Napa cook shares life lessons of healthy eating

This story is part of the Register’s annual holiday series about people making a difference in their communities.


A dozen years ago, a midlife bout of diabetes led a Napa chef to rethink his diet. Ever since, Jose Jesus Aguilera has volunteered his time to spread those lessons of healthier eating and living to his fellow Latinos in the valley.

A series of Spanish-language classes have given Aguilera – known to hundreds of his students as Don Jesus – a friendly pulpit, and a kitchen, to help residents overhaul their eating habits and better ward off heart disease, diabetes and other ailments tied to diet.

Six to eight times a month, the longtime cook at North Bay restaurants shares his lessons in classes where familiar recipes take new forms, lower in fat and carbohydrates, richer in vegetables, fruit and produce. Slimmer and more vital at age 61, Aguilera holds out hope that others like himself also can lead healthier lives, and do so within the fabric of their everyday living. 

“Any place people ask me to go, I’ll be there,” Aguilera, speaking through an interpreter, said earlier this month of his volunteer mission, which began shortly after he was diagnosed as a Type 2 diabetic in 2004, when he was 49.

Doctors soon recommended a makeover in his diet – more produce and water, cutbacks in fat and carbohydrates, and an end to sodas, juices and excessive sugar. A diabetes…

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