Chef Manuela Scalini
Manuela is a plant-based chef and wellness-gastronomy consultant living in Barbados. As a trained chef from the Living Light Culinary Institute in California, she creates plant-based menus and locally inspired recipes for hotels and restaurants, that result in a balanced diet without using processed or too much imported produce. She firmly believes that simply eating plant-based does not always equal healthy, but that it is important to know the impact of each ingredient on the body so as not to create further imbalances or even malnutrition.
She is currently in the process of co-creating a small packaged food line of what she considers everyday pantry items that are mostly locally sourced, to reduce the climate impact of shipping food, as well as completely unprocessed to be able to consume them as close to their natural state as possible.
What is your background and how did you decide to focus on raw and plant-based food?
Over ten years ago I worked for clients in San Francisco as a private chef who hired me to cook plant-based, often because of health concerns. Back then it was still a new trend and there were less restaurants that offered interesting vegetarian dishes or even completely plant-based and vegan menus. The notion that a plant-based diet is automatically healthy, was prevalent. During a sabbatical in Bali, I then studied the medicinal properties of food and a holistic approach to wellness that included the effects of a person’s diet on their physical and mental health.
What type of businesses do you consult on wellness gastronomy and what are their concerns?
My clients are restaurants that hire me to develop an interesting plant-based menu or are looking to simply add a few plant-based dishes. Many need training for their chefs on how to prepare certain ingredients, source locally or how to reduce the convenience level of their products.
I also develop detox menus for wellness resorts where each wellness-package has a different goal and therefore needs a different menu. Certain herbs and spices accelerate the metabolism and others support anti-inflammatory properties within the body, so it’s important to pair the correct menu with each wellness plan.
With wellness tourism growing at twice the rate as traditional tourism, what do you see for the future of wellness-gastronomy?
There has definitely been a shift in thinking where people go on vacation to detox and eat healthy, compared to the traditional traveler who splurges while on vacation and goes on a diet when he gets back. This is a trend that hotels and restaurants can take advantage of if they do it right. I consult a lot on wellness menus, because we have long passed the times where a detox menu simply consisted of salads and lemon infused waters.
Together with a tour operator in Brazil I organize a yearly raw food and plant-based detox retreat at a remote lodge in the Amazon. These boutique retreats for small groups, that customize the experience, diet and physical exercises and allow the guest a digital detox, are in high demand.
Last but not least – how do you suggest restaurants create a healthier and still delicious kids menu?
I have noticed that kids love to get involved in choosing their food. They are more likely to eat healthy food if they select what they eat and more importantly how it is presented to them. Some kids will eat raw carrots but not cooked. And they will only eat baby shaped carrots and not big normal carrots. So I think an interactive menu with several options for proteins, complex carbohydrates, vegetables and fruits, where kids can create their own plate and choose one item from each section will help teaching kids from an early age on that eating healthy can be fun and taste good.
Click here for Chef Manuela Scalini's Website