Raw food chef and well-being advocate Kemi Nekvapil, of Kemi’s Raw Kitchen and Raw Beauty Queen, at home in East Brunswick. Photo – Eve Wilson.
Raw cauliflower coconut ‘rice’ with tumeric carrots and a sweet coriander / currant chutney, prepared by Kemi Nekvapil. Photo – Eve Wilson.
Kemi prepares her amazing raw cauliflower / carrot recipe. Photo – Eve Wilson.
Crunchy Purple kale salad with daikon, radishes and a pecan lime gremolata, prepared by Kemi for our shoot (Kemi has kindly inluded the recipe for this one below!). Photo – Eve Wilson.
Ok you guys, no one seems too fussed when we veer slightly off the purist ‘art / design’ track so I hope you’re cool for me to interview another non-designer today!
I had the great pleasure of meeting so many incredibly inspiring creative women a Claire Bowditch’s much hyped Big Hearted Business conference earlier this year, and one of those people was raw food chef and wellbeing advocate Kemi Nekvapil. I was instantly drawn to Kemi’s incredible presence – she just has an inner confidence and glowing energy that is quite hard to describe! She radiates health and wellbeing, she is endlessly encouraging and optimistic, but she’s also so refreshingly ‘real’ – she totally she tells it how it is!
Kemi’s career has taken many twists and turns. Growing up in the UK, she originally trained and worked as a baker and chef – a profession Kemi worked in for nearly 20 years. She’s also a highly skilled actor, having work on television in England, and even touring with The Royal Shakespeare Company. Oh, and she’s also a qualified yoga instructor! Far too many talents for one person, I know.
But in the last few years, Kemi’s focus has shifted slightly. After being introduced to the great benefits of raw food, Kemi now devotes her career to sharing this philosophy with others. BUT DON’T FREAK OUT. This is not a fad, or a gruelling regime. Kemi’s approach is refreshingly straightforward. Instead of focussing on what you shouldn’t eat, and depriving yourself of things you love, Kemi’s mantra is simply to ‘eat more raw’. As she explains below, ‘when we eat junk we feel junky, when we eat life we feel lively. We should never underestimate the power of food on how we feel about ourselves, and therefore what we think we can do’.
Three years ago Kemi launched Kemi’s Raw Kitchen, a dense online resource (and DVD) in which she shares her recipes and widsom about incorporating more raw nutrition into everyday, busy lives. Her latest venture is Raw Beauty Queen – a series of events and online resources based on Kemi’s 7 Principles of Raw Beauty, which encourage women to nourish their beauty, inside and out.
Kemi’s very first Raw Beauty Queen Weekend event is happening very soon in Melbourne – August 3rd and 4th. The event combines all Kemi’s knowlege about raw nutrition and body nourishment, self love and wellbeing. Of course the event also presents attendees the opportunity to spend all weekend eating Kemi’s incredible raw food – expertly prepared by Bursaria Fine Foods and Botanical Cuisine! Tickets and more info here. Kemi has generously offered TDF readers $50 off the ticket price for this 2 day event – simply use the code designfiles2013 to redeem this discount.
There is so much knowledge and wisdom shared in Kemi’s interview below, but in ADDITION, she’s also been kind enough to share one new raw food recipe with us – her crunchy purple kale salad with, daikon, radish and pecan lime gremolata! Eve and I were lucky enough to munch on this delicious, nutrient-packed salad for lunch after the shoot – SO GOOD, and so incredibly energising. Plus, gremolata on ANYTHING is always a good idea.
Purple Kale with daikon, radishes and a pecan lime gremolata
For the purple kale with daikon and radishes
2 cups of purple kale, deveined and thinly shredded
½ cup daikon radish, thinly sliced
½ cup red radish, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch sea salt
Place the kale, oil and salt into a bowl and massage together well with your hands. Add the radishes and set to one side.
For the pecan lime gremolata
½ cup raw pecans, finely chopped
½ cup tightly packed parsley, finely chopped
Zest of 1 unwaxed lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of salt
Place gremolata ingredients into a separate bowl and combine. Add two thirds of the gremolata to the kale mixture, combine together and serve. Sprinkle the remaining gremolata over the top as a garnish.
Tell us a little bit about your background – what did you study, and what path led you to what you’re doing now?
I, like many, have had more than one career, but everything was a stepping stone to what I am doing now.
I studied, trained and worked as a baker and chef for nearly 20 years on and off. I love food and I love restaurants, and to be able to play with food as my vocation has always been an extremely fulfilling experience for me.
I also trained as an actor and worked on television in England for three years followed by working with The Royal Shakespeare Company (where I spent time in NY), and I toured with The National Theatre. As much as I loved acting, it was not my passion, ultimately food and people were/are. This prompted me to leave acting behind, which many thought was crazy, as I was doing quite well, but following my true passion seemed only right.
So, I decided I wanted to be a travelling yoga teacher and chef. I got out of my comfort zone and went to work in Thailand at a private resort, training Thai chefs and teaching them how to prepare European dishes. There was no financial reward for doing this job, but it gave me some of my life’s best gifts:
1) I make a mean authentic Pad Thai.
2) I have done service in a hot kitchen wearing only a swimming costume (health and safety were not invited).
3) I met my husband there, he was knocked out by my spaghetti bolognaise!
There is no doubt that you are the queen of raw food cooking in Australia, but were you always this way inclined? How and when were you first introduced to this lifestyle, and what motivated to adopt this approach to living and eating?
It was my husband that introduced me to raw food in a positive way. I had heard about it, but being a traditional chef I thought raw food was all about carrot sticks and I wondered why anyone would put themselves through that.
It was after I read a book that my husband gave me about health and well being, that the idea of raw food started to interest me. I decided to add one big salad to what I was eating. I did not get rid of anything, I just added a huge organic salad at lunchtime, with nuts, seeds, dried fruits and a juicy dressing. That was the beginning of life taking me to a whole new level.
On day two my energy levels went through the roof, I was literally jumping out of bed in the mornings, and I still am. On day three my sleep was deeper and by the end of the week I thought: ‘I think this is how I am suppose to feel as a human being. I am suppose to feel this clear, vibrant and grounded.’
It was three years ago that I launched Kemi’s Raw Kitchen. I had a very strong feeling that I was experiencing something very simple, but that had so many profound benefits and that to keep it all to myself was selfish.
We all know that we should eat more fruit and vegetables, but many do not know that if you add a good amount of raw fruits and vegetables to your plate, you start to become the best version of yourself on so many levels.
I am not the person I was a decade ago, thank goodness. I have expanded in ways I never thought possible. I know that the way I fuel my body with raw foods is the catalyst for everything else. When we eat junk we feel junky, when we eat life we feel lively. We should never underestimate the power of food on how we feel about ourselves and therefore what we think we can do.
Recently, eating raw has become more popular than ever, you only need to browse Instagram for a millisecond to be inundated with mason jars filled with green smoothies! As someone who has been living this way for the last decade, can you give us a little insight into what it actually means to eat raw? From your personal experience, why would you encourage people to give it a go?
It is incredibly exciting that there is so much interest in raw food. Once you experience the benefits you do want to share it with as many people as possible. A common question I am asked from the media is ‘Is raw food a fad?’ My response is, fruits and vegetables have never been a fad. Feeling great in yourself and in your body has never been a fad. Mother earth has prepared an extraordinary menu for us, the closer we eat to that menu the better.
There are so many ways of eating raw. My philosophy is to ‘Add More Raw’. I have never been inspired by people telling me what to eat, so I do not do that to other people.
I always recommend that a green smoothie is the best way to start though, because they taste delicious, are quick to make and give you a huge hit of lively goodness.
What top three tips would you give those wanting to introduce more raw foods into their daily diets?
1) Add More Raw. It does not matter what you currently eat. Do not feel that you cannot drink coffee, eat chocolate or eat meat. Once you start to add more raw you will find yourself naturally wanting more raw. It is so much more enjoyable than making yourself not have something you want.
2) Small additions on a regular basis are going to give you the best result, such as a green smoothie. Find your balance of how much raw you want to add. The balance will change from day to day, week to week. Enjoy the journey, food is meant to be joyful.
3) Once you start to feel great, share it with others.
Kemi in her Brunswick kitchen. Photo – Eve Wilson.
Aside from being a raw food chef, author and presenter, you’ve recently launched your latest venture Raw Beauty Queen – a series of events and an online resource for women wanting to nourish their beauty inside and out. Can you tell us a little more about this inspired concept – when did the idea for Raw Beauty Queen come to you, how long has it been in development and what can we expect to see from RBQ?
I turned 38 last year and I realised that I felt more beautiful, more centered and happier in who I am than I ever have in my life. I was surrounded by amazing women, from domestic goddesses, to entrepreneurs, to corporate leaders, and their lack of self-love and self-care was one thing they all had in common. Women are so good at giving to others, we have so many responsibilities these days, but when it comes to looking after ourselves we feel guilty or there is never enough time and therefore we go to the back of the queue. Which usually means we do not get to nourish ourselves because we are too tired!
Women are not told that as we get older we can create better versions of ourselves, that we can become more of who we are, instead we are told it all goes down hill. We are told that our beauty comes from our dress size, how how smooth our skin is and what the scales say. I believe that if we want to feel beautiful in who we are we need to nourish ourselves in ways that empower and honour us as individuals.
I started to look at what it was I had done in the last decade that had made me feel like I was getting younger and younger, and accepting and expanding who I was. This is how The 7 Principles of Raw Beauty and Raw Beauty Queen were born.
All of the Raw Beauty Queen programs, events and retreats are based on these principles.
Every woman that I have worked with that has used these principles in her own life (ages ranging from 26-79 years of age) has experienced a shift in how she feels about herself and how she nourishes herself and her life.
It is a privilege to provide spaces for women to truly step into their beauty and experience a sense of peace and possibility there.
You’re in the process of planning Raw Beauty Queen’s first live event – tell us a bit about the event, what’s in store?
The Raw Beauty Weekend has been a while in the making. I wanted to create something unique that had never been done before, while providing a service that makes a difference. It is a dream come true to be able to create this event where women come together in a beautiful space, with abundant nourishing foods to learn practical tools to nourish themselves and their lives.
For two days I will present The 7 Principles of Raw Beauty which are: Body Nourishment, Self Love, Creative Expression, Joy Creation, Elevating Relationships and Communities, Living Your Passion and Purpose, and Contribution.
Recipes are from Kemi’s Raw Kitchen, prepared by Bursaria Fine Foods, there are desserts by one of my favourite raw food companies Botanical Cuisine, abundant gifts from my dream list of sponsors and the unique opportunity for women to come together and raise each other higher.
I believe there is such need for women to start looking after themselves, we have so much to offer, but if we are burnt out, resentful, angry and tired, we will have nothing left for ourselves let alone others. The intention of The Raw Beauty Weekend is to have every woman who attends to leave the weekend feeling inspired, nourished, reinvigorated and ready to shine their unique beauty into their own lives and maybe the lives of others.
What does a typical day in the life of Kemi Nekvapil involved?
Not one day is the same, which is how I like it! I do have a strong routine but the routine has flexibility. I have productive days and creative days that alternate through the week. I nearly always have my ‘hour for me’ as soon as I wake which is around 6am, and incorporates 20 minutes of yoga, 20 minutes of meditation, and 20 minutes of writing. If the children have a restless night then it does not happen quite that way, but then I will do a five minute meditation locked in the bathroom if I have to! I am a much nicer person when I finish, so it is worth finding the time for.
I then prepare breakfast for the children and take them to school. On some days I am coaching 1-1 clients, writing, or creating recipes for Kemi’s Raw Kitchen. Some evenings I may be a key note speaker at an event, or knitting on the sofa. On another day, I may be meeting with health and wellbeing types and we plan how we are going to take over the world!
I then pick up the children, prepare afternoon tea, then dinner. My husband puts the children to bed most nights (thank you husband!) and I finish off any work for the day, business and domestic. Hubbie and I have a cuppa most nights (mini dates!) to connect and share and sometimes have an argument!
I write my to do list for the next day before I go to bed so I do not carry it into my sleep. I always read something inspiring before I go to sleep. I then run through day in my head and give thanks and gratitude.
Kemi’s home office, complete with dense inspiration board, full of her own ideas, as well the successful creative women Kemi looks up to! Photo – Eve Wilson.
Which local inspiring creatives / foodies are you loving at the moment?
Can you list for us your most favourite resources across any media that you turn to when you’re in a need of a bolt of creative inspiration?
For me the most inspiring thing is people – I think we are amazing. I love reading any inspiring biography of people, especially those about women who have achieved greatness against the odds. I am currently reading Running Hot by Lisa Tamati. I also have read, regularly revisit and high recommend others read The Success Principles by Jack Canfield and The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. Nature also sparks my creativity.
What would be your dream creative project?
Next year I would like to create a Raw Beauty Retreat in Thailand or Vancouver. On another front, I would like to redesign our home and project manage the creative process!
What are you looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to The Raw Beauty events listed above!
I also have the unique privilege of being one of 20 Australian female business owners to give back, by supporting a wonderful organisation called The Hunger Project. I am travelling to Uganda in November to see how The Hunger Project empowers women to create their own systems and structures to end poverty in their own villages. The Hunger Project model is about training and empowerment, it is not about handouts, and that is very important to me.
Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?
East Brunswick of course! Why? Because I live there. Merri Creek, CERES, Sugardough, Hellenic Republic, Milkwood, Rumi, and the great garage sales that happen on most weekends make this neighbourhood unrivalled in my opinion!
What are your favourite fossicking spots to buy the tools of your trade?
My organic garden, Fruit Peddlers (aka Terra Madre) in Westgarth is my current obsession for the weekly shop. Organic Empire is my favourite online delivery for when life gets very full. I love the Collingwood Farmers’ Market and have been known to have a joyful tear in my eye because of the beautiful rich community atmosphere. The Essential Ingredient in South Yarra is my ultimate kitchen porn store, so I try not to go in there!
What and where was the last great meal you had in Melbourne?
Chin Chin. The fresh veggie rolls, the steamed salmon, the papaya salad the cocktails and the coconut sago with sweetcorn ice cream is the best dessert I have had in years!
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
On a 12 – 15km run around Princess Park, followed by extreme lounging and eating at home with all sorts of neighbours and friends.
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
The Japanese Bath House in Collingwood. Does that mean it is not a secret anymore?!