Not gonna lie. We came across Catie originally because of her Raweos. Who was this angel that created such a delicious morsel of goodness? Angel was Catie from Melbourne a naturopath, owner of staple store in Melbourne and self-deprecating realist. This is why we love her.
Tell us your about your health journey – where did it all begin?
This is a tricky question to answer, mostly because it’s not as linear as you would expect. It has ebbed and flowed throughout my life until now. So, I’ll probably start at the beginning. I had the privileged existence growing up in a home with a kitchen garden. My dad was a chef and my mum a caterer; good, tasty, healthy food was never short. For as long as our parents could manage, we didn’t know what processed food was. So, the foundations were set, luckily, because a pretty rebellious formative stage was set to follow. During these years, I very much consumed the world, with a not so discerning palate.
I think, when I moved to Melbourne at 22 and started naturopathy, the shape of my healthy existence began to be moulded. I was a strict vegetarian, then a low carb high protein carnivore, with a little stint of raw veganism thrown in for good measure. Now I’m just me. I am not a wellness guru, I’m just Catie. I feel as though I navigate through this wellness landscape with eyes wide open every day. I am still learning my boundaries and my limitations towards the holy grail of optimal wellness; and I see it happening one day, but probably in my 90s.
I am so very glad that this has all happened, because it has put me in the humbled position of blossoming into a realist and not a puritan. It gives me my unique understanding of the human condition and how I can change the health of the world, from a place where it matters most.
You practiced naturopathy before you started the staple store – how did you get into it?
I wanted to be one pretty much since I was a little girl, I just got distracted up until I became one at 27. My mum loved her naturopath when we were growing up, the thought of reading someone’s life in their iris’, mesmerized me (it still does).
What made you want to start staple?
I was a highly specialized naturopath, and was expensive to see and hard to get to see. My heart, one day, just remembered why I became a naturopath. In the beginning it was to help everyone that wanted help; irrespective of their financial position or education or which wellness path they were on and where they were starting from. So I wanted to open a naturopathic cooking school, but after financial feasibility analysis, I realized that, again I’d only be teaching to the rich and to the already converted. So, I started Staple, so that we would have a grass roots place for anyone and everyone, wherever they were along this proverbial path of wellness.
Staple has gathered a great following – what do you think it is that people are drawn to at staple?
I like to say that it is my self deprecation, that makes my philosophy around health and well-being feel more attainable to people or that it’s because of my winning smile. But, in all seriousness, it’s success is because people are ready and they were waiting for it. It feels like an incredible honour, everyday I walk through the doors to the shop knowing that I get to navigate a business that was manifested by a community that were wishing for it.
One of the major reasons would be your accesible bulk produce, superfoods – but also the Raweos, how did you come up with them?
Last summer I made a whole range of different raw biscuts and cakes. The raweos just ended up being the ones with a cult following. I didn’t name them, Greta did, she has eaten more Staple Store Raweos than anyone else on the planet.
Do you plan to sell them in other cities soon?
They just caught a plane to Byron Bay last week with the owner of Top Shop and they’re on the plane with me heading up there next week. It feels a bit like moving contra-ban at the moment. We’re working on logistics to other states, but summer is really tricky.
Also the superfood blends you create – tell us why you decided to make these?
This is when I pop onto my controversial soap-box: I just want so badly for the consumer to have the upper hand in this industry and the lack of transparency is making this very difficult. The health industry is a lucrative one, and it has no sign of slowing down anytime soon. There will be bigger companies coming to the foreground that have little regard for the consumer, in the blind quest for the bottom of their wallets. They will not consider the cost to the consumer, to the environment or to humanity. I just wanted to give them a run for their money with food powders that are super cheap with pretty smart formulas, that’s all. In the honest truth, I’d rather people grew their own superfoods or bought them from farmers markets.
You study and find the best suppliers for your products available in the store – for example the growers in indonesia and Miso in the Blue Mountains – can you please tell about these 2 people specifically and how you found them?
Barry is from Beech Organics in South Australia. I found him at the organic famer’s markets when I was on a food sourcing trip earlier this year. I do a lot of sourcing, but every now and then you get goose bumps when you meet someone that’s a ‘game changer’. Barry is. He is a permiculturalist from Port Elliot, he has been since he was 21. He started up small community based micro-enterprises in Indonesia. Helping small communities turn their traditional practices into successful, permiculturally aligned business. We get some pretty great products from him, like our organic shredded coconut, coconut nectar, vanilla powder, goose berries and native peppers. We’re out of shredded coconut and vanilla powder right now, because Barry is in Morocco sourcing fair trade saffron, could we love this guy more?
The miso I found this year. It’s made by Gary. I spent several days Google-ing to find him. One day on the train, doing my ordering, I was told that the organic unpasturised brown rice miso from Japan I was selling, wasn’t available. It was one of those moments when you realize something that you should have realised much earlier; There are lots of organic soy bean growers in Australia, surely there was a miso producer here. So I found Gary from the Blue Mountains, I rung him and ordered 20kg and the rest is history. Now Gary supplies the 21st best restaurant in the world (Attica) and Australia’s only zero waste café (Silo by Joost) with organic unpasturised 100% Australian Miso, he also sold 3 months worth in 3 days (we’d like to think we played a little hand in this ;) )
“.. it has put me in the humbled position of blossoming into a realist and not a puritan”
What are your top 5 recommended superfood/ food items that people should try consume every day and why?
Can I say I don’t have a top five? The reason is, very few of my superfood favouites come in a jar. I think that vitalism is a phenomena that we can forget in the sea of choice. I think that if you grew it, ate it and enjoyed it, irrespective of what it was, I think that would be my favourite superfood for that person. Most of my superfoods have seasonal limitations, but I can list this week’s favourites: anything fermented, kale, quinoa sprouts, edible weeds, cherries, tomatoes from my garden and cinnamon (I know it’s 8, I couldn’t help myself).
Will you ever get back in to naturopathy?
I’m pretty sure the answer is yes, But I’m not sure when.
“We can get swept up in the hype about Amazonian and Himalayan super foods and forget the backyard Melbourne superfoods”
You have also started doing workshops – tell us your plans on the future of these and what knowledge you hope to pass on?
Recently, I have been giving a talk on superfoods, but not the superfoods you’re thinking of. I never stocked many superfood powders, mostly because I didn’t understand them, they were never a part of my Materia Medica. I took to writing this seminar as an opportunity for me to learn more. Being an evidence-based science nerd, I wanted to look at the research and find out what clinical evidence supported their regular use and their therapeutic range. But the evidence was limited, really limited and it made me think about what makes a superfood a superfood? So I changed my framework and instead wrote about the superfoods you can grow in your back yard, buy in bulk, buy ethically, buy organically and buy locally. I am not suggesting that macca isn’t a great superfood or that goji berries aren’t either, what I am suggesting is that everything you consume has consequences and what you consider as being super healthy for you, might not always align with your sensibilities.
We just can get swept up in the hype about Amazonian and Himalayan superfoods and forget the backyard Melbourne superfoods with actual clinical evidence and quite substantial evidence to boot. So far, the response has been electrifying, I am near terrified by public speaking, but my passion in bringing this message to the greater community is far stronger than my fear. We are running one more in Melbourne in early February this year.
As for the future..
I am currently writing a list of 31 reasons to eat chocolate, it’s ambitious, but I feel as though it is a challenge worth accepting. It is a superfood talk I’m co-hosting with Citizen Cacao (watch this space) who is most definitely my muse at this current moment in time.
Tell us about the new wellness space you are starting in 2014?
It’s a multi-modality complimentary medicine clinic, set on a roof top in the middle of Melbourne’s CBD. It is a non-denominational space, with a mascot named Jonathon Livingston, he’s a seagull. If you know the fable by Richard Bach, you’d understand our philosophy; if you haven’t here’s a snippet. Jonathan learns to fly very high and very fast which is likened to reaching enlightenment. Once he reaches enlightenment he realizes that he’s up there, teaching tricks to the already enlightened and that the real change and the real purpose of enlightenment is teach those that are searching. By all means, we are not claiming enlightenment, we just want to create a space that welcomes everyone, especially the searching. So the space, that has the most spectacular view will also be used for parties, exhibitions, dinners, pop-ups and anything that will bring people to the space that otherwise would not set foot into a “wellness centre”. Bring on 2014, I am ready, well I will be after a month in Byron.
→ Visit The Catie
Or Visit the store:
19 Glen Eira Rd Ripponlea, Melbourne
Photos + interview produced by thebharanieffect - our talented photographer is Maclay Heriot.