Grassland Beef - U.S. Wellness Meats
  1. Discover Blog
  2. /
  3. Chefs
  4. /
  5. Kirsten Sandoval
Featured Chef / February 2024

Kirsten Sandoval

Chef and CEO, Mesa de Vida
Oceanside, California

Chef Kirsten Helle Sandoval is the founder/C(hef)EO of Mesa de Vida, a line of globally inspired, healthy meal starter sauces. Kirsten has crafted a variety of flavorful pantry staples so you can celebrate more delicious moments at your Mesa de Vida (Table of Life).


Tell us about yourself:

Hi! My name is Kirsten Helle Sandoval. I’m the founder/C(hef)EO at Mesa de Vida, a line of globally inspired, healthy meal starter sauces. I’m a former private chef and nutrition consultant to professional athletes in the NFL, NBA and WNBA (many of my clients went to the Super Bowl and WBNA championships while I was working for them!). I’m a mom, and both of my kids (now 17 & 22) have a rare genetic cancer syndrome. I obviously love cooking, and my husband and I are often at the beach, on a hike, exploring wineries, or (my favorite thing to do) exploring small towns and discovering new food and recipe inspiration.

How did you get involved in cooking?

My dad had a professional meat shop at the back of our house, he made incredible smoked and cured meats such as pepperoni, salami, kielbasa, and smoked fish, all as a side job. He also did catering and was a really wonderful, adventurous cook. Since both parents were working, I didn’t do a lot of cooking growing up, and like so many people, we relied heavily on processed convenient foods as most of our meals (except dinner). By the time I was 25 I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. My dad had heart disease, and I was starting on the same medications he was on. I knew I had to make a change because I was always on a diet, but I was sicker than ever before. I decided to just focus on real food and cut out processed food and walking 10 minutes, 3 times per day. This meant I had to cook everything from scratch, and I discovered my passion for cooking. I lost over 100 pounds, my health turned around, and I was able to donate my kidney to a family member with kidney disease. I loved cooking and helping people on their own healthy journey, so I had to figure out a way to make cooking my career!

Describe your cooking style:

I try to merge healthy, easy recipes, and convenience but it HAS to taste great! I also have a deep appreciation and love for the flavors of global cuisines from around the world. They’re so complex and vibrant, and usually quite healthy, packed with nutritious spices, herbs, and vegetables. As a chef, I often prepared complicated, time-intensive meals for a wide variety of dietary needs and food preferences, but at home its about minding the budget and getting a nourishing, yummy meal on the table for the family! So most nights it’s soups, stews and slow cooker meals with a globally-inspired flavor twist, or using planned leftovers from the night before so I don’t have to cook every single night.

How did you learn about grass-fed meats?

While working for world-class professional athletes I had the pleasure of working with their doctors, trainers, nutritionists, and geneticists. I learned so much through all of those experiences, and I had the opportunity to learn why grass-fed protein is biologically different and better for us, and the planet. Additionally, since both of my children have a rare genetic cancer syndrome, we’ve worked with cancer specialists and genetic teams to learn what the right nutrition is for them. Grass-fed proteins, avoiding all seed and processed oils, lots of fruits, vegetables, and spices and herbs (which have cancer-fighting properties) are the doctor’s orders, so we follow their advice.

What is your favorite recipe featuring grass-fed meat?

Braised meats with veggies are my go-to! Just pop your protein of choice along with some veggies and a great sauce into the oven or slow
cooker and let the flavor magic happen!

You’re stranded on a desert island; luckily, you’re stranded with your top 5 ingredients and one must-have kitchen tool:

Coconut Aminos
Any of the Mesa de Vida cooking sauces, of course!
My favorite chef’s knife

Best cooking secret/tip/piece of advice you’ve learned:

Let heat and acid work for you – browning ingredients, braising without the lid or broiling for a few minutes, and reducing sauces, and adding touch of vinegar or squeeze of citrus work magic to intensify flavors and really make any meal zing!

What’s your favorite quote/song for culinary inspiration (if any)?

I love playing jazz when I’m cooking! It always makes me feel like I’m getting ready for a swanky, special event, even if it’s just a Tuesday night.

Anything else you want to share?

Don’t yuck someone else’s yum! One of the most important things I learned while working as a chef providing meals for a wide variety of people, and with so many specialists, is that every one of us are so different. I’ve prepared meals and nutrition plans for, or tried myself, almost every nutrition lifestyle out there (vegan, gluten free, Paleo, carnivore, keto, AIP, pescetarian, etc.) What works nutrition and/or health wise for one person may not work for another. We never know what led someone to make the choices for themselves that they do, and we need to respect that everyone is on their own journey.

Your social media links (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube):

Enter To Win!

Enter to Win our February 2024 Delicious Food Contest for a chance to win $150 bundle of delicious & nutritious grass-fed and pastured meats.
Contest runs from February 1 – February 14, 2024.

Social media links:

Discover All Featured Chefs Explore Our Blog