How’s the Raw Food scene in Dubai? Does it exist?
It kinda does and it doesn’t. So I went to a well known and probably one of the bigger bookstores in Dubai recently and could not find a single raw-food recipe book! I was upset but also excited at the challenge at the same time!
On the other hand, there are plenty of juice companies, organic deliveries and healthy cafes, which would suggest the health and raw food scene is well on its way, or even at a tipping point here in Dubai.
There is even a raw food café just opened-up at Dubai Mall – it’s called Bestro and is run by a lovely raw food chef called Hayley – we’re hoping to do something together so watch this space!
I lived in Dubai over 4 years ago and have just recently moved back, so I am happy to see how the vegan and healthy food scene has grown – the raw food scene is very thinly spread, but that’s why I am excited to be back! :0)
It seems like there’s quite a lively Raw Food Community in Hong Kong, can you tell us a bit about it?
Yes, the raw food scene in Hong Kong is a bit more established – in fact, one of my mentors and inspirations, Chef Priscilla of Rawthentic food, has been running workshops and writing blogs locally for years now. The interest has definitely spread and there are plenty of raw and vegan options from ingredients, health-food stores, healthy cafes such as Mana! , and organic businesses such as my business, Eat FRESH organic e-greengrocery. Yoga is a huge trend in Hong Kong and I think this has helped the raw food scene to get some good traction, because the two are often linked by like-minded people.
Mia is also quite the Raw Chocolatier – these are her Famous Raw Chocolate Bounty Balls
What sorts of challenges did you encounter in running an Organic Produce Delivery Service in HK?
I guess the language thing was my first challenge as my farmers all speak Cantonese, however, my business partner helps us to communicate with them on a daily basis. To be honest, I have been very lucky with the business – I have a wonderful partner who is basically like my sister and we get on so well, plus the partners, suppliers and ambassadors I work with are all great friends which makes business very easy on a day-to-day basis. Hong Kong is a very entrepreneurial place and the more I networked, the more friends and supporters I met who have really helped us to grow quickly. It’s also nice when I can support those people with their business, whether it’s because we sell their products, provide produce for recipes, or support their blog, it’s nice to work in a friendly and rewarding environment.
What was the most rewarding aspect of taking Elaina’s Raw Chef Certification Course?
Meeting the people I met on the course, including this guy called Jonny Freesh :0) Spending 4 weeks day in and day out with the same group of people all whilst learning these amazing recipes from an even more amazing teacher, well it was life changing. We laughed, cried, spilled some nut nylk, got hot and messy most days but it was the best ever experience. Not only have I gained a tonne of recipes and advice to pass on and play with, but I also gained confidence to spread the raw-word in a style that I felt comfortable with. I also gained some wonderful friends who I have stayed in touch with and probably always will.
If you could only take one course, the Institute of Integrative Nutrition one or Elaina’s, which would it be and why?
I don’t think I can choose to be fair because had I not taken IIN, I might not have left my corporate job and I might not have even found Elaina’s course. I think it depends where you’re at and what you’re looking to get out of a course. For me, the IIN course helped me to further define what I was looking to do in terms of my career change, I went into it wanting to be a health coach but came out knowing that whatever my next step was it needed to be focused on food and health because this is what I was passionate about, and so I went looking for the best raw food course I could find. I loved both courses, but IIN took a year + to complete and Elaina’s course was a great add on for where I wanted to take my skills. I highly recommend both courses, but then I am a total course junky – I love to learn!
What does an average day of eating look like for you?
There is no average day; I’m a chef for goodness sake! At the moment I’m fermenting a bunch of veggies and nut cheese so my kitchen looks insane! Lol.
Actually, if I am not experimenting with a new recipe for my blog or to add to my online course, then my food can be very simple.
I love to wake up to an apple cider vinegar tonic (just apple cider vinegar +water) to kick-start my digestion – I find this keeps bloating at bay and my skin really clear. I’ll grab a few nuts and then off to yoga or the gym before breakfast. When I get home I eat either chia seed porridge with nut milk, with seeds and fresh berries (I eat my fruit in the morning and mainly just berries to keep sugar low). Sometimes, I have prepared a batch of vegan muffins with almond flour or garbanzo bean flour – this is if I have been super organized – and I’ll much that with some nut butter and fresh berries. I also love a morning espresso – yep, I drink coffee – organic, fair-traded coffee beans, of course.
Lunch is always a big salad of raw greens; it’s my favorite time of day! Most of the time I keep it raw and vegan with mung bean sprouts and maybe a raw nori wrap to wrap up a few leaves. I try to add cultured foods most days with raw kraut, kimchi or chutney. I mix it up with different dressings, but mostly I am a sucker for plain old good quality olive oil and balsamic or apple-cider vinegar with a dash of high mineral salt and black pepper – that’s it! I am not strictly vegan and I will add in some organic free-range eggs or a piece of wild-caught sustainable fish every now and again, but I’d say 90% of the time I follow vegan and mainly raw way of eating. People assume I am strict vegan, but actually I try to listen to my body and eat consciously. I will never touch meat, that’s just me, I love animals too much to eat them, and I do not support the dairy industry so milk and cheese is out for me.
Post lunch is chocolate, yes, everyday! I make my own raw vegan chocolates because I prefer to keep the sugar content down and you cannot find good quality raw chocolates here with out too much agave in! I’ll soon fix this :0)
My afternoon pick me up is green juice. I whizz up celery, kale, lettuce, cucumber, apple and ginger for an afternoon delight and lots of electrolytes.
Dinner is usually lighter than lunch; maybe I’ll make a raw or cooked veggie soup and eat it with some raw crackers or gluten-free bread. It depends, sometimes I order Arabic food takeaway – crazy right, a chef ordering take away – it’s so healthy with lots of salads, hummus, babaganoush etc, and it’s not crazy expensive to eat local food.
I usually drink herbal tea before bed, or maybe another apple cider vinegar tonic – I just love it. I know, I’m weird.
Gluten Free Chocolate Zucchini Bread – Yes Please!
7. What 3 foods could you not live without?
Have you not guessed!
- Chocolate, oh lots of chocolate! Raw and vegan of course.
- Apple-cider vinegar – is that a food?
- Raw greens – kale, spinach, arugula…I’ll take all of it!
I see that you’ve been taking your Raw Chocolate game to the next level – any secret Chocolatier tips that have made your chocolate as awesome as it is?
Actually, I can not claim this tip as my own because one of my mentors and inspirational teachers, Amy Levin of Oosha, advised that you need a LOT of patience when it comes to making chocolate. And it’s so true. I wipe an afternoon clear so that I can temper and flavor in peace – I am sure my chocolate tastes better now that have started to make it less rushed! That and buy organic fair traded beans! The energy from the fair-trade chocolate translates into the taste and quality. Conscious eating is what it’s all about, and that goes right down to what you eat and where it came from. It’s not enough to just choose organic anymore, the food industry is so polluted with greed and bad people, so we really need to think about the “field to fork journey”.
What advice would you give someone getting started on a raw food diet?
Just change one thing at a time. I had this one client who wanted to do a full on raw juice detox every month forever and was willing to pay me to help. I replied, 1) no, this is not healthy and 2) why? People are so keen to look for a quick fix, but by just adding more raw food to your diet it will be more beneficial if done over a lifetime not just for a week and then back to the junk – it’s a vicious cycle.
If you really want to cleanup your diet, just add a green juice to your breakfast routine. Maybe in a week, add a raw salad to your lunch and so on. Nobody needs to eat raw 100% of the time, unless you feel good doing so of course. A raw diet, for me anyway, is more about looking at upgrading your diet to include more raw food in it. Even if you 40% of your diet comprises raw foods, you will see the health benefits. Take it one bite at a time.
What’s your favorite raw dish of all time?
Dish or item….ha ha! Raw chocolates are my all time favorite raw foods – mint with cacao nibs is my go-to!
Dish wise, you know I just love zucchini pesto pasta with a sweet basil pesto – it’s so simple, accessible and yummy.
Can you share a scrumdiddlyumptious recipe with us?
Talking of pesto – why not check out my raw sweet basil and pistachio pesto
What’s exciting plans do you have for the future?
Well, I have just re-launched my new Graciously Green website /blog (in fact it’s still kind of work in progress) – this has been in development for over a year, would you believe, and was a big step for me because I took down all the old material to start again with a fresher, more fun look and feel! The new site will also allow me to eventually sell my favorite products and hopefully raw chocolates in the near future. I’ll be updating and re-launching my online course to provide heaps more recipes and bonus materials, plus I will be setting-up my workshops here in Dubai real soon.
Of course, all this at the same time as expanding our products on Eat FRESH in Hong Kong, so watch this space!
Keep up the good work Jonny Freesh! :0)
Chef Mia xo
Thanks for the Great Interview Mia. Always a pleasure.
You can get in touch with Mia here :
Her Website : Graciously Green
Her Facebook Page : https://www.facebook.com/GraciouslyGreen