an interview with Omid Jaffari, from Botanical Cuisine

I recently discovered Omid Jaffari, founder and creative director of Botanical Cuisine. Oh my! Just click on that link, and browse for a while… (and then come back here)… WOW!

I know right! Gorgeous site! He makes amazing food, sells delicious products, teaches classes, and shares all he knows. And knowing you’d all fall in love with the site, and Omid! I got in touch with him, and asked him a few questions.

You’re not just a chef, you’re a RAW chef! Can you tell us how you landed here?

Food has always been an integral part of my life. Coming from Tehran originally, the Prussian way is food, food, food!! It’s always an event and an opportunity to bring people together and ‘break bread’ as they say. I never truly believed anything could taste (or smell!) as good as my mother’s cooking. I also always had an affinity with fresh foods in their natural form, I find nature endlessly fascinating, One of my earliest memories is stealing cherries and pomegranates from my grandmother’s backyard, before they were fully ripe, they are strong flavour memories and ones I draw on still! I went from Tehran to Auckland and then London, training with some amazing people. It was working with Ruth Watson in London and a stint at The River Café that I really understood the meaning of ‘fresh’ food and not compromising on ingredients. I found it hard to be satisfied with cooking in other restaurants after that. Then I discovered Raw Food and decided this was a path I had to travel, there are just so many amazing possibilities .I’ve always approached it from a taste, texture and experience angle, rather than purely health. Health food is still allowed to taste amazing you know!

And you founded the Botanical Cuisine Academy. Sounds… well botanical! I’d like to know more.

We run courses of varying levels, some just short evening courses – we call these our Mis en Place classes, and others are held over a few days. We vary from classes that have a technique and high end gourmet focus, to more basic, how to get started on the raw journey (we’ll be doing more recipes on that front down the track)

And then in between all of this, you also create amazing dishes for our friends at loving earth. Do you have time to sleep!? What do you eat for breakfast on the fly?

Yes I do sleep! But I get so focussed and inspired by the work we are doing that I find it hard to calm down sometimes, I find yoga and meditation, cliché as it might sound, very helpful for my Type A personality! I love a good smoothie on the run, especially when fresh berries are in season, but if not, I take what I can get, bananas, fresh coconut, a few friendly super foods and I’m set for the morning.

Once upon a time raw food was brown. Really? It was? What you create looks amazing! And it isn’t brown.

Actually our desserts are and they’re delicious!

Where do you find your inspiration?

I absolutely find my inspiration in nature, it really is so sad how obsessed we’ve become with foods in packets, we are being dictated to by a behemoth- the food industry, and I think there is a ground swell of people, including myself, who are saying NO. Nature provides perfectly packaged food thank you very much. With botanical cuisine, we’ve tried to make food that’s fun, great for sharing but above all else, we worship good honest FLAVOUR, I think people are becoming far more educated and raw, vegan cuisine is not about sprouting mung beans- I hate mung beans! People are more discerning as well as health conscious, so yes, there are more places supplying local and organic produce, and the more people supporting those businesses, the more the supermarkets will realise that people want to have these choices available. At botanical cuisine, we work with as many local suppliers as possible, from our Tasmanian pepper berries, to our Victorian Strawberries and Olive Oil, everything is organic too. I’m really proud that we can support these producers and I’m thrilled that people recognise the value in us doing so.

For my friends who read my blog, I’m always banging on about gut health being the pivot of our wellness, especially to benefit fertility. You get to work with amazing produce, pumped up with superfoods and combining your culinary knowledge – sounds like a winning formula to me. If you had to choose 2 ingredients your loving right now, what are they?

Gosh, so many! Superfoods, right now I’m loving AFA’s, they’re considered the ‘greenest’ superfood available, great in smoothies and I really notice a difference in my energy, I’m also mad about saffron (and saffron’s mad about me!) We recently created a Saffron and Rosewater Sea Salt and it is just divine. Apparently in Ayurvedic medicine it’s an anti-depressant, an aphrodisiac, and prolongs vitality!

Any other tips or things you want to touch on?

I think it’s really important to have a balanced approach to food, it’s so easy to become obsessed about everything. But once you start treating your body right, it will guide your choices. Just RELAX. I don’t advocate a raw food diet exclusively, but that does work for some people. I’m happy to be creating products that help people include more raw with little effort, because that’s what puts a lot of people off to start with and they think ”I could never do that” and so they don’t. If I advocate anything, it’s conscious eating, be aware of what you’re eating and how it came to be on your plate. If everyone did that, imagine what changes there would be in our health system. Geez, don’t get me started on that.

Also, the bc Bali project. Dedicated to educate and support the most disadvantaged children of Bali & to create educational projects that incorporate organic & sustainable living. We have some amazing people over there doing amazing things in really challenging places. We work with local people, training teachers, help in getting educational resources to remote places. It’s such an uplifting venture to be involved in.

Stay tuned! On Friday, I’m going to be sharing some of Omid’s amazing creations! You’ll be inspired!

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