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Holly Davis is a Macrobiotic Chef
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Holly Davis is a Macrobiotic Chef
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Holly Davis is a Macrobiotic Chef
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"People are doing the 'right' thing and getting sicker, and fatter, and more miserable."
Conversations
1 January 2010

Holly Davis is a Macrobiotic Chef

Interview by Kate Bezar
Photography by Ankya Klay

Kate Bezar

The evening before we were to interview Holly Davis, chef, author and co-founder of Iku Wholefoods cafes, we took part in one of her cooking classes … and got to devour the results! It quickly became obvious to all there that Holly’s philosophy towards food is different to most.

Before beginning she asked us to imagine how one of our ancestors might have eaten; where they would have sourced their food, what it might have been and how they would have cooked it. You see, Holly believes that over time we’ve gone away from how we should be eating for optimum health. In her hands and pots, traditional food and wholefoods become absolutely delicious. Holly is an alchemist indeed, a different kind of alchemist.

This story originally ran in issue #22 of Dumbo Feather

Discussed in this Story

KATE BEZAR: Does your daughter, India, ever rebel against eating such healthy food all the time?

HOLLY DAVIS: When she was at kindy she liked that what she had was different, but at some point she said to me, “Mum, can I have a peanut butter sandwich?” I realised that kids just want to be the same as everybody else.

Absolutely.

So I made her peanut butter sandwiches.

She’s now 16?

Yeah. She’s having to make decisions about what she’ll study for the next couple of years. She’s been saying that she wants to be a wedding dress designer since she was six, up until a few weeks ago when she said, “You know what? I’m not really sure that fashion is right for me, but I feel like I’ve got to do it because otherwise I’m going to let people down.” I never felt that; I couldn’t care less; but I just want her to be doing whatever she’s passionate about.

This story originally ran in issue #22 of Dumbo Feather

This story originally ran in issue #22 of Dumbo Feather

It sounds like you knew that food was going to be your thing from the beginning.

Yep. I was born in time for breakfast, to the smell of bacon and eggs, my mum says. Mum cooked when she wasn’t feeling great; she mustn’t have felt great very often because she cooked quite a lot! She cooked really beautiful food. My dad’s favourite shops were butcher’s shops … Sometimes we’d go to Europe, or one time we went to North Africa when I was about 13. After we’d settled into the hotel, Dad said, “Let’s go and explore” so we went looking for a butcher’s shop in Hammamet. I had a horse at home [in England] and there were horses’ heads hanging on the side of this butcher’s shop. I was horrified!

Is that what turned you vegan or vegetarian?

No, I wasn’t vegan until my [Iku cafe] customers made me vegan. Well, they didn’t make me … When I first started Iku we served fish and we used eggs and honey, but I stopped that because we found it really difficult to keep everything separate and we did attract a lot of people who were vegan and vegetarian. Vegans make up 2 per cent of the population, but they all came in, even from as far as Wollongong, it was amazing.

I just made you skip a whole lot, we went from Africa to Glebe in Sydney.

That is sort of what life is like isn’t it?

Of course.

Right, so both my parents had an appreciation for good food and Dad loved butcher shops. We would occasionally go up the road to a local farm and buy half a pig or half a lamb and bring it home. I remember the pine kitchen table with this pig lying on it and my dad having a fabulous time … He’d been a chef before he was a lawyer so he was skilled and he loved it. That idea of using every part of the animal I wasn’t reconnected to until fairly recently now that I’ve gone back to looking at traditional ways of eating, but I can see I’ve always had it to a degree.

Absolutely.

I can remember really clearly, the point at which margarine made it into our fridge and Mum told us, “We are not having butter now. This is much better for us; we are going to eat this.” I remember eating it and thinking, “What? You’ve got to be joking!” While there was still butter around I was sneaking butter. One is food and the other is closer to plastic than it is to food, but you can see how powerful that movement has been in turning us away from what’s really delicious and good.

Just last week I saw an ad on TV saying if you have butter on one slice of bread a day over the course of a year it adds up to this much and “imagine what that’s doing to your and your kids’ arteries”. So who is right? There’s obviously some medical or scientific background to them saying that, no?

Oh there’s a huge body of ‘evidence’, but there’s now a large movement looking at that information, how it was gathered and how the statistics were put together. They say that the findings were inaccurate and skewed. It’s highly controversial to say to anyone that eating saturated fat is a good idea but I’ll put my hand up for the job because it appears that it really is a good idea. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride looks at the evidence in her book, Put Your Heart in Your Mouth, which is really fascinating. It hits the other side of the story. The thing for me, if I go back to the child in the kitchen who was told that this plastic container of yellow stuff was better than this block of fat … there was something in me that knew that wasn’t right. It was like an innate body knowledge that when you eat something nourishing your body goes ‘yes’ and when you eat something that’s not, it goes ‘What? What is that?’ I think we eat a lot of those so-called ‘healthy’ foods because we’ve been told that’s what we need to do, rather than just listening to, observing, and really trusting what we know is better for us. If we ask ourselves, “Is this food?” and only eat what is, that’s a great start.

It’s like we drink watery milk instead of nice, rich, full cream milk.

Yeah. Skim milk to me, I cannot understand how anybody does it to themselves … They are not beneficial foods. There is a growing body of evidence against it. In your world, how many people do you know who have died young or are suffering from all sorts of things like heart disease?

People are doing the ‘right’ thing and getting sicker, and fatter, and more miserable, and more depressed, and committing suicide.

All those things are related to your relationship with life, and one of the most basic and primary relationships to life is what you nourish yourself with. If you’re not enjoying it, if there is no connection to life in what you eat, you are ripping yourself off. I’ve got a few little bits and pieces growing in the garden and the joy of going outside and just picking a few leaves of a herb, or a few shallots or some lettuce … It’s much more than that the food looks beautiful or that it tastes beautiful, there’s that connection to, oh look, that’s soil; this thing is growing and it’s growing for me.

And it’s only been out of the ground for 10 minutes before you eat it.

One morning recently India had a sore throat and I wanted to make her a honey and lemon drink but I didn’t have a lemon. So I walked down the road, turned up the corner to where I know there’s a lemon tree and got a lemon. I didn’t have to get into the car and drive to the supermarket. I live here [on Sydney’s Northern beaches] for that reason … Well, not entirely that reason, but because there is a connection with nature. I’m surrounded by it. I spent a bit of time back in England last year and travelling the year before and I was considering moving back, but I just don’t think I could do it.

What brought you out to Australia in the first place?

I got here at the end of ’82, so that’s 27 years ago. Isn’t that amazing? I had been working at a vegetarian restaurant in London, in Covent Garden, with a bunch of really lovely people and one of them was a New Zealander who I adored and he moved back to New Zealand. Then I went travelling; I lived in America for a year and then Japan. While I was in Japan he moved from New Zealand to Sydney and I came here to visit him, thinking I’d go to New Zealand and then India, that was my plan … I had a 12 month working visa and after I’d been here for nine months I wasn’t having a particularly great time and there was no reason for me to stay, but I had a very strong sense of, I know I’m going to want to be able to come back here. It was an odd feeling and I felt it so strongly that I asked someone if they wanted to marry me. Does Immigration read this?

[Laughs].

So, I got married to a friend, who I didn’t know terribly well … Nicholas now lives in Malaysia, but we stayed married for seven years because I couldn’t bear the idea of being divorced, as a title. My book [Nourish] is dedicated to him because I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him. I feel a huge amount of gratitude. I worked in a little restaurant in Rozelle as soon as we got married, a macrobiotic restaurant. I had been introduced to macrobiotics when I was 14 and it just felt so exciting and right.

Who by?

In London, by my very good friend Tracy Sohn and her sister, Pip. We called Pip ‘macro-neurotic’. I went around to Pip’s place and I had the flu and she said, “Let me make you a drink.” She made me this slightly strange, salty concoction and I drank it and she said, “In a couple of hours you’ll feel better,” and I did. I asked her what it was and what had she done and she told me a bit about it. I was fascinated. She gave me the concept that what we eat really does hugely affect the way that we feel. On a pretty much moment by moment basis our wellbeing can be affected by how we eat and what we eat. So I learned to make a few things and had a beautiful cookbook, which is quite hard to find now, but it’s definitely worth looking for, called The Art Of Just Cooking by Lima Ohsawa, George Ohsawa’s wife. George Ohsawa is known as the father of macrobiotics although what he really did was take Eastern philosophies and redescribe them. Part of my motivation for going to Japan later was that I wanted to study macrobiotics. I went to the school that Lima Ohsawa taught at. At the time she was in her 80s and looked beautiful. I can recall her taking a piece of corn and showing me how to get the kernels off it. If you take a piece of corn and you slip a knife between two rows and flip the first lot of kernels off along that line, you can just get your thumb and push them off and you get the whole kernel. They look really beautiful and you are getting all the nutrition that’s in it. I learnt really practical things because my Japanese was nonexistent.

You just had to watch and learn?

Yeah I mostly gained practical skills. Aries are known for being good starters.

But not such great finishers?

I do finish things; it just takes me a while. I get involved in something and then I get involved in something else – but I do finish what I start.

I think things have their time and it’s good to do them when you have the energy.

I wanted to study paper-making in Japan as well. I’d done fine art print making at art school before I left England and I had an interest in Japanese woodblock printings and I loved their paper, but I didn’t. I worked at a night club instead as a hostess. It was sort of like being an English teacher in a cocktail frock. It was a weird job. I hated it, but I really enjoyed Japan. One of the things I know about myself now is that one of my highest values is for difference. I want to be different. I like to think I am, and Japan was great for that.

Because you were so different?

I knew I was different and everything was so different for me. When I’m thinking about a class that I want to teach, I usually want to show people something that they don’t know, or feed them something that they wouldn’t usually want to eat. I have some chicken hearts in the fridge and I was thinking, hmm I’ve never cooked them, I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten them.

I’m sure there’s something you can do with them.

Offal is a good thing to eat. It’s mostly awful, but you know, it can be delicious – it’s just finding a different way of doing it. So yeah, difference. I’ve got a high tolerance for, and a big need to be, different, to do different things.

I think on some level we all want to feel that we’re unique, but then on another level there’s a huge need for us to conform as well.

In macrobiotic philosophy they talk about universal principals, and one of them is ‘the bigger the front, the bigger the back.’ It means that whatever it is that you usually see; whatever it is that attracts you to something that you really like, there is always an equal opposite.

We don’t live life often with the awareness that there is an equal opposite and when the equal opposite shows up we go, “Oh. How can that be? It shouldn’t be like that!” It’s beautiful that everything’s got twin aspects. That I have a need for difference, I’m sure, points to a huge need to conform as well. I want to be included. I may be different but don’t leave me out [laughs]. I definitely provide love by feeding people. I think I’m here to feed people. I recently had someone stay with me who was very, very unwell. When she went into hospital I took her food but she couldn’t eat it. I was devastated. Truly. I was confronted. I’ve got a well-developed ego too. It’s human.

Absolutely. Is that why you started the restaurant? To feed people?

When I was 17, I was working at Camden Lock, at the markets there, on the weekend. On the Lock, on the bridge that goes over the canal, there was a little macrobiotic restaurant called Sunwheel. I loved it. I just thought it was fantastic, and they were looking for a manager so I went in there and I said, “I’d like to be the manager of the restaurant.”

At 17?

I literally walked in the door at 17 years old and said, “You’re looking for a manager. I am your manager!” They said they really did need someone with experience. I walked back to the stall I was working at and I had this thought … You know how there are some things you think and it just stays with you? Well, I had this fully formed vision that one day I was going to have a restaurant.

I was going to have a stylish, great restaurant and serve amazing food that people were going to love.

So that was where the idea of the restaurant came from, but I didn’t think about it again. I didn’t then go out to make that happen, I went to art school instead. Then my father died and I went back to live with my mother for a year and got a job at Food For Thought in Covent Garden, which was amazing. Again I walked in, said I wanted to see the manager and that I was looking for a job. She said, “Well, I have got a job. You can come in the mornings, clean the bathrooms, set up the lunch and serve food for lunch.” So, I did. After two weeks this lovely New Zealand man who worked in the kitchen as second chef said he was going to leave and so I said, “I want his job.” Vanessa, the manager, said, “If he agrees to train you, you can have a go.” He was a really fantastic vegetarian chef and I learnt so much. I also worked with this beautiful Thai woman who influenced my Asian bent quite a bit. She was so tiny we could put her in the biggest pot. In my kitchen I’ve got this little step that I stand on for my back and I often think of her.

That’s gorgeous.

She was tiny! It was a very busy place – we’d feed about 600 people for lunch – and a great training ground. I worked there for a couple of years and then I went travelling. I went to America and I worked there teaching horse riding, which is my other passion. Then I went to Japan and spent almost a year there. Then I travelled around Europe a little bit, went back to Japan and then came here where I worked selling advertising for The Pink Pages, kinda like The Yellow Pages. I lived in Kings Cross so I went to brothels and sold advertising. If you work on commission, brothels are really good because they take quarter page ads. But I didn’t love doing that so I then got a job through David, the New Zealander from London, at Laurie’s Diner. I worked there for a while, then got married and started working at The Macrobiotic Restaurant. Not a very sexy name.

Is that really what it was called?

It was called The Macrobiotic Restaurant. I mean, good if that’s what you are looking for, but macrobiotic sounds so clinical and that’s not what it is. It’s really about understanding the energetic properties of things and what fits where. There’s an order to the universe and everything has a place and everything has its opposite.

I learnt an enormous amount about food from the guy who owned that restaurant, Andrzej Gospodarczyk. He was a Shiatsu practitioner and he had that restaurant as a sort of side line. He is an amazing man. I had a really good time with him. We’d meet up in Chinatown at the Roma Café, this really lovely little hole in the wall, so he could drink coffee and smoke cigarettes and we would work out what the menu would be for the weekend. Then we’d go shopping in Chinatown to find food. We’d spend all of Friday cooking, serve the food on Friday evening, then do a bit more work on Saturday for Saturday evening and that was it for the week. It was just Friday and Saturday nights. I’d continuously ask him, “Why do you do this? Why do you do that? What is this?” and he was incredibly generous with his knowledge. Then I went overseas and when I came back he had decided he wanted to sell the restaurant and he had decided he wanted to sell it to me because he wanted to see it continue as a macrobiotic place. So I borrowed $2800. That’s how much I paid for the restaurant! It was a very simple, basic set up. It was started as a macrobiotic restaurant in the early ‘60s by an architect and his wife with the idea that they would show people sustainable living. They had this one little garbage bin and they would show people how little they wasted. Isn’t that beautiful? They would make very simple, macro food. What most people know about macrobiotics is that it’s rather brown and ordinary, but the idea of that restaurant was to show people beautiful, fresh, food that’s well prepared and delicious. When I took it over I called it ‘Manna, eat food from heaven’. Then I started Iku and ran both of them for a while which was crippling. I was working something like 130 hours a week.

Why did you start Iku? You just saw an opportunity?

Ken Israel, who now owns Iku, was a customer at Manna and we became friends. One evening I was at Manna with Willem, who was a South African man working with me as a waiter, and Ken came in and said he owned a building in Glebe. He thought that it would be great if I went there and did something. I said I’d have a look and Willem said, “If you’re not interested, maybe I would be, so why don’t we go and have a look together.” It was this Chinese restaurant that was kind of grubby with a wok burner and not much else. I thought it was too hard and too expensive because we’d have to take out a wall but we kept discussing it. Eventually we both decided to do it and do everything 50/50. That was the deal. Like, “You do the books, I do the books.” It was probably not really that smart; better to pick the things you’re really good at and do those but … Ken guaranteed a loan for us and helped us design it and it turned into Iku Wholefood. The whole experience of Iku was an amazing teacher. I got some mean lessons and some really good ones.

Why with Iku more so than the other restaurant?

Well, Manna was only two nights a week and it was a sit down restaurant in a more out of the way location. With Iku, it was that idea of being young and busy and we thought Glebe was a good spot because it’s not far from the uni. We really deliberated as to what to do. We originally thought we’d do a fish and chip shop because Glebe didn’t have one. We thought that would be a good money-making idea, but neither of us knew anything about fish and chips…

We were tossing up between a macrobiotic restaurant or a fish and chip shop! It would have been a very stylish and fabulous fish and chip shop had we gone down that road. I was living in a warehouse at the time in East Sydney, and we were sitting around my kitchen table and we just looked at each other and went, “What are we doing?” Neither of us really wanted fish and chips so we chose to do what we really wanted and if it failed, so be it. We thought, it might go out of business in six months, but we’ll die trying. It was amazing!

I love those moments when you get really clear and then life just delivers.

Everything came together and we found all the things we needed; we used The Trading Post and our boyfriends to pull down walls; it was handy. When we opened the door on 17 September 1985, we had $1400 in the bank. Had we had a bad week, we’d have gone out of business then, but over the first three years, the books just steadily grew every week. Then, at three years, it just went straight up. It was like it found its spot and people knew it was there. It was a good formula really and it was really different. Which is not that surprising as I chose a very different way of eating and a very different style of delivering food.

Was it under your stewardship that it expanded past one store?

Yes. Willem and I had the Glebe shop, but he died in 1991. I was going to sell my share but then Ken and I became business partners. He had a vision that it was going to be a bigger business than it was, and that it wouldn’t be for nothing; that what Willem and I had created was of value and that it would keep going. So I stayed and we were partners for another six years. In that time we opened the shop in Neutral Bay and centralised the kitchen in Waverley. I sold the business in 1997 and just after I sold it the third shop was opened in Waverley. Ken then franchised and now there are 10. Some are owned by Ken and some are franchised. He’s done an amazing job of maintaining and creating a beautiful business that feeds so many people well. It’s lovely.

It’s stayed true to its original vision?

Yes, it really has. It really has the most incredible integrity. It’s lovely to see. I’m keen to support them by creating them some new dishes. I think things have changed a lot, particularly in the way that people relate to food, and it would be nice to be a part of updating it.

But keeping it macrobiotic?

Yes. Keeping its foundation true. It’s such a strong foundation and it’s very well loved.

When did you start to evolve your philosophy from a purely macrobiotic one towards what it is now, more wholefoods?

I had that real die-hard, I’m-going-to-change the world, macrobiotic view for a while, but Iku itself softened that over time.

Willem had HIV and died of AIDS and that experience … He was my best friend and during that experience of being his carer and running the business, I had to let go of a lot and I had to learn to let go of him. That experience coloured my life more than anything else because it was so profound and it introduced me to the idea of what we call self development. You know, you start looking and go, what is this for? It softened me up in lots of ways. I had to let go of the idea that I could do everything myself. I would have been really hard to work for at the time. We had to take on other people to cook and I found it so difficult to let go of doing it all. I spent a lot of time there, very upset, stressed and worried. I did work with some amazing people and they all taught me something great. I want to write a book called I was the vegan who ate salami because I have always been like that. I’m not absolute. I think there’s room for everything. I like the flow of life and how life leads you to different places. You think you’re going this way and then you meet somebody, or something happens, and it takes you in a different direction.

If you’re too rigid it doesn’t leave you open to those kind of opportunities. Rigidity in itself is a kind of sickness, but you have to go through it to know that.It was having a baby that definitely changed my world. India was born in 1993 and I did what I thought was the right thing in terms of how I fed her and what I did for myself dietary wise. Then, when she was about six she developed asthma and I was really horrified. Really horrified! Like, my child couldn’t have asthma! There are many factors that lead to asthma, but it has always been my view that nutrition is a major component of everything in terms of health. So I took her to see a breathing specialist and she introduced me to Weston Price’s findings and teachings. It was a bit like when I was introduced to macrobiotic philosophy, I had this sense that it just felt really right. Although it was very different to what I’d been thinking, I decided there were definite fits between his findings and macrobiotic philosophy. Macrobiotics really looks at what’s available and what’s appropriate and I decided from what I had read and understood, that what was probably appropriate to be feeding her was more animal fat. This was very odd because generally what you do with asthmatics is you take them off dairy, but she hadn’t really been on dairy. I started giving her cultured cream and more pro-biotic foods. I already made fermented foods, but the pickles I had been making would have had more vinegar and salt in them and not that pro-active and beneficial bacteria. So I started making and feeding her those and noticed an immediate difference. I did a talk at the Organic Food Expo and I met Leslie Embersits, the founder of Mindd Foundation which stands for Metabolic Immuno Neurological Digestive Disorders; she’s extraordinary. I was giving a talk about kefir and cultures and she came up to me afterwards. She was just alive and so enthusiastic and said, “I’ve been looking for you. I’ve been looking for somebody who understands these things and could talk to parents.” The foundation disseminates information for people with children on the autism spectrum. It looks at a broad range of issues and one of them is diet. So I’ve done a bit of that and she has run some amazing conferences and she brings out people from all over the world to speak.

Did she introduce you to the work of Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride?

I met Natasha at the first Mindd Foundation conference. She and Donna Gates were speakers. They are both really amazing individuals who are doing great work for kids with autism. Natasha has now written the book I mentioned before, Put Your Heart In Your Mouth and has an incredibly busy practice. You asked me before how I know that this philosophy of eating is right…

I don’t think there is a right way to live or do anything; there is just what you do, the result that you get, and then what you do next.

You just have to measure it against yourself and see what works for you. It’s been really challenging with my mum. She had a heart attack and a quadruple bypass last year. The doctors prescribe cholesterol lowering drugs, but Natasha’s body of work says that cholesterol is not actually the cause. Because it’s at the site of the clogs, it’s deemed the cause, but it isn’t the cause. The cause is inflammation of the endothelium, which is the lining of the vessels. The body’s response to inflammation is to send cholesterol to the site of the issue and when the inflammation continues the cholesterol keeps going out and eventually clogs occur. Cholesterol itself is not the issue, our body needs cholesterol.

So the idea would be to reduce the inflammation?

Yes. It’s to look at why there is inflammation and what are the causes. The thing that predominantly causes inflammation is the over-consumption of refined carbohydrates and refined sugars. It’s also everything in our surroundings that is toxic and we have filled up our lives with: products, even the things that we put on our skin … Whatever you put on your skin, consider it food. It’s not a barrier, your skin; it’s a means of getting stuff in. They now put drugs in creams and they are absorbed quicker. All the other chemicals we use around the house and on our clothes and on our windows and cars, and then there’s all the plastics … You can get terribly depressed; I mean, I have. One of the things that attracts me to the idea of traditional foods and eating is that it’s tried and true. It was working for a very, very long time. There were things that didn’t work, but it wasn’t in the food sources and it wasn’t in the chemicals. Pre-Industrialisation, people didn’t have the same issues. They couldn’t have the same issues because they didn’t have the choices that we had. A major problem for us is that we’ve just got so much choice; it’s really hard. There’s so much information that we have to really go within and trust an innate knowing above a ‘you must’ or ‘this is what you should do’. We are so used to people saying, “You should do this” or, “You mustn’t do that.” It’s a shame.

So what keeps you busy these days?

Right now I’m running cooking classes from my home in Palm Beach and in Bondi Junction (Sydney). I also do some cooking for a few clients because I love to cook. I don’t want a restaurant, but I like to have a few people I can feed. I like the autonomy of deciding what they are eating. I go out and shop for what looks best and most beautiful. I buy really beautiful meats and then I make them up. I’ve got some beef cheeks I’m about to cook in red wine. I like winter cooking, it’s good for that. I also work with people who have been diagnosed with serious illness and either teach them, or their carers, ways of using the foods they’ve been told they need to be eating.

What if you disagree with what they’ve been told they should cut out?

Well, I had a job in Hong Kong at the beginning of the year for three weeks, cooking for someone who was incredibly ill. He was under a doctor from the States and eating a pretty much raw diet, which is not what I think is a good idea, but I respect that it’s the client’s choice to do what they feel is best for them, so I made raw food. Whole foods have incredible potential for being delicious and nutritious, if they are treated right; but if they are not treated right they’re ghastly. A badly cooked grain or bean is not digestible and it’s not nice to eat. There are things that traditional cultures did to food which have now been backed up by science, that really make a difference, not only to what’s available from the food but to overall digestion. Simple things like soaking them with a bit of lemon in the water. Soaking’s a really big thing for nuts, beans, seeds and grains. Nuts have a lot of tannins and they are termed ‘anti-nutrients’ which means they take nutrients from your body for your body to be able to digest them. Nuts, seeds and grains have acids on the outside so they will pass through the digestive tract intact and still sprout. Soaking removes that. It’s all about having a greater understanding of what’s going on; although I like it, as you can tell, from a non-scientific, more practical, more what makes it delectable perspective, rather than ‘it’s got this much vitamin C’, though those things are important too. When I wrote Nourish I …

How long ago was that?

It was published 10 years ago and it is currently out of print. There are a few on Amazon. I really wanted, and I still want to, make wholefoods a ‘sexy’ option. I thought if I had a book that was more Vogue it would entice people who probably would love the food, but wouldn’t go to a book that was more ‘whole meal’ looking. It was really important to me that it looked really beautiful. I’m about to look for a publisher for my second book which will really be looking more at traditional food and the what, why and how.

You mentioned to me last night that you feel like you’ve ‘come home’, in what you are doing.

I do. It’s interesting. I’m 51 and when I was younger, there was that view of driving yourself outwards … I was recently doing an amazing job setting up a retreat centre. It was an experience of working in a way that was, for me, a perfect expression of who I am, what’s important to me and what I have to offer. I had an experience of myself in a way that I’ve never had, where I really got myself. I got my value, and I got that I am knowledgeable, that I am great with people, that I love people and I love seeing people inspired by what they can do for themselves. Last night, when somebody said, “I can do this”, that’s music to my ears. I just love that. The job finished in a very strange and abrupt way and I thought, I can’t have had that experience for nothing. There must be something in it that I can draw from. I looked at all the things about it that made it fabulous and it was that I was in my space – well, in a space that I had created the way I like to have it, with everything that I need to just create and to be myself. I was the centre of attention for periods of time, which I clearly like, and I’m obviously a teacher. I can’t help myself. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the health food shop or at a bus stop, if the opportunity arises and I know something I think will make a difference, I want to pass that on. So I thought, I’m going to run classes and I’m going to run them from home. I’m also running them from Bondi Junction because I know there are a lot of people from that area that won’t make it to Palm Beach. I’d much rather be teaching them from Palm Beach because I know that here, it feels completely natural and unpretentious, which I really like. It’s authentic. What I would love is for people to be around the table more. There’s a lot to be said for returning to sitting around the table and talking. My bigger, longer term vision is to have a property where people would come and I’d feed them; it’d be a community of people. When we live in a community and we’re connected with other people, life is so much more enjoyable. I learnt that having a child, doing it on your own or doing it with one other person doesn’t work. I love the idea that it takes a whole village to raise a family. So that’s my bigger picture: to be on a property with a group of people. I don’t want to live cheek by jowl. I want to have a home, a dwelling, on a property where there are other like-minded people. At some point it will be the right thing to do and this feels like a very nice step towards that.

Kate Bezar

Kate Bezar started Dumbo Feather—and is a living legend, simple as that. Read all about her and the kernel of an idea that became a magazine.

Photography by Ankya Klay

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