I Worked for David ‘Avocado’ Wolfe for 4 Years — and Here’s What His Critics are Missing

Earlier this week Yvette d’Entremont, aka the “SciBabe” published a scathing article about author, nutrition expert, social media star – and my former employer – David “Avocado” Wolfe.

D’Entremont takes no shortcuts in attacking Wolfe (the article is entitled “David Avocado Wolfe is the Biggest Asshole in the Multiverse.”) She digs in hard: “If Wolfe’s selling it, turn around. Shut down your computer and never turn it on again. He is evidence that stupidity and lies can spread like a virus on social media, and the best thing you can do is inoculate yourself with knowledge.” D’Entremont goes after his education, personal beliefs, his former and current businesses, and his ever-popular viral Facebook posts, which you’ve probably shared or liked before. You know them: they can be spiritual, uplifting, humorous. These days he shares a lot of videos, those addictive quizzes that will tell you what type of personality you have based on the colors you see first in a painting, and even some legit newsworthy content.

But d’Entremont treats him like a criminal, like his agenda is strictly to deceive and pilfer at all times. And I’m here to tell you that’s not the case.

While I’d known of him and his work for a few years, I first met David in the spring of 2004. We had mutual friends, and after one of his health lectures in New York a small group of us spent most of the night drinking chocolate and ruminating on the absurdity of life. I’d been vegan for more than a decade at that point, and I was drawn to the raw food diet, which Wolfe adhered to back then. His enthusiasm was infectious; his raw cacao smoothies even more so. The more time we spent together, the more we realized we had quite a bit in common, namely a love for classic rock and an interest in getting healthy foods into every mouth on the planet.

Soon after meeting David, I’d leave my corporate sales job in New York, pack up my car and drive out to San Diego, where David’s company Nature’s First Law was headquartered. I’d been hired as the national sales manager. David and his business partner had built a steady business selling superfoods, books, personal care products, and supplements out of an indistinct warehouse in El Cajon, a few dusty miles east of San Diego. But they didn’t have a presence in the retail sector. Having come from selling natural food products already in retail, I knew it was only a matter of time before someone else went to market with the type of products Nature’s First Law was selling online.

David toured regularly, relentlessly, hitting every corner of the globe talking about nutrition, certainly, but it wasn’t unusual for his lectures to wander into other territory – yes, we’re talking mushrooms from space as well as aliens, and a whole lot of other stuff that not too many people care to understand to begin with. But his audience always sat rapt and attentive. Taking notes. They loved him for the performance as much as the information. They still do.

I joined David on tour many times in order to put the word out that we were looking for salespeople to help us place the products we’d gotten “retail ready”: raw cacao nibs and goji berries. This was 2004 and most of the world hadn’t heard of either of these superfoods now as commonplace as kale (which David also helped boost to superstar status). We traveled by a veggie-oil-powered old converted school bus. It was bumpy and cold as we’d roll into towns I’d never heard of late at night only to be welcomed by gracious hosts who’d open their homes at all hours to David and his band of travel mates. Usually the lectures would be packed, but I remember David telling me that even if only one person showed up to his lecture “it’s worth it,” he said, because he knew the value in every person who took the time to come see him (for the record, we never had an event where only one person showed up).

David was the definition of viral before social media existed. You’d see that weary friend tagging alongside the gung-ho enthusiast leave the event with a wide smile and a bag full of food, books, and supplements. And the next time, they’d be the one back with the new hesitant friend alongside.

While I was admittedly a little hesitant myself about uprooting my life and heading out to work for David selling products hardly anyone had heard of, our plan worked; instead of simply selling online or at the back table after one of David’s lectures, we set up commission-based reps all across the country. I’d zig-zag for years working with them to land placement in health food stores. We got a national push from Whole Foods with case stacks in most every location across the country. When the Houston street Whole Foods opened in New York City, I’d secured us a 100-case display of nibs and goji berries in the middle of the store — an achievement that still makes me smile. We took two unheard of delicious and totally nutrient-dense foods (the ORAC scale doesn’t lie!) and made them practically mainstream. We had people begging to be sales reps. (Some of our sales and demo reps have since gone on to do amazing things like write best-selling cookbooks, start their own health food stores, and turn into bona fide healers.) These were good times.

David’s best asset though wasn’t his knack for finding delicious and unusual superfoods, writing books, or smoothie making (there were more than a few misses!), but that he was adept at cracking people open. They come to him for many reasons but the underlying theme is always that they’re seeking something profound and deep. Something both rattling and restorative. The same thing doesn’t work for everyone, and he knew how to find the seam in most every person who needed it, which is to say that’s most every person he’s ever met. Shamans are often defined as people who have access to both the good and the bad of the spirit world. They’re only the tribal healers because they have a thorough and deeply personal understanding of what it means to be the opposite of healed. They go deep into darkness because most of us can’t. They face their own demons. And they help us find, and hopefully destroy, ours. This is David. He’ll go deeper than anyone, every single time.

His impact on our food system cannot and should not be ignored because of accusations that he’s merely driven by money (did “SciBabe” not get paid to write her takedown of him? I’m getting paid to write this; it’s all an honest day’s work as a freelancer, eh?). So what if there’s no record of his undergrad majors? Have schools never made a mistake in record-keeping? So what if he thinks chocolate is a “breakthrough in longevity technology”. Ask any mother of an almost-four-year-old if it’s not one of the only things keeping her going (just me?! Come on!). And so what that he and his former business partners had an ugly breakup? That’s just as common as businesses that haven’t had issues. And, yes, so what if David is even an anti-vaxxer (for the record, I am pro-vaccine 100 percent). That dissent-packed cruise ship sailed long ago. David may be the cheesy lounge singer, but he’s certainly not the one steering the boat. The anti-vax movement is dangerous, imho; its tentacles run deep and strong and it’s going to take a lot more than shutting David Wolfe up to fix that.

And that brings me back to why d’Entremont and Wolfe’s other critics keep getting it so, so wrong. For all his shortcomings, for all his wonky theories about gravity, or chocolate, or whatever the fuck octaves of the sun are, David heals people. Plain and simple. It’s been almost fifteen years since I went to that first lecture. And while I no longer adhere to a  raw food diet, my relationship with food has been forever transformed in part because of David. I know I’m not alone. I’ve seen it firsthand; the way people walk out of his lectures – for the first or the fortieth time — is testament. Many of these people are battling serious illnesses like cancer, autoimmune disease, heart disease, obesity, etc. Some are just desperate to prevent those situations – and they should be. We all should be. What d’Entremont fails to acknowledge is that our food system is a hot fucking mess. I write about it every day. I’ve worked in the food industry in one capacity or another since I was a teenager. If there’s one thing I know for sure it’s that most people don’t know what to eat to be healthy. One of David’s best pieces of advice is so good it has enough weight to cancel out everything else he’s ever said. Really. I’ve probably heard him say it a thousand times: “if you keep adding in the good stuff [fresh fruits and vegetables], soon there won’t be any more room for the bad stuff.” Maybe Michael Pollan distilled that message down a bit more concisely: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” But it appears to be a message we need to hear over and over and over again. Because after all these years our food system is still a labyrinth of corporate agendas and bad fucking choices.

That’s not to say that David, like most any one of us, hasn’t made some mistakes. “Nature’s First Law” has been out of print for years. D’Entremont is right that fizzled out business partnerships were followed by lawsuits. After more than four years of working with David, even my relationship with him came to an abrupt and painful end, too. I didn’t like the direction the business was going with the new investors and we disagreed about the terms of my contract. I not only lost my job, but a mentor and a friend. But despite that, I’ve still got a lot of respect for what David’s been able to do since then. He’s got more than 11 million followers on Facebook today. And I know that’s partly why he’s so highly criticized — this fear that he’s mismanaging that influence.

But what d’Entremont avoids in her takedown (as have others who publicly criticized Wolfe) is that we wouldn’t even be having this dialogue if David didn’t achieve excellent results. She’s not giving people enough credit to make their own decisions about him or the information he shares. And that’s at the very least insulting to his followers, and at the worst, a huge, nefarious judgment. Even if his style is not your thing, David is ‘Avocado’ because people want him to be. They need him to be. Maybe he’s got his science a little backwards (although there are some legit scientists who do agree that gravity is not what it seems), but he’s not selling us science. In that bag of chocolate or that magic Nutribullet, what he’s really selling us is Hope. As new-age cheesy as I know that sounds, it’s true. And it matters. David Wolfe is selling us a reminder that life is crazy fucking short, unpredictable, and most easily and often squandered. We all deserve better than that, don’t we? He’s selling us the hope we’ve lost through disease or divorce or the drudgery of our boring jobs. He’s selling us the opportunity to remember that it’s never too late to live our truth, to push ourselves, to step away from all the noise and discover who we truly are.

Our current government? They’re selling us hate. The media? They’re selling us fear. And our food system is selling us addiction and poison. And when we’re unhealthy, we’re nothing. We can’t do anything with broken, bloated bodies we hate. Fortunately, it’s the one thing we have the ability to transform right now. Right this second. But many of us need a cheering squad. We need support. We’ve got no one left to turn to for hope except the healer and the showman. David’s not an asshole, d’Entremont; but he is the guy who enthusiastically reminds us that we need to make sure ours is clean.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.