant embroidery, bold silhouettes, excellent pattern-making, classic tailoring, unique prints, and amalgamation of traditional aspects with the modern in order to create wearable contemporary pieces which environmentally non-toxic in nature. The featuring of new face mask styles in the midst of the pandemic is a notable feature.
The second and third days of the fashion week were held on the 14th and 15th of August in Shangri-La Colombo and Hilton Colombo respectively. The events featured collections by some of the most established and accomplished designers on the island. Aslam Hussein, Dimuthu Sahabandu, Fouzul Hameed, Koca by RN, LOVI Ceylon, Vogue Jewellers, and Wraith took over the runway on Friday while Amilani Perera, Charini Suriyage, Indi, Jai by Aashkii, Limak by Kamil, Meraki and The Old Railway were set on Saturday, the third and final day. These distinguished designers no less than awed the audience with their stunning couture (and jewelry) collections together with their stunning presentations.
The leading companies with aligned goals that joined hands with CFW to bring on this elaborate fashion show are The Title Partner HSBC; The main partners, Shangri-La Colombo, Hilton Colombo, TRESemmé, Vogue Jewellers, Vision Care, and Hameedia; The associate partners, Ramani Fernando Salons, Media Factory, Emerging Media and We Are Designers. Their joint vision together made this hallowed event a success.
There is no doubt, that solitude for an extended, and unknown, length of time was the biggest challenge for many of us during the lockdown. The prospect of having to spend months on end stuck in a house with few options for entertainment was initially daunting, but then again isn’t necessity supposed to be the mother of invention?
For many folks, it took a few weeks to get over the shock, and gradually, as the gravity of the situation sunk in, acceptance followed. For some, it may have taken just a little longer to achieve that acceptance, but after much aimless milling about they finally got themselves into gear.
Most people I spoke to on the issue however related to me their stories of how they eventually learned to enjoy their own company. The lockdown it seems was the perfect opportunity to engage in some much needed soul searching, and wade through the depths of our own selves to come up with our tailor-made coping systems, because gone were the days of having the physical presence of a large friend circle to help you with that.
So the first lesson I learned, was how to be the life of my own party. I ended up throwing together a list of things I love doing, and drew up a schedule for my week. The list included things like reading a specific book for a couple of hours each day, spend an hour or two looking for new music to listen to, watching a tutorial, look for a new recipe involving whatever I had on hand, and many others as well. However, the biggest battle I faced was in fact the urge to not do anything at all and just stagnate while waiting for the lockdown to end. It was a very fine line that in hindsight I am glad I never crossed.
Experts believe that using the schedule method is one of the most effective ways to cope with cabin fever, because the lack of a routine can lead to increased dissatisfaction and even depression. Further, having a regular schedule also improves sleep, by reprogramming your body clock. Hence, the next time lockdown comes around (God forbid), create a schedule of tasks and fun-filled activities in advance to gain a sense of control and help you alleviate anxiety. Your schedule should ideally include allotted time for exercise, mindfulness, socialisation, and learning as well for the best results.
MINDFULNESS DESTROYS DISHARMONY
Those living with family however, have a very different take on the issue. After years of living through a routine where the family home was just a place to fall asleep and have an occasional meal, the prospect of spending three whole months locked in with a family seemed at first to be akin to a well-deserved holiday. However, as the weeks dragged on the illusion begins to dissipate.
After the initial honeymoon period, having to conform to a schedule that you have no control over, becomes more of task than you think. This leads to irritability, frustration at not being in control, and shorter tempers, that ultimately serves to destroy the harmony of your home.
This situation was even more challenging to those who were forced to move in with older family members unable able to cope alone. One person who was faced with such a situation cited having a feeling of despair after the first couple of months, fearing that the temporary situation may just become permanent after lockdown ends.
Having your independence threatened by unforeseen forces can be a very stressful experience. Hence, knowing how to balance your independence and responsibilities, tempered with a big dose of understanding, is key to building a healthy relationship and maintaining your own sanity.
Therefore, mindfulness is key. Taking a deep breath and pausing before reacting, is also a good way to preserve your sanity. After all, isn’t the whole point of taking on such a challenging time your own personal growth? If you succeeded in achieving mindfulness throughout the lockdown, you deserve a pat on your back for learning the most important lesson anyone could have.
LOCKDOWN FATIGUE IS A THING
What is lockdown fatigue? If you’ve experienced a rollercoaster of emotions and feelings, combined with underlying anxiety, future uncertainty and a lack of control over part of your life throughout the lockdown, then you now have a name for that feeling.
Experts say that this can also be characterised by symptoms such as oversleeping, changes in appetite, weight gain, and tiredness or low energy.
Some have described these symptoms as “brain fog,” and have also noted a marked decrease in short term memory as well. Hence, recognising the symptoms and acting on them before you fall too deep into the abyss is the first step to recovery.
The second step is knowing how combat it. Medical professionals say that the best way to begin the recovery process is to improve your sleep cycle. Key to this is reaching a balanced sleep-wake cycle, because it provides an “anchor” in the day that allows us to give our circadian rhythms a chance to get to work and have a positive effect on energy levels, emotional balance, and hormonal regulation.
Further, disconnecting from technology, media, high-intensity activities, and embracing more mindful activities will help you de-stimulate and relax, which improves your body’s ability to relax and get ready for a well-deserved rest.
SAVING MONEY ISN’T THAT HARD
One of the most startling realisations I arrived at, through the first wave’s three-month lockdown, is that I spend way too much money socialising such as going out, drinking, shopping, or even ordering in food.
For the first time in my life, I actually ended up saving money by staying home and being restricted. True, it’s not the most enjoyable way to end up with extra cash, but then again I realised that my priorities were badly in need of a reassessment. My priority list right now, post-lockdown, has been trimmed down, and this has set the foundation for what I hopefully be a year of a healthy bank balance.
My biggest savings actually came from taking the time to cook my meals, which I calculated at around a staggering Rs.15,000 each month just on delivery options. Mind you, this is just one of the many areas that required trimming.
Hence, if you have some cash to spare at the end of the month during this time, it’s also important to consider a good home for it to grow. I have come across a couple of people who have chosen the stock market as a destination for their extra cash. With the recent digitalisation of the CSE, with a trading app launched as well, the doors have been opened for people like you and me to make our money grow.
So if you haven’t started reassessing your spending habits in the new normal, then I think it’s time you did, because after all we are living in probably the most uncertain time of this century. Just the right time to start a little nest egg of your own.
THE CHALLENGE OF SELF-MOTIVATION
For those of you who experienced working from home for the first time in their lives, the idea may have been exciting, but the reality was far from it. I’m an old hand at working from my den. Having worked for two years as a freelance writer, I know the dangers of getting too comfortable with my home surroundings, and not to mention the innumerable distractions a home front offers.
To have the discipline to push yourself and remain immune to the call of lethargy takes an iron will, and will reveal some startling truths about yourselves. However, getting it right at the outset is key, because designing your personal work space and schedule, and motivating yourself to stick to it for the two weeks required to settle into a routine only takes persistence.
In contrast, the plus points in working in an office environment is that you hardly have to motivate yourself – that’s what your superiors do. Also, having colleagues to interact with also sweeps you up in the moment and syncs you with the office energy and buzz. That is a key aspect that we don’t realise has such a bearing on how productive we are. Having taken this for granted in the past, and also having come to such a realisation early on, my efforts at self-motivation were backed with a large dose of commitment, which is the fundamental building block to success I believe. However, at the end of the day, it all comes down to character and mettle, because if you can’t motivate yourself, then is there really a point?