In Touch with Pati Jinich

Pati Jinich says her most precious ingredient is time – but until recently there never seemed to be enough of it to go round. “I’m always very busy,” she says. “I work 24/7 – I run around like a madwoman.”

On a visit to Canyon Ranch in Tucson this summer, she learned how to regulate her work schedule to create a healthier, less frenetic lifestyle. It’s made her work time more effective, she says, and, most important, it’s the perfect recipe for nourishing the family life she values.

Taking time to reconnect
As host of the popular PBS cooking series Pati’s Mexican Table, a cooking teacher, food writer and official chef of the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington D.C., Pati – who’s also mom to three active children – rarely has a chance to step outside her hectic schedule. Coming to Canyon Ranch with her mother, an art dealer who lives in Mexico City, was an opportunity to explore, relax and reconnect, she says.

“We never have a chance to travel together. We did many walks. We walked and talked, and talked and walked. It was very special.” After a morning of separate classes, they’d meet over lunch and share what they’d learned. “We both had things we wanted to change. She’s now eating, sleeping and relaxing better.”

Learning to switch off
Pati’s biggest Aha! moment came when she turned off her cell phone. “From the first moment, the cell phone-free policy was so freeing and relieving. It taught me so many lessons. I’m stuck to my cell phone all day, but I found that nothing happens if you leave it in your room. It humbled me. It showed me how I can take breaks and be more effective when I come back.”

She took the lesson home, and ran with it. “We love to cook as a family. Cooking and being together is what relaxes us most. I used to bring my phone into the kitchen – but I don’t do that anymore. When I put the kids to bed, I’d bring my computer to my room and keep on working, but I’ve stopped doing that, too.” Stepping away from technology helps clear her mind, she says. “I come back having thought about things in a more balanced way.”

Food for mind, body & spirit
While Pati was at Canyon Ranch, she gave cooking demonstrations and spent time with Ranch chefs and cooking staff. “I admire the Ranch’s culinary ethos,” she says. “Everyone in the kitchens is friendly, happy and proud of what they’re doing. All the food was very tasty; I was wild about the muesli – I make it myself now. The chefs told me how many tests they do to make the food balanced and delicious. I was impressed at how they’re always playing with new offerings. I think continuous evolution is what makes a kitchen grow.”

Her own cooking combines innovation and tradition. “I love passing down traditional recipes – sharing with my children things that nurtured me growing up, in the hope that they’ll pass them on – but I also love testing the limits and creating new traditions. People come to Canyon Ranch year after year and make it a tradition. I’m a big fan of repeating what works.”

As a chef, Pati was intrigued with the diverse uses of ingredients at the Ranch. “When I had a Thai massage, I was rubbed with lemongrass and hot herbal pouches; so I even breathed the food! I also had a seaweed wrap – the same ingredients we use for cooking. Food has so many meanings other than what we put on our plates.”

Creating a quiet space
Pati explored new activities and savored familiar ones. “I went for a 5 a.m. bike ride and saw the sun come up, and I did all the classes. I enjoyed yoga and Tabata.” Especially valuable was the breathing class, she says. “I’m putting into practice the breathing techniques I learned. I’m a very passionate person. I make decisions fast. Sometimes I just need a little space before I respond to that email, or make that call. I learned to just stop a moment and breathe.”

At home, Pati works out, bikes and jogs regularly. But she says, “At the Ranch, I learned I can work out much harder and more effectively. Physically, I was in a very content spot. Now I push myself harder and jog a bit faster.

“Most of all, I learned the benefits of taking a step back. I learned you can disconnect, and nothing happens. And my mom and I connected in a whole new way. We’re already planning when we’re coming back.”

Learn more about and order Pati's cookbook, Pati's Mexican Table: The Secrets of Real Mexican Home Cooking.