Congratulations on Going Coconuts! For readers who are unfamiliar, can you tell us a little about the book?
Thank you! The book is a compilation of everything related to coconuts from years of working for my parents business, Nature Pacific, which is responsible for supplying the world with all-natural Banaban Coconut products. It is a complete guide on how to use coconut products from the kitchen to the bathroom and includes hundreds of uses and recipes. Going Coconuts also shares the Banaban story and history of coconut oil.
Do you have a favourite recipe among your collection?
This is a very tricky question! There are so many favourites but one of my most beloved is my Coconut Nectar Glazed Macadamias. They are basically oven-roasted macadamias covered in coconut sugar and coconut nectar with a pinch of cinnamon. It tastes like a giant slice of toffee, simply heaven!
You’ve spent time travelling coconut plantations throughout Asia and the Pacific. What were you surprised to discover?
I have been so incredibly fortunate to be raised with such a unique upbringing and it always blows my mind to see a simple coconut change the lives of thousands throughout the world. My first trip to Sri Lanka really cemented that in my mind as I saw a whole village, which was so incredibly poor, change their entire lives through harvesting coconut sap. Travelling back to Fiji is always an incredible feeling. When my parents first started our business in our garage in Robina in 2004 our family was really doing it tough, at the time my parents would go to McDonalds and buy a 30-cent ice-cream cone and share a coffee. Now every time I head back to Fiji and see our family and farm it always makes me tear up as not only have my parents changed the lives of my siblings and I but they have changed the lives of thousands of others as well. Even thinking about it now is making me tear up a little! But every time I head back to these places I am always surprised and humbled to discover how a simple coconut can change so many lives.
We hear there is another book and an app in the works. Can you give us any hints as to what it might include?
Yes, a few new projects are in the pipeline at the moment. I am hoping my new app will change the way the world thinks about coconut recipes and will be the first dedicated coconut recipe app on the market. The app will include recipes to suit many diets and most importantly will cater to people on a budget. It’s incredibly important to me to educate people that you can still eat healthy food on a budget. After the launch of the app I am hoping to turn it into a second book.
What are some of the health benefits of coconut?
For me coconut oil has many benefits particularly in cooking, on the skin and in my hair. As it is made up of approximately 60% medium chain triglycerides comprising of Lauric, Capryillic and Capric acid it is metabolised differently by our bodies and unlike long chain triglycerides does not store in our bodies as fat. We are actually working with the University of Southern Queensland at the moment in a three-year research study with the focus of food as medicine. They are currently researching our coconut oil and coconut Nourish powder and how it can aid with obesity, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, fatty liver and inflammatory bowel disease. I cannot say too much at the moment but it is showing incredible results, which is extremely exciting.
Tell us about the 30-day Banaban Smoothie challenge?
The 30-day Banaban Smoothie Challenge is a challenge I created to help those starting out with coconut oil. It basically incorporates coconut oil in a delicious yet healthy smoothie daily as it is said if you do something for 30 days it sticks and becomes a part of your daily routine. After 30-days of coconut oil you’ll notice the outstanding benefits on your health.
Do you have a favourite beauty recipe you can share with our readers?
I have many favourites but homemade coconut oil sugar and salt scrubs would have to be up there with my favourites. Here are some of my favourites! To make a homemade coconut oil and coffee scrub just mix one and a half cups of coconut oil with one third of a cup of coffee granules. Use the same quantities just substitute the coffee for raw sugar or salt. Here’s a tip, add vanilla bean, cinnamon, chai tea or orange rind for a burst of natural flavour.
How did you get interested in raw foods?
Working in the health food industry it just sort of happened. I had a lady come into our Banaban factory in Varsity Lakes around five years ago with a raw bounty slice she created and it was absolutely incredible and it was made with only five ingredients. From then on the creations in my kitchen transformed to a whole new level and the raw food movement began, so to speak!
What can someone expect from one of your cooking classes?
People can expect a whole different experience with coconut products. I want everyone to walk away with that innovative flare to get back in the kitchen and create with my favourite products. They can also expect a lot of food, a nice meal, a good time and a few laughs.
What is your idea of complete happiness?
My idea of complete happiness is being with the people you care about most and doing something you are passionate about and love everyday.
What inspires you?
To be honest everything inspires me but most of the time I will have a dream and have to wake up and write everything down. A lot of the time I dream about food and then I need to recreate it. A lot of inspiration also comes from people in my life and life changing events. A dear friend just said to me the other day, “Remember your mind is the most powerful thing in the world, it will change your thoughts and bring the universe to you if you give it time.” That really inspired me to keep going.
What are your words to live by?
The sky’s the limit! Never give up on your dreams and keep fighting for what you want. There have been so many times in my career I have felt like giving up but thinking back to that always makes me push harder.
What are your essentials for a well-spent weekend?
Enjoying time with friends, family and my French Bulldogs – Ernie and Lola.
Any exciting plans in the works?
I’ve just received my first publishing contract in Germany where my book will be translated and sold throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland for launch in Spring 2016. They are also already talking of second print runs in Spain, France, Belgium and The Netherlands. At the moment I am waking up everyday having to pinch myself to see if this is really my reality – it’s an incredible feeling. I’ll also be heading to the United States in the next few months to work alongside my client over there who has helped to get my family’s Banaban coconut products and my book into Whole Foods Market which is an amazing step for us and a dream of mine.
Only a Gold Coast local would know … Sunday afternoons are best spent on Burleigh Hill with a few beers and good company.
FAVOURITE WEEKEND SPOT TO:
Perk up … Paddle Boarding at Currumbin.
Relax … My couch.
Indulge … Shopping at Robina Town Centre.
Dine … BSKT Cafe for my favourite breakfast and The Jungle at Coolangatta for my favourite Mexican (I am a creature of habit when it comes to dining out).
Be inspired … My kitchen of course!