Ashley Koff R.D. & Robyn O'Brien Talk "Take Out"

September 23, 2016 by Mambo Team

1. Please tell us a little about yourselves and how you both got started in the food movement.

Ashley: It's hard to believe but I started in the food movement as a young girl. I sold baked goods, created summer camp for friends where we made play-doh and baked things real and Barbie-kitchen. Later, my first jobs were at grocery stores and I was fascinated by what people bought and later, ate when I worked in restaurants. The daughter of a pediatric surgeon, I also heard him when he said “if kids ate more fiber, I wouldn't have to operate as much.” My own personal path paralleled as ironically fiber made me bloated and I always struggled with my belly. Years later I would learn that regular antibiotics for frequent strep and ear infections destroyed my microbiome (I didn't learn that term until turn of the 21st century) and the absence of good bacteria impaired my digestion, absorption and enjoyment of foods and their nutrients. After college, where I became a frozen yogurt and gummy bear eating vegan, I discovered the culinary world of macrobiotics and became a yogi, as well as a marathon runner and it astounded me when with all that I didn't feel and look my best. I was also working in a global ad agency and working on the Kellogg’s business. I knew Two Scoops of raisins (covered in sugar) wasn't the answer, nor it seemed was my uber clean eating and lifestyle and that's when I hit epic frustration. My breakthrough occurred while holding 15 nutrition and health books in my hand in a bookstore and realizing a) I needed money to pay for these b) I was fascinated by the idea of healing oneself with nutrition c) since I couldn't afford them, I took to reading them in the store, and realized none of them could just help me. It was a perfect storm of inspiration, and I went back to grad school to become a dietitian to help myself and ultimately to help others. My education there actually frustrated me more which led to a discovery of integrative medicine and integrative nutrition. I created a team for my own healing and education and from there on out I've been motivated to make it easier for others to get better health fueled by better nutrition, simplified.

Robyn: I went to business school on a full scholarship, graduated as the top woman in my class and was recruited by Enron (!) and investment banks. I took a job on a team that managed $20 billion in assets and covered the food industry. I LOVED that job, always planned to go back, but then our fourth child had an allergic reaction over breakfast ten years ago, and it changed my life.

2. What was your inspiration for starting your Podcast “Take Out”

Ashley: Robyn and I met at the culmination of a protest march in front of the White House sharing why our Right to Know was so critical for parents, kids, educators, practitioners etc. We bonded immediately, like on stage. She's funny and practical, not judge-y and not stuck in some idealized, perfected view of the world. We know things can be better but we share the belief that they will never be perfect nor would we want it to be. Since then, we found moments to “grab Take Out” and chat about who we were meeting, what we were learning, what the movement needs, and how we could collaborate. Simultaneously, I was growing increasingly frustrated with nutrition and health communication in the media, including my own, where the tips and info I felt people needed were often what was left on the cutting room floor or I was asked to “can you make it more basic, our readers aren’t that savvy or knowledgeable.” I disagreed and I had started listening to some awesome podcasts and so I decided this would be a platform to delve more deeply into what it takes to enable better health fueled by better nutrition. I could do it on my own, but people might get bored of just me. I wanted guests and I decided, I wanted a partner, someone who would complement my investigations to look beyond nutrition and health and into finance, policy, advocacy, parenting and more. Robyn was my natural first choice and she said “let's do this!” So we did.

Robyn: Ashley and I met in front of the White House, presenting at an event. It was an instant recognition of not only a friend but a shared intellect. Her brain raced in one direction, mine in another, and together, we cover the health spectrum – from finances to food. We thought TakeOut was the perfect way to share our insight, knowledge, networks and friendship with others.

3. What are some of the topics you cover in “Take Out”

Ashley: What don't we cover! We are having so much fun – from NBA basketball (yeah, of course I start there) and NFL football, to Congress (what are they doing, what could they be doing, what do they need from us their constituents), to the leading entrepreneurs and marketers in the food movement, to celebrity chefs and their efforts to inspire change, to Hollywood’s leading ladies and gents talking cooking, kids menus, environmental health messages, to the media and how they evaluate research and create stories etc.

Robyn: Plant versus paleo, food for performance, professional athletes from the NBA to NFL, members of Congress, CEOs, MDs, how to live your best life. We are so inspired by our guests!

4. Who has been your favorite guest/topic so far?

Ashley: No way! That's like picking a favorite veggie ;)

Robyn: We had the Cleveland Cavs strength training coach on. He blew me away. Seriously, there will be a movie about Derek Millender one day!

5. If someone wants to learn more about the food movement or changing the way they eat and shop, what are some things they can learn from listening to “Take Out”

Ashley: They will learn not to let perfect be the enemy of good or better, and that everyone can and should be doing something to enable the change we need to see in our food and resulting health, and finally, that it's important to have fun and also to look at what you enjoy or are obsessed with or curious about because that's likely where you will find what you should be doing!

Robyn: How to overcome fear, how to find and pursue your passion, what it takes to “make it”, and what it takes to break out of your comfort zone. We share resources, organizations, personal and professional tips, we love it!

6. Who would be your dream guest on the podcast?

Ashley: Shaq!!! (That's Ashley) But that's also because my dream is to be on HIS podcast ☺ But I must say, I can say that because I am over the moon about our lineup for the Fall and into the winter.

Robyn: Our presidential candidates. No one is talking about food in the debates. No one is talking about the high price of medicine and care. Our health is fundamental to our economy.

7. How can we subscribe to “Take Out”?

Ashley: Right here:

Robyn: You can visit my site -, Ashley’s site - and here on Apple iTunes

8a. Now for a totally random question for Ashley: A penguin walks through the door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?

Ashley: “Did someone order ice for their margarita?” I prefer humor to depressing, the depressing would be if penguins now wear sombreros because of global warming their home feels more like Mexico. So let's go with the margaritas … Cheers!

8b. Now for a totally random question for Robyn: "You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?"

Robyn: Colorado skies. Because living here inspires you to be healthy, entrepreneurial, to take care of our gorgeous surroundings and know that the sky is the limit when it comes to creating solutions for 21st century families!