Interview | Jon Milan

Interview | Jon Milan

An interview with a good friend of mine, Jon Milan, the first and last person to touch your gi at Origin

Jon is not only a jack of all trades at the awesome Maine based company Origin, he is a BJJ blue belt, proud father, “farmer,” and awesome guy. This interview is very important to me because you will learn more from Jon than from a top level BJJ practitioner because he is more like you and me. We are all not super human athletes such as Buchecha, we will not all be able to eat and live like him.  I have known Jon for awhile now and it started from talking about the Origin bag into us having week long conversations about growing vegetables, raising chickens and pigs, all the way to spider guard and gi grips. Are you ready to learn more about living a lifestyle rather than following a guideline?  Are you one of the many that works and trains on a daily basis? Are you someone that cares about food in general? If you answered yes to any of those, or are just a human being then this interview is for you.

Let’s start with everyone’s favorite topic, tell everyone a little about who you are.  

The first and last person to get his hands on your gi!
The first and last person to get his hands on your gi!

I first started training BJJ about 8 years ago but had to take time off when I moved to a part of Maine that didn’t have any schools. I moved back to help an up and coming BJJ company called Origin where we worked to move the manufacturing back to the US after the first year and to this day are still the only company that makes a 100% US made gi. I have been training for about two and half years and am currently a blue belt under Pete Roberts. I currently have lost about 80lbs thanks to training BJJ and a healthy diet. I have traveled all over the world and love trying local foods from different cultures.Origin logo

Time for the nitty-gritty. What is your average everyday diet like? Do you follow a certain guideline?

I plan my food depending on what I am working on that day. An average day at Origin might consist of loading or unloading rolls of pearl weave, moving warp beams for our looms, laying up and cutting a few hundred gi’s or running nonstop packing boxes. Then once the end of the day rolls around I go up to our testing grounds and train. To keep from crashing I need a healthy yet hearty breakfast. For lunch I like eating foods that will keep my energy up but wont set at the bottom of my stomach like a rock when it’s time to train like chicken, salads, fruits and rice.

I personally am a breakfast nut. What is your favorite breakfast?

Breakfast sets the pace for my entire day. I hit the ground running and if I miss breakfast it makes for a long morning. I live more of a homesteader lifestyle where I like to raise as much of my own food as I can. If there were no calories/fat in food I would eat biscuits and gravy every day but normally I go grab two eggs out of my chicken coop with some fresh fruit from our property. In the summer it’s more strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries then in the fall its apples and pears.

It is much easier to snag the eggs when they are not in a tree.
It is much easier to snag the eggs when they are not in a tree.

Do you find it hard to be growing your own fruits? It’s got to be more rewarding than going to the store and buying them for an arm and a leg.

Fruits are SOOOOOO much easier than vegetables but you do normally have a year or two before your really reaping the rewards. For example I have cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, green beans etc. that I have to water all the time to try and keep alive and I’m normally fighting the first frost and the last frost of the season. With fruit I just plant the bush or tree and then when it’s in season you pick it. I’m just starting to get my first ripe blueberries and for the next two months I could probably pick a half gallon of blueberries everyday. I just planted a new patch of raspberry bushes this year and I’m getting a few berries but next year I should have plenty to eat right off the bush as well as enough to put in the freezer for smoothies over the winter.

What is your pre-training and post-training intake like?

These are not your average guys at the gym, The Origin team is the real deal so not only are they working hard on cranking products, they roll hard.
These are not your average guys at the gym, The Origin team is the real deal so not only are they working hard on cranking products, they roll hard.

The tricky part to that question is I could be working just as hard as training before class even starts with all the hardships of working in a gi factory. Hydration is huge. I drink as much water as I can. Knowing that even if I’m not thirsty now I am going to sweat out during the day and a ton at training. Normally for dinner post training lately I have been eating cherry smoked chicken that I raised, process and smoked with brown rice and veggies from out of the garden. I also like to have a dark beer after training followed by a few more glasses of water to help counteract the dehydration of the alcohol.

Reasoning behind having the beer? Just as a reward and because it is delicious?

This was a recommendation that I looked into from a local strength and conditioning coach. What I found with beer is that if you compare it to a sports drink they contain a fair amount of the same things that your looking for. It contains carbs, sodium, proteins,  electrolytes and all kinds of good nutrients to help us recover. Researchers at the Granada University in Spain actually found that students who drank a beer were more hydrated than the students who drank water. It also showed that beer has almost as many antioxidants as red wine to help with muscle recovery. The study did show that you probably want to do this an hour our so after your workout so stick with water while training haha.


What part of your diet do you feel is the most important and why?

I think a healthy breakfast is the most important but consistency and not over indulging is also important. If you can have a healthy breakfast, a good lunch, a reasonable dinner with healthy snacks through out the day on a regular basis you’re going to feel great all day. Indulging is fine but over indulging is where people get into trouble. It’s when the indulging foods become part of the consistency. For example we have a fair amount of camp fires at my house in the summer and my two young boys love cooking s’mores. Indulging would be cooking ONE with them. Over indulging would be binge eating them or having to have them every night.

While working at the Origin compound what is your typical lunch like up there? When you aren’t rolling through it obviously.

I would say a typical lunch is chicken, rice and vegetables but there is no telling what the day is going to bring. Today for example I had probably 15-20 crawfish that Pete’s son caught right around the Origin Mountain Retreat and a salad haha.

Even when "sitting down on the job" its because of all the hard work! What a life huh?
Even when “sitting down on the job” its because of all the hard work! What a life huh?

You have a fascinating story with the fact that you live on your own farm practically and produce all of your food. Can you tell us a little bit about how and why you started that?

Before my first child food was an item for pleasure. If I was hungry I knew that a bag a chips and a candy bar would make me feel better. At my heaviest I ended up somewhere around 285lbs. When my son was born we made all our own baby food so we were looking for good sources of fruits and vegetables to puree and freeze. That was also about the same time I started committing to training. We found local farms where we could buy the same stuff we were buying at the grocery store for the same price or less so it was a no brainer. After a year or two we realized that there was a bunch of this stuff we could just grow ourselves so now we can just walk outside and pick fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, onions, cabbage, peppers, green beans, zucchini and salad greens. We were also lucky enough to have tons of fruit on our property like apples, cherries, pears, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries already.

Maine makes some great things, Origin Gi's, tasty seafood, and of course, Grappler Gourmet.
Maine makes some great things, Origin Gi’s, tasty seafood, and of course, Grappler Gourmet.

I also enjoy cooking as much food as I can from scratch and one of the key ingredients in tons of recipes is eggs so we started raising our own laying hens. After a year of having them around, the next step was to start raising our own meat chickens. I was torn on this one because I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to part with something that I had raised for a chick. At the same time I am the type of person that wants to know every aspect of something whether it’s spider guard or where my meat comes from. I am glad I did because I have an entirely new respect for my food. Once you have raised something like that you don’t want to waste any of it so for example if I smoke a chicken I will let the meat cool down and make smoked chicken quesadillas or mix it into a vegetable and rice stir fry. Then I will take what’s left and make chicken stock for soups. My newest addition to the farm are two baby Nubian milk goats. Once we start milking them we will probably be getting between a gallon and a half to two gallons of milk per day so we will probably be making tons of goat cheese and goats milk soap. We have other animals on the farm but the last thing I want to add is some beehives. They help pollinate the garden and fruit plus you get fresh honey so it’s a win win. Also off the farm both my brothers and dad have lobster boats so it’s always fun to go out off the coast of Maine fishing for lobsters, crabs and fish. The good news now is that the last time I weighed myself I was down to 205lbs.

"hey goat, get over here!"
“hey goat, get over here!”

How did you over come the chip and candy bar phase? It is not that easy to stop. Was it the fact that you wanted to commit to a healthier lifestyle being a dad now, was it the training results or a combination of all of the above really? Any tips on how to help people who still have those cravings?

The best way is to hold yourself accountable. Don’t deprive yourself of everything because then you will want it even more but if you at least hold yourself accountable for what your eating you will find yourself asking if it’s really worth it. If I have a piece of birthday cake at party then I know I’m going to push myself even harder at class to work that off or even pick a healthier activity like going for a hike with the family to help balance everything out. Just like every other BJJ addict out there you start to notice that you have days that you feel great on the mat and days you feel like a a fat white belt. You end up striving to have those days where your firing on all cylinders and your diet is a key part to that. There is no switch that can just be flipped to say “Think this way”, you need to understand it and then want it. When you hold yourself accountable and realize that if you eat all the fried chicken at lunch there is no way your going to be bringing your A game at class. The byproduct of that is that each day you think about what your eating to train that night and eventually you realize your dropping weight and leaning out. I keep going back to indulging vs over indulging and that is important here as well. There is a big different between having a piece of pizza vs having an entire pizza. I’m sure I could have lost weight faster if I cut out all junk but it’s easier to yo-yo that way.

Overall what do you think is the most common meal you find yourself eating? Supplements aside.

Any variation of chicken. I could eat chicken for 3 meals a day for a year and not get sick of it as long as the preparation was mixed up a little. I have been really liking smoked chicken since I can get out in the summer and fire up my smoker plus the stock you can make with it is amazing. I am a huge fan of brown rice also so my staple meal would be brown rice and chicken with onions, carrots and broccoli.

What are your top 5 favorite ingredients/foods?

Chicken, Brown Rice, Eggs, Any fresh fruit or vegetable but my one vice is Cajun seasoning. I could put it on anything haha.

What that how you had the crawfish for lunch? A good ole fashion boil?

We had a good ole fashion boil. We boiled up a couple hundred mud bugs and just ate until there wasn’t any left.

Live on your own farm and train in a mountain retreat that produces BJJ products? Anyone else starting to get jealous?
Live on your own farm and train in a mountain retreat that produces BJJ products? Anyone else starting to get jealous?

When out to a really nice dinner, what is your drink of choice?

Since I have so many fruit trees I make a fair amount of my own wines as well as enjoy brewing beer so just like great jiu jitsu I respect the art. If I’m in a new location I always ask what the locals recommend or what is made locally that I can’t get in my area. If I’m going out for a nice Maine lobster you can’t go wrong with any of the Maine craft brewery beers but if I was going out for something that didn’t require me to wear a bib than any type of red wine.

Top 5 beers? I still always opt for an Allagash White when I see them available down here.

1. Shipyard Pumpkin Head
2. Smithwick’s
3. Killian’s Irish red
4. Guinness
5. Bud Light (A staple of any true Mainers diet)

People always wonder why Mainers are always so big, here is the secret, oh and Moxie.
People always wonder why Mainers are always so big, here is the secret, oh and Moxie.

What are the challenges you find maintaining your eating habits?

Consistency. I find myself in a good place where I’m eating healthy and then it’s summer and there are always burgers and chips around at all the gatherings. Then when you finally feel like your back on track you get slammed with Halloween candy, Thanksgiving and Christmas food. It’s just goes back to indulging vs over indulging.

If there was a skill or cooking technique that you would like to learn to improve your arsenal what would it be? Or is there a food you wish you knew how to make?

I love to cook and am always looking for new ways to put spins on traditional meals. One thing I have noticed recently is that I tend to fall back on the same foods paired together. My salads always had the same ingredients and if I had eggs for breakfast they were plain with fruit. I think I would like to know more about pairing foods together as well as condiments. For example I tried to break out of my rut and try salsa on scrambled eggs with baked beans. I don’t know if it was the healthiest breakfast but my energy level was through the roof haha.

Pete Robert's he will teach you about breakfast, build you a gi, then crush you in it.
Pete Robert’s he will teach you about breakfast, build you a gi, then crush you in it.

Huevos Rancheros! The luxury of breakfast is you will burn a lot of the calories so not a bad route. I mean hell its delicious so why not have it here and there.

I was doing it completely backwards until Pete showed me the benefits of breakfast. There was a great study done at Tel Aviv University where they had two groups. One had 700 calories for breakfast, 500 at lunch and 200 at dinner. The second group had 200 for breakfast, 500 for lunch and 700 at dinner. The big breakfast group lost on average 17.8lbs and 3 inches from their waist where as the big dinner group only lost 7.3lbs and 1.4 inches from their waist. It just goes to show that our bodies process foods different and different times of the day.

Do you take any supplements? If so what does your plan look like?

I like to try and get as much nutrition as I can from my diet but I do use Q5 Whey Protein after each training session.

I would like to thank Jon for taking the time away from producing the only US made gis out there and finally doing this interview with me! We have been talking about it for awhile now. If you enjoyed this interview, love learning more about the food you eat and how to prepare different foods keep checking back and supporting us here at and sign up for weekly updates via Grappler Gourmet Weekly below. Dont forget to also check out Inverted Gear for your next gi and Q5 for to keep you on top of your game. Use GOURMET10 for 10% off and remember to eat well and roll hard! OSS!

Images: FoodNetwork Budlight Origin

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