Located in Bridge St The Kitchen is the front door to the Bridge St Collective and is another place I love having coffee.
But coffee isn’t their only reason for existence, Grant and Sherilyn Maxwell wanted to set up a café that serves food that is healthy but is also so delicious it feeds your soul as well as your stomach.
Sherilyn says “Hippocrates is considered the father of medicine and the greatest physician of all time. He famously said ‘Let Food be your Medicine and Medicine be your Food’ and we want The Kitchen to inspire people to make this a reality in their everyday life.”
One key aspect they focus on at The Kitchen is the food has to taste great too, “there’s no point in eating food because it is good for you it if tastes awful”
The couple have great business credentials behind them, and their food philosophy has evolved from personal experiences over the years. That means they know how to create beautiful food that isn’t just suitable for any intolerance or allergy but tastes good too.
Sherilyn says there are lots of reasons behind the development of The Kitchen “but for me it goes back a long way, when I was a teenager I was suffering from chronic fatigue and the condition showed in all sorts of ways meaning going to school was a day-to-day challenge, most of my schooling was through the correspondence school.
“After a year of basically being bed-ridden I decided to get in to the hospitality scene, working in kitchens and front-of-house was something I could do part time as I tried to build up my strength and health.”
She ended up attending a hospitality school in Auckland in the 1990’s where she qualified as a chef, “I worked many hard years in the kitchen in cafes around Auckland before we moved to Nelson in 2001”.
Grant is a Geotechnical Engineer so while he was immersed in what he does “We took over bought Ambrosia Café in Richmond and set about turning it from an ok café and redeveloped it with a great friend Mishael who still owns the thriving business today”
The couple moved to London in 2003 Where Sherilyn worked as the catering manager for a firm at Canary Wharf who provided meals to high end firms like lawyers and brokers.
“When we came back to New Zealand we had fallen into the habits of bad diet foods, I had no idea about the impact of food on my health and the stress it put my body under.
“We had three children while my health was just ok and then Grant got sick and couldn’t work for a year and then my immune system started playing up and I developed rheumatoid arthritis. We knew sickness wasn’t something we wanted and had heard about people getting well from eating properly.
“As a chef who loves food I was a real sceptic but we did lots of research, spoke to lots of people including naturopaths, learned a huge amount about food and changed our diet.
“We noticed the difference straight away and that was the start of getting us both on the track to good health again, I’m living proof that you can change your life by changing the food you eat.”
One important part of their food journey happened when Grant’s work saw them move to Fiji for six months. Sherilyn says it is where she started learning how to cook food using only wholefoods, “we had to live from the markets because we couldn’t just go to the store and buy stuff and that meant we were using fresh produce rather than highly processed foods.
“Our health took a huge leap forward and we started doing a lot more research into the science behind using wholefoods to cook with.”
I find when people talk about wholefoods they tend to think about 1970’s hippies eating nuts and spinach, but it isn’t, “it’s about using natural food products that haven’t been tampered with and turning them into delicious food while also avoiding highly processed foods. We try and take a range of whole foods and create something unbelievably tasty.
“It’s not about no meat or no dairy, it is about using natural products, everything we produce is refined sugar free, we use local and organic products as much as we possibly can, the main thing is wholefoods.
The food they serve does cater for many allergies and intolerances so if you are dairy intolerant, allergic to nuts, choose a meat-free or vegan diet they have dishes that cater to your needs in a very healthy way.
“We are constantly creating new products, there is currently a growing need for ketogenic diet foods (no sugar, no/low carbohydrate, high good fat) and we use foods with natural fats like avocado and coconut oil, but we think that no matter what diet and lifestyle you choose it should be about balance.”
Sherilyn says she has continued to research the science around food and current thinking from biogenetic scientists is that what you feed your genetics is what really matters, “we are all different and we all have different genetics so what works for one person may not work for another however I think everyone agrees gut health is one of the most important factors in any person’s health.
While Grant is busy in his consulting job and Sherilyn is being ‘mum’s taxi’ to three busy children they rely on their staff to deliver on their food dreams, “we need a great team and have two great chefs, Brad comes from South Africa and used to own his own wholefoods café and Pete is from America who has worked in some amazing eateries.”
They are both passionate about whole foods and make as much as possible in-house including cold-pressed juices. “Rather than just pressing or whizzing juice in a juicer you can buy for home we use a process that squeezes the juice without friction and heat so it retains the goodness from the produce. We even press our own almond milk so it’s very creamy because of the high almond content compared to buying tetra pack almond milk off the shelf that has preservatives in it.”
The manager at The Kitchen is Belle, “She is fantastic and runs the ship for us while our head barista, Mandy has been with us from the beginning.
Grant and Sherilyn also run educational workshops with local health experts explaining the importance of eating seasonal and local produce and how gut health is the foundation of our immune system. You can follow The Kitchen on facebook to get updates for upcoming events.
At The Kitchen they treat food as a medicine, believing that you need to eat healthy to be healthy, but that healthy food needs to taste wonderful too and I think they are achieving everything they set out to do.