When Samantha, or Sam Gowing left her fast-paced career as a hat-winning restaurateur to immerse herself in the world of nutrition at a time before it was trendy, it took Australia a little while to catch on. It proved to be a risk that firmly paid off, with Samantha using her unique blend of nutrition, fine dining and business expertise to help put ‘food as medicine’ on the map in Australia! We sat down with Sam to discuss what it was like to be a product of the seventies, and winning hearts and (chef) hats in a world where nutrition now matters most.
Hi Sam! We discovered you when you presented the series ‘health talks’ with some of Australia’s leading wellness women. Tell us what you are up to these days?
Something exciting recently is that I created a range of flavour profiles for Chris’ Dips that just rolled out nationally! They’re called Down To Earth and have been a real highlight of my product developing work. I’ve also been busy helping leading health retreats redesign their menus, and mentoring my wonderful clients who range from health practitioners to café owners.
You’re a well-known chef who has put ‘food as medicine’ on the map, what ignited your desire to combine the two?
When my father was diagnosed with cancer in the mid 80s we knew nothing about food and healing, despite being in the restaurant business for many years. His death was the catalyst to understand the cancer process better, and create awareness around the detrimental oils and other ingredients commonly used in restaurants. So after 15 years in restaurants I sold up and retrained as a clinical nutritionist and opened my mobile organic cooking school in 2000. The first classes were called “Don’t Panic, it’s organic!”
What is your favourite dish to make?
Lazy long weekend, slow cooked food shared with friends. Braised lamb shoulder in red wine or simmering Asian hotpots are a fragrant fave.
You’re a culinary role model to so many, who are your role models? Nigella Lawson is my Food Health Wealth pin up girl! Her sassy style, love of food and good times, knockout curvy beauty, and her uber intelligence make her the women I would most love to cook with. The mentor Sydney based chef Kylie Kwong has become also inspires me. Giving back to industry is my mission and it warms my heart to see women in the trade hand down their knowledge and culinary wisdom.
What would you say your life mantra is?
“The dissolution of doubt brings about a world of possibility.”
I also live by my 80/20 rule. 80% great health, food and exercise – and 20% fun and surrender!
What is your food philosophy?
I celebrate the abundant produce from the farmers and organic suppliers have to offer wherever I go. My award-winning nutritional philosophy has been thoughtfully designed with colourful, contemporary cuisine that is both plentiful and delicious. It is my belief that organically raised, beautifully prepared meat and poultry can be of nutritional benefit to all of our clients. Therefore my signature menus offer a range of regional grass-fed beef, lamb and poultry, freshly caught sustainable fish and seafood; and elegant vegetarian cuisine. I embrace the SLOWER principle (Seasonal, Local, Organic, Wholefoods, Ethically raised and Regional) and my menus and recipes are predominantly dairy free, rich in antioxidants, and complimented with super foods and a scattering of energising locally grown grains and an abundance alkalising seeds.
What are three foods you couldn’t live without?
- Turmeric – for its powerful compound curcumin, a proven antioxidant. Turmeric is used as a stomach tonic and blood purifier, and has anti-tumour, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial effects.
- Broccoli – another antioxidant that comes from the brassica family of cruciferous vegetables. Studies suggest that sulforaphane; the pungent sulfur-containing compound has cancer-fighting power. A bowl of steamed broccoli with nuts and seeds and a dash of tamari is my favourite breakfast.
- Beetroot – Beets have strong detoxifying properties, as they are high in chlorine, which assists in the cleansing of the liver, kidneys and bloodstream. They nourish the blood and are also rich in potassium, which balances the metabolism.
Career highlights so far?
Being awarded a coveted Age Good Food Guide Chef’s Hat for a few years for our Collingwood business, Gowings Grace Darling Hotel was a definitive highlight in my early career. The hotel was also awarded Hotel of the Year in 1997. I received an award for Excellence in Clinical Practice on graduating from the Australian College of Natural Medicine (now Endeavour) in 2003. More recently, the Sydney Morning Herald noted my menu for a health retreat as the Best Spa Food in 2013. This year I flew to Berlin to give a speech about the future of food and healing for the Healing Hotels of the World’s Healing Summit. The pinnacle of my career to date.
What imprint would you like to leave on the wellness industry?
My intention is to leave the industry with the same integrity I helped to shape it with over 15 years ago. I encourage all who enter to arm themselves with accredited tertiary qualifications, work hard, study harder – and be a shiny role model for all who follow!
You’ve got 24 hours in a day – what does a typical day of Move, Nourish, Believe look like (from when you get up to when you go to sleep)…
MOVE: An early morning ocean or pool swim or surf is a daily ritual. There is always a pool nearby wherever I go, so goggles and a lightweight cozzie are a must pack. I practice yoga on a regular basis; having taught asana for 10 years yoga is always with me. I If I am travelling long haul, then mandatory Viparita Karani (legs up the wall) pose is essential to reduce fluid retention and minimise jet lag. It is my mission in life to get hotel rooms to provide a yoga mat, just as they do an iron and a bible. However, if the hotel room is tiny then I simply lie on the bed and wiggle up to the bedhead, legs up! I also love spinning classes as they help reduce inflammation and really boost my metabolic rate, and of course my cardio vascular fitness.
Food as medicine has been my mantra for 15 years. My constitution thrives on slow cooked warming food. I love that colours and textures of raw cuisine, however it is too cooling for my digestive fire. I start the day at dawn-ish with green tea and then I write for a while before I exercise. My mind is most clear on waking.
I am of the firm belief that wellness is part of the multi-colored brick road that paves the way to happiness. The pursuit of happiness is fundamental to our consciousness, and is a mezze of attributes including health, abundance, wellness, wealth, grief, joy, love and the spiritual pursuit of inner peace. The need to thrive is beyond raw food, yoga moves and green smoothies. It is about finding our innate self, our essential nature and allowing all of these aspects to integrate into ourselves.
What’s next for Sam? Tell us about your wildest, most beautiful plans…
My next stop is Toronto via NZ to visit two leading health retreats and observe or tweak their menus. I always wanted to travel for work and so I created a great job where my Surf Spa Food philosophy helps leading hotels, spas and health retreats create world-class menus.
I am currently enrolled in a Master of Gastronomic Tourism program with Le Cordon Bleu. When I receive good grades it is certainly a highlight and I’ve been encouraged to apply for a scholarship to finish the degree in France later this year. Wish me luck!!
And lastly, before we part, is there a recipe you would be able to share with us?
Zespri SunGold Kiwifruit Chia Trifle
The Zespri SunGold Chia Trifle combines this nutrient dense kiwifruit with the protein rich chia seeds. A nourishing, revitalising breakfast or the perfect snack at anytime. The fruit is usually in season in Australia from May.
You will need:
- 4 tablespoons black chia seeds
- 1 cup water
- 2 SunGold Kiwifruit, peeled, sliced
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1 lemon, zest & juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 SunGold Kiwifruit, peeled, sliced for layering
- 1 tablespoons mint, washed, dried, finely chopped
- 1 cup coconut yoghurt (see recipe here)
- 2 tablespoons macadamia nuts, crushed
- Extra maple syrup for drizzling
How we do it:
- Soak chia in water for 15 minutes.
- In a blender, add one of the Zespri SunGold Kiwifruit with maple syrup, lemon juice and zest, vanilla.
- Add chia and blend until smooth.
- Layer two serving glasses remaining sliced SunGold Kiwifruit
- Distribute some of the mixture into individual serving glasses.
- Add a layer of coconut yoghurt and mint
- Continue this process so you have two layers of chia and two layers of Kiwifruit to create a trifle effect.
- Set in fridge 4 hours or overnight.
- Garnish with crushed macadamias and drizzle with maple syrup to serve.
Samantha’s unique culinary style has been embraced across the globe through the programs she has designed for luxury hotels, spas and health retreats which celebrate local, seasonal and organic super foods. She holds a Diploma of Health Science, Nutrition, is a member of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society, and is near completion of the Le Cordon Bleu Master of Gastronomic Tourism degree. When she’s not in the kitchen or the ocean, she mentors likeminded whippersnappers who have a yearning for all things well and healthy in business. For more goodness on Sam, contact +61 411 852 387, visit her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.