What motivated you to follow a healing foods career?
I can’t remember what the reason was, but I told my Mother I wanted to become a cook when I was seven. A big influence for a natural whole foods diet was my mother who has been vegetarian for almost 30 years. She always cooked healthy and simple vegetarian meals at home. We had a big house with a huge garden, where we grew our own vegetables, fruit, herbs and nuts and as kids we had to go and get the milk and eggs from local farmers every other day.
My mother gave me a whole foods cookbook for kids and I cooked from that book for my family a lot - my family had their favorites, which they asked me to cook again and again. That is how it started. I remember that I celebrated every meal and enjoyed cooking it with love and attention.
And how did your career develop?
I joined a local apprenticeship, which gave me a hunger for more refined gourmet cooking. The second competition I entered I won, and from that moment on I was on fire and dedicated most of my time to study, train and learn.
However, while working in Germany’s leading three-starred Michelin restaurant a number of years later, I started questioning what I was doing for the first time. We worked so hard, under full pressure and high stress for 16 hours a day. The environment was so competitive, the atmosphere quite toxic, with a lot of ego in the kitchen. We created amazing food but in a very unhealthy environment. After one-and-a-half years as Chef de Partie I felt burned out.
Moving to a remote Swiss hotel’s two star Michelin restaurant, I spent every free minute outside doing sport again, eating healthier and feeling happier.
Understanding the importance of work-life balance and health, I became vegetarian and took time off to sign up to Willing Workers on Organic Farms (woofing) on several farms around Europe, including a raw food permaculture community in south of Spain. After a month of eating raw I had more physical energy and more mental clarity then ever before and I learned a lot about this natural way of eating and the natural cycle of food (planting, watering, harvesting, preparing, eating, energy, elimination, compost). Everything I ever heard and learned about our western lifestyle and food was questioned.
My next job was at an organic bio-hotel and restaurant in Switzerland where they gave me total creative freedom so I started experimenting with raw dishes before apprenticing at the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center by Dr. Gabriel Cousins, then working as Executive Chef at The Farm, a world famous luxury wellness and healing retreat with a raw food concept in Asia. That was my first step specializing and working exclusively with raw food and vegan cuisine at a high-end level.
What chefs inspired you most at this time?
Mostly I was inspired by some of the world’s top chefs focusing on wild herbs, organic seasonal and locally sourced ingredients and a vegetable driven cuisine. There were only a handful of chefs with a professional background doing raw cuisine at the time. Cherie Soria, the mother of gourmet raw cuisine, is one of the pioneers and she opened the first raw culinary school, Living Light, in the US. Then Charlie Trotter and Roxanne Klein opened the first groundbreaking raw fine dining restaurant Roxanne in California. And Matthew Kenny was just coming on the scene opening Pure Food and Wine in New York.
How did you hear about Fivelements?
Cherie Soria put us in contact and when they told me they needed someone in Bali immediately I pretty much said yes straight away. I was looking for people with a big vision and a strong mission with a great business sense. Lahra and Chico have this as well as a high integrity in how they work sustainably and consciously. I think together we can bring plant based and raw living cuisine to the next level of excellence and also make it accessible for more people around the world.
In my travels I found that everywhere are more and more people are looking for healthier, sustainable options, and natural alternatives. That’s why I came to Fivelements to share my experience, skills and information about vegetarian and raw living foods.
How have you felt your own health improve since you focused your energies on healing cuisine?
I still follow a diet that is about 80 percent raw and living foods because I experience much more energy and much more mental clarity. When I eat a high raw diet based on fresh fruit, vegetables, greens and wild herbs, seaweeds, superfoods and some simple healthy cooked foods like pseudo grains (amaranth, quinoa, millet, buckwheat) I feel great in my body, my skin clears up quickly, my hair is better, my mind is more balanced and calm, I sleep better and I wake up feeling fresher and ready to go.
In my experience this diet is a good for people who have a lot of stress and pressure, and for those who are ill and want to get better quickly. You’re getting nutrients without overloading the digestive system. It’s pure fuel. It’s a high nutrient dense diet with low calorie content. I actually believe that it can be healthier to eat a balanced, whole food diet with some healthy cooked foods rather than being 100 percent raw.
Do you think Asia is a good place to be creating healthy food?
Asia is a great place to be partly because of the access to fresh, local ingredients, the diverse edible and healing wild herbs, spices, vegetables and fruit, which grow everywhere. And of course the amazingly rich food culture from which to draw inspiration. I’m looking forward to discovering new ingredients, and Asian cuisine has so much to offer too.
What will you be creating at Fivelements?
I have the feeling we can create something amazing and beautiful here. The potential is huge. We are a strong team at the right time in the right place!
For Fivelements I would love to bring in some innovative culinary techniques and modern presentation, but focused on seasonal, local organic ingredients, herbs and spices. Of course being in Bali and working with Balinese people, Southeast Asian flavors will be also featured in the coming menu. I love the balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy with lots of fresh herbs and various textures, colors and strong flavors.
This plant-based cuisine is still very young and the creative process is organic, ever evolving and changing. So, we will see where it will take us. But it is raw, fresh, innovative, nutritious, healthy, artistic, flavorful, full of texture and colors. This is nature’s best cuisine.