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Desert Companion

Trendsetters: Josh Kingdon, owner, Sweetpotato Awesome

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Josh Kingdon
Photography by Andrew James

Josh Kingdon was on his way to becoming a priest. Then he truly saw the light — of Las Vegas, where he launched a business dedicated to healthy snacking. We asked him about the magic of sweet potatoes, ethical fashion, and how to tame monster bedhead.

Why sweet potatoes?

Sweet potatoes are super nutrient-dense root vegetables that taste like dessert if prepared properly. It’s kind of like kale, but tastes like a cupcake. That’s a powerful combo. I’ve always had a strong love for food, but I didn’t get the inspiration to start a food business until the morning of January 16, 2014. I was in a Catholic seminary in Boston discerning a call to the priesthood with the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, when I had a very specific moment in prayer where God told me, “You are not called to be a priest. Go to Las Vegas and start a business.” Totally true story.

Did you know you’d focus your business on sweet potatoes?

A healthy cookie business was my first thought, as I had found a really yummy almond flour cookie that I was making at the time. I moved back to my parents’ place for a few months and started experimenting in the kitchen. It was then I found that sweet potato flour worked even better for the cookies. I started researching how I could make sweet potato flour while retaining the most nutrients, and I discovered that freeze-drying was the best way. I bought a Harvest Right home freeze dryer and started experimenting in the garage. I liked the texture and flavor of the freeze-dried sweet potatoes so much that I forgot about cookies and stuck to the slices. 

You’re in the kitchen quite a bit. When you get the chance to go out, what do you wear?

In terms of fashion, I’m a classic-and-comfy sort of guy, with Lucky brand jeans and Brooks Brothers being some of my favorites. (The rest of the time, I’m in scrubs and workout-shirt chic.) Ethical fashion is important to me, so I hope to be wearing Brunello Cucinelli someday.  In the meantime, Patagonia, Brooks and Lucky seem to more affordably fill that void.

What grooming trick do you use to stay looking sharp despite running around the kitchen all day?

MCT oil (extract of coconut oil) actually works really well for styling hair — without an odor — and keeping it from being too frizzy or curly.  I wake up with serious bedhead, and the MCT helps contain the curls.

Tell me something most people wouldn’t know about a sweet potato.

One of my missions in life is to popularize the spelling of “sweetpotato” as one word and not two. After all, sweet potatoes are actually not potatoes. Potatoes are a tuber, and part of the nightshade family of plants. Sweet potatoes are a root vegetable (with tuberous qualities) and are part of the Morning Glory family. Hence, a sweet potato is not a potato that is sweet. It is a sweetpotato.

What makes your snack “awesome”?

Nutrient density, super long-term shelf life, an amazing crunch, and, well, coolness that no healthy snack has ever possessed. We’re talking Harrison Ford at the end of Clear and Present Danger and Frank Sinatra with Antonio Carlos Jobim levels of coolness. You hear that, kale chips? That’s right. Your days as the go-to healthy snack are numbered.  

 

What’s your favorite way to eat a Sweetpotato Awesome snack?

I break up the Original or Flat Out Awesome into smaller pieces, put it in a bowl with some milk and eat it as a cereal. (We’ll actually be releasing a new product called Bits of Awesome, which will make this even easier in the future.)As far as accompaniments, my good friend and Catholic priest, Father Richard Baker from New York City, tells me that bourbon goes perfectly with Flat Out Awesome. I’m trusting this man of the cloth. 

Support comes from

 

Josh’s five things to beat the heat this summer

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Tommy Bahama

1. Tommy Bahama Kona Bay Artic Tile Swimtrunks. You can’t go wrong with these simple, classic swim trunks. $58, available at Tommy Bahama locations in Town Square, the Forum Shops at Caesars, the Fashion Show Mall and the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood

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Sunglasses

2. Gafaz Desilu Sunglasses. I love these super-cool bamboo-framed sunglasses — stylish and sophisticated, but earthy. $75, gafazsunglasses.com

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cocktails

3. Buzz Pop Cocktails. Made in Las Vegas, these amazing-tasting gourmet treats are infused with various types of alcohol. Mango passion fruit is my current fave. For those who don’t partake, Buzz Pop Shirleys have all the flavor, with no alcohol. $4-$10, buzzpopcocktails.com

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4. Jessica Rey swimwear. These retro-styled swimsuits are not only beautiful, but they’re ethically made. “Ann” in sunburst, $108; “Celia” top in pineapple, $79; high-waist bottom in pineapple, $48, jessicarey.com

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OluKai Polena flip flops.

5. OluKai Polena flip flops. Not only are OluKai’s flip flops durable and stylish, but OluKai is a certified B Corporation and all-around awesome company that pledges to leave the smallest footprint possible on the planet while giving back to the community. $99.95, available at Nordstrom in the Fashion Show Mall.