Sydney Observer’s Sabrina Muysken caught up with Pete Evans to chat about all things food, health, and the controversial paleo way.
Let’s jump straight in. Have you always had a passion for health?
“I’ve always been pretty interested in healthy eating. In my twenties when I was a chef in Melbourne I was vegetarian and that’s when I started to understand that the food you eat changes everything, particularly the way that you feel. But, even though I had always been pretty conscious about the ingredients I used to cook with and had a good palette for different flavours, there were still a few bits and pieces that weren’t quite clicking for me. Sure, I followed the dietary guidelines – consuming lots of whole grains, fruit, veges, meat and fish, as well as a bit of dairy and pasta. But I still I just didn’t feel like I was firing on all cylinders. My partner Nic and I started searching for alternatives and that’s how we both became interested in paleo”.
For those who don’t know, what exactly is ‘paleo’?
“All paleo is about is consuming a small amount (the size of your palm) of well-sourced meat from land or sea and choosing to eat from nose to tail. Then it’s about filling your plate with an abundance of seasonal vegetables (cooked or raw), adding some good quality fat and finishing it off with some gut healing fermented veg and daily bone broth. It’s not complex at all. Far from it, in fact, I don’t reckon I’ve ever eaten so simply or have had food taste as good as it does now”.
When transitioning to paleo, does you body go through a withdrawal or detox process?
“Any detox or withdrawal process really depends on what your diet was like before going paleo. You might feel a bit off initially but what I found for myself was that, after cutting out dairy, sugar and wheat for three months, I had heaps of energy. Once I added some fermented foods and daily bone broth, the whites of my eyes began to sparkle and I started to feel physically and emotionally stronger. It gave me the energy to get out there and kick life in the butt”.
So many of us lead such busy lives, how hard is it to keep to paleo even when we’re on the go?
“The secret to paleo is planning, leftovers and a really good lunchbox. You can get these cool ones now that are all divided up so you can have your snacks and your leftovers in a little chilly bag. At home, we make big portions of everything we cook and freeze stuff so when we are busy, we can just reach for those. I also don’t eat out that much but when I do, I just try to choose the best possible option at the time. It’s really awesome to see more restaurants serving paleo options on the menu in Australia that use lots of interesting ingredients”.
There seems to be so much controversy surrounding the paleo way. Why do you think that is?
“That’s because the paleo way challenges the status quo and threatens the vested, profit-driven interests multinational corporations have in our food supply. This is a movement that makes the processed food industry obsolete. It’s about finding fresh food sourced locally, slowing down and enjoying the little things. For me, my favourite part of any day is spending time in the kitchen with my family preparing a meal then eating it together”.
We’re a nation that’s been raised on classic grain foods like Weet-Bix, do you think it’s going to be hard to change that mindset?
“No, not at all. This is about educating, freely sharing information with each other and talking about the changes we want to see in our food supply. By voting with their wallets, Australians are using their consumer power to change the game when it comes to what appears on our supermarket shelves. It’s inspiring and awesome to see so many more people becoming more conscious of where their food comes from”.
What is your fondest memory in your career?
“The fondest memory of my career so far is hearing that our paleo books are the biggest selling health and cookbooks in Australia for the last two years. This excites me because it means the message is being received loud and clear. I also love the daily emails we get from people doing our program because of the most amazing health stories they share”.
What can people expect from your new cookbook ‘Fast Food for Busy Families’?
“I’m stoked and proud of that we’ve developed more than 100 fresh, nutrient-dense dishes that can be made in less than half an hour. We do live in a full-on world these days and none of us have a lot of time. That’s what inspired me to want to do this book because I want to show people how easy and fuss-free it can be to live healthy every day. It was awesome to create some of my family’s favourite comforts – yep there’s paleo burgers and some ideas for the barbie in this little beauty. The other thing people can expect from this book it shows how some herbs, spices, nuts and good fats can give big flavours to even the simplest of dishes. Plus there’s a whole lot of cool recipes in there that I loved making with my kids and I hope other people get that same buzz when they create these recipes with their own families too”.
Do you have a favourite paleo recipe?
“My favourite recipe right now has to be the lamb tortillas from my new book. It’s such a quick meal but packed full of so much flavour”.
Do you have any passions outside of cooking?
“I love the ocean, I love to surf and I love my family. There is no better morning for me than one spent in the surf with my girls”.
Pete Evans’ new book ‘Fast Food for Busy Families’ is out now.