We’re so excited to see you soon Gem! For anyone in Ibiza who may not already know you, can you tell us a bit about your background?
I’ve lived in Brighton for the past 13 years, and beforehand I was in London. It was during a three-year adventure living in Barcelona eight years ago that I first set up my food business. I used to make bento box picnics for DJs to take on flights to gigs, then set up my own vegan take-out from our apartment, where I cooked daily and advertised on Facebook and sold lunches for 5€. It then grew and grew. When we came back it the UK, I did a similar thing. Word of mouth has always been the best way to grow my business, which is always changing and developing. I love how varied my work is – one day, I will be working in the foodbanks offering low-cost workshops to the community and the next I will be cooking on TV. I just love all things food and sharing my knowledge about how food really can make a difference to the way we feel.
What inspired your journey to become a chef?
I’ve always loved cooking, ever since I was very small. I’m the youngest of five kids and grew up in a large family without much money, so I was cooking for my family from about eight years of age. My passion for food and making up new recipes started then. I also worked within mental health as an addiction counsellor for 10 years but always seemed to find my way into the kitchens to cook meals for clients in
the projects that I worked on. This is where I realised how therapeutic food can be.
Did you always lean-in to healthy, plant-based recipes?
Yes. I’ve always loved vegetarian food and now I follow a plant-based diet which is more flexitarian. I like to eat seasonally and what I feel I need – mainly plants and wholefoods. Foods that make me feel full of energy and boost my mood. I started to investigate what I was eating when I was trying to have babies around 15 years ago. I went through lots of miscarriages, and we couldn’t work out why, so I started looking at how I was living holistically. This was a game changer as I cut out refined foods and learnt about how food can be medicine. I went on to have two beautiful kids but also discovered what an impact changing my diet had on my overall mental health, reducing anxiety, and improving my mood.
How did you make the transition from chef to author?
It was luck really. I got an email out of the blue from my publishers, asking to come in and have a chat. I’d never thought about writing a book, but I was thrilled when the opportunity came about. My first cookbook The Self-Care Cookbook is all about boosting your mood through foods and my new book, The Healing Cookbook, is all about boosting your health. I was so chuffed to be able to share my collection of recipes as well as use my experience working as an addiction counsellor and of course my own personal experiences that have shaped who I am today.
What’s your connection to Ibiza?
I used to party in Ibiza a lot when I was younger (mostly at DC10), and we spend our summers in Barcelona most years, so it’s easy to fly over to Ibiza with the kids for a few days. I’ve never stayed at Pikes but so many of my friends have (I can’t believe I’ve never made it yet!) and a few months ago, someone sent me photos of the giant mushrooms painted in the grounds. I am mushroom-obsessed, so literally got in touch with Pikes and that was that!
Why (giant mushrooms aside) do you think Pikes is the perfect location for your workshop?
Partying and well-being go hand in hand these days so hopefully it’s the first or many workshops here. Pikes is the original party place so makes perfect sense to hold a recovery retreat here. It’s perfect timing as well, being the end of season where everyone is ready to slow down and get into hibernation mode. I spent a huge chunk of my life being committed to partying and know how important the recovery part is. Using functional plants to help you heal and eating well can make all the difference to your health especially through the winter. It’s the perfect match, as I really feel these days partying and wellness go hand in hand.
What’s the inspiration behind The Magical World of Mushrooms event?
I host lots of workshops and events in the UK and they’re always so much fun. I love sharing my knowledge about foods and more and more people are interested in taking power of their own health these days. Collaborating with Tim Spankie (‘The Mushroom Man’ from the island is going to be awesome too and of course, cooking with Tess is a dream. We have followed each other for years on Instagram and have mutual friends and of course a mutual love of food, so I am excited to cook together and meet in real life!
You’re celebrating the launch of The Healing Cookbook at The Magical World of Mushrooms event – what inspired the book? Tell us a bit about it.
Since COVID, there’s been a real desire to take control of our health and learn about how to keep well and supercharge your immune system naturally. The book is all about recovery and healing. It’s filled with plant-based recipes and wellness ideas to help you feel better and stay well. The recipes are inexpensive and low effort but packed with incredible ingredients that make you feel instantly better.
It sounds ideal for island residents, or regular partygoers, who are almost ready to ease into the off-season…
Yes, learning how to boost your immune system and overall health with food really helps build up strength to fight winter colds and flus. Hopefully I can inspire people with new recipes that they will love and that will help them feel great. As the weather changes, it can often make people feel low and depression can even set in, so cooking recipes that help boost your mood and improve your mental health is really helpful to get through the changing seasons. But it’s not only about food – it’s also about how you can feel great and boost your immune system through wellness ideas and self-care. Cold water therapy, spending time doing things that inspire you and with people that you love will all help too. There is a lot more in the book than just recipes.
Speaking of recipes though – what are some of your favourites?
The cauliflower tacos with zingy ginger salsa and avocado are insanely tasty and my high vibe cleansing bowl with funky ferments is just amazing – we will be having these at Pikes! There are lots of broth recipes, which are so simple and so healing and my go-to when I am poorly feeling or just not 100%. There are lots of tonics too, which are medicinal and simple to make like my daily immunity shots. My recipes are simple but super nutritious so hopefully anyone can make them.
Can you tell us what we to expect on the day of the retreat?
It’s going to be a lovely offering of all things fungi, including a cooking workshop where we’ll make some immune-boosting tonics, and Tess will teach us how to make her famous bliss balls. I’ll be sharing my knowledge on functional mushrooms and how they can help with overall health, recovery from illness, low mood and just when you’re feeling partied-out. Tim is going to be talking all things fantastic fungi including permaculture and foraging in Ibiza. We’ll then share a family-style brunch made up of recipes from my new book, using local produce and with a Tess twist. I will also have signed copies of The Healing Cookbook for everyone who comes along. I love the idea of conscious eating and sharing my knowledge without judgement. If you are interested in learning more about all things mushrooms, and about improving your overall health, then this is for you!
Why do you think mushrooms having such a moment right now?
I am so happy finally mushrooms are having this moment in the spotlight! There’s a huge trend for all things fungi right now – micro-dosing and using functional mushrooms has just BOOMED over here in the UK. The health and mental health benefits are huge, so I am beyond happy that it’s becoming more mainstream. I have been taking functional mushrooms for years and my overall health has never been
better. I swear by them. Taking them regularly has meant less illness, better sleep, improvement in my energy levels, glowing skin and balanced hormones. I am also a huge fan of micro-dosing and have felt huge benefits to my well-being and overall mental health. I am going back to Uni to study more about how psychedelics can help with the mind medicine in culture. Can’t wait to learn more.
As an ingredient, what is it about mushrooms that makes them your favourite ingredient to cook with?
I just love the earthy, depth of taste you can get. My tacos are to die for, I swear any carnivore would love them as much as I do! Mushrooms are so versatile and great to use as a meat replacement. They are also nutrient-dense and so full of goodness. I use functional mushrooms a lot too, to make sweet treats as well as dressings and tonics. This workshop will teach about how food and plants can be used as medicine, and you’ll learn how to incorporate functional mushrooms into everyday life to make you live longer and feel better.
What about when you’re NOT in the kitchen or cooking? What’s your go-to?
When I am not cooking, my go to would have to be a good curry. I love all the spices and flavours and fresh naan. I am so lucky in Brighton, where we are spoilt for food choices. And when I am not cooking or working, all I want to do is hang out with my little family and chill out.
What are you most looking forward to when you get to Ibiza?
To relax, have lots of fun and catch up with old friends who live on the island. I can’t wait to stay at Pikes and meet everyone who is coming to the event. I am so excited to cook with local produce, and I know Tess will know the best places to source ingredients so can’t wait to pick her brains and get to know a little more about what you can forage for on the island with Tim too. Local is always best. I can’t wait to be back on the island again – it is such a beautiful island and the energy I feel when I get off the plane is magic.