Changing People's Perceptions on Plant-Based Food
All throughout school you have this expectation that you will then go on to study at University. That was just the way it was. It was what everyone did, so being young and dumb you follow the trends.
In 2013, 60% of high school students in NZ progressed directly onto tertiary education and only 9.1% of students took a year off to truly decide where their passion lay.
In my (Margo) final year at Rangi Ruru we had multiple Universities and Polytech’s visit and talk to us about what they offered, competing against each other to offer the most appealing student environment.
Even though we didn’t get pressured to go to university I always felt there was this expectation to have a degree to your name otherwise you won’t get anywhere in life. I began to realise lectures and the ‘student life’ didn’t appeal to me and the numerous amounts of degrees on offer confused and stressed me out.
Seeing our student guidance councillor, she asked me what my true passion was and I said, food.
This is when she suggested I do a culinary degree such as the one at ARA. However, I was into wholesome food and didn’t want to learn to cook with butter, sugar and milk as I didn’t agree with the effects they have inside the human body. I soon looked up plant-based culinary schools on the internet, eager to find something that aligned with my values and true interests. This was when I came across Matthew Kenney Culinary, recently rebranded to PlantLab.
I watched their promo video and instantly fell in love and knew it was where I needed to go.
My (Rosa) experience is a tad different to Margo’s but eventually are pathways collided and Two Raw Sisters was born. My first year out of school in 2014 I started a Human Nutrition Degree at ARA, which I have been completing part-time. I had no intentions of leaving Christchurch due to my athletic coach and my main training centre located here. My main reason of studying was because I had a huge passion for food and nutrition which I wanted to expand. I had a desire to achieve a good life balance alongside my training and I was and still am lucky enough to have received the Prime Minister Athlete Scholarship for the past 4.5 years. This is a scholarship that helps athletes to pursue tertiary study and elite-level sport development at the same time.
When Margo told me about this amazing plant-based culinary school, Plant Lab that she had randomly come across I was immediately hooked as well. Being in LA may have been a contributing factor… The big obstacle was going to be persuading mum and dad to send their 18 and 20-year-old daughters to Venice Beach for 3 months.
Before we knew it, we were confirming our places in the culinary school and booking accommodation and flights. It all felt so surreal that this was actually all going to happen! Before we knew it April 2017 came by and we were off. Moving to the other side of the world in unknown territory and being the only ones in the Southern Hemisphere to do PlantLab was a scary but exciting leap of faith.
Before we left New Zealand between January and March we completed a few online courses that Plant Lab offer. These included Sports Nutrition, Elite Sports Nutrition and Culinary Nutrition. This gave us both a great insight for what we were to expect in LA. In LA we completed the following on site courses- Fundamentals of Raw Cuisine Level 1 and Advanced Raw Cuisine Level 2. Our whole experience at Plant Lab really opened our eyes to what you can do with raw plant-based food. How a wide variety of cooking techniques, which we learnt can completely change the way an ingredient tasted.
During our 3 months we gained work experience in the world-renowned plant-based restaurant Plant Food and Wine and helped out at workshops on the weekends, gaining any extra knowledge and secrets we could. This is what sparked our idea to do workshops.
The week we got back we had a workshop that weekend. We surprised ourselves with the feedback we had received and thought we were onto something.
However, taking the PlantLab style of plant-based cooking, it involved a lot of time (average of 8-12 hours to cook) and expensive ingredients such as nuts, coconut oil and superfoods that weren’t as abundantly available as we were used to in America. Food costs were up and income from workshops went down as the average CHCH woman didn’t have the time to start preparing for Thursdays dinner on Monday or the money and gut bacteria to digest 1/2cup of nuts per meal.
We started to dive into the manufacturing side, supply cafes with raw cheesecakes and increasing catering jobs to make up for the money lost in workshops.
It wasn’t untill we were the runners up for 100k scholarship Dream, Believe, Succeed that we realised the path of failure and exhaustion we were heading down.
Trying to supply cafes, do workshops, collaborate with people, do the Riccarton Bush Market, Food shows and talks we were spreading ourselves to thin, doing to many things at an average level rather than doing a couple of things at an outstanding level.
We had to re-evaluate everything about the Two Raw Sisters Brand and what we really wanted to show to the NZ community.
This was a huge task that was mentally draining and full of doubt and questions as to whether we were doing the right thing.
The biggest doubt going through our heads was whether Christchurch had the population for us to be successful as so many food businesses were opening in the new city centre.
Research and sleepless nights continued as we began to second guess ourselves, is plant-based just another food trend that will fade out overtime?
We were two teenagers with $5000 in our bank account going up against business men with money. In a way this added fuel to our fire of determination of doing what we truly loved and believed in. Sticking to our own values and beliefs instead of getting caught up in other people’s opinions and what google was telling us.
The next big question was Education pathway or Manufacturing pathway?
We came to this conclusion...
Over the evolution of the modern world we have lost touch with food and what’s it’s like to experience the satisfaction of eating a home cooked meal but most importantly what it’s like to be at the peak of wellness.
With the vast development of processed ‘ready-made’ foods filled with artificial colours and flavours and inedible ingredients that are greatly affecting our hormonal balance, inner workings of the gut and our micro flora which then has a ripple effect as to how the rest of our body works, making stress, tiredness and illness three very common words in today’s world.
We figured that you can go and buy a healthy snack or meal for a price tag of $10-$25 but very few people can sustain purchasing these expensive food items making ‘healthy’ plant-based eating an expensive exercise.
We want to change people’s perceptions on plant-based food by going back a few hundred years and teaching people skills that will last a lifetime.
Minimising the use of nuts, seeds and superfoods as much as possible, utilising seasonal produce and encouraging people to grow their own vegetables making eating plant-based a cost effective, time efficient, easy way of living. Also bringing that sense of achievement and satisfaction back into our lives.
Creating positive love within one’s self.
We have both experienced mental and physical health issues which have been healed through food.
One of the best pieces of advice we have ever been given was if you have anything at all not quite right with your health and wellbeing ‘start with the gut’.
The gut is the stem of every process that goes on in the body and food is the easiest way to destroy it yet the easiest way to fix it.
A lot of people lack in this knowledge and don’t understand that a simple change in their diet can have an enormous impact on their overall wellbeing and health.
(Margo) Suffering from chronic fatigue for 4 years, it took 3 years for someone to tell me to focus on rebuilding my gut bacteria, after 3 months of doing this I couldn’t believe how much more energy I had, I was actually sleeping and my moods weren’t all over the show.
The human body is like a car, it is our mechanism that gets us from A to B and in the process undergoes a lot of reactions in order for this movement to work. When you put the wrong petrol in a car it doesn’t work, however when you put the wrong fuel in a human body such as highly processed food it is such an amazing machine it still functions however internally, it is hugely damaging, compromising on your sleep, mood, energy and how you feel within yourself.
A lot of people don’t actually know what it feels like to be the peak of wellness. They think they are happy and content but once you really focus on yourself and
the gut it is quite a surreal experience as layer by layer you reveal to yourself energy, joy and self-love that you never thought you had.
We are both conscious of the fact that people are becoming more aware of the negative impacts the meat and dairy industry is having on the world our environment and our bodies. People have to eat and we have to maintain the earth’s environment in order for it to keep growing crops to feed us. In New Zealand we are such a big meat and dairy orientated country it will be challenging to change people’s way of eating but changing people’s perceptions on plant-based food is something we are both 110% committed to, one person at a time.
Starting a business has been and still is very scary and daunting as much as it is exciting and satisfying.
It’s the people that can ignore the doubt and take the leap of faith into the unknown and believe in themselves who will truly succeed.
In order to do this, we offer a wide range of workshops to suit everyone’s needs, such as living on a budget, fermentation, essentials of a plant-based diet, raw desserts and adult lunchbox. We are focusing on making the most of what beautiful vegetables and fruits are available during our different seasons. Eating seasonally is more cost efficient, better for your health and for the environment and most of all tastes better!
Keeping food simple is key. Time is of the essence these days so everything we make takes under 30mins or less.
You will learn about different cooking techniques and how to play with textures, colours and flavours that make food truly fun and exciting.
Changing your perception on plant-based food!!