Retreat Chef Spotlight: WildRaw

I was fortunate enough to meet Cat Cannizzaro in the magnificent Mentawai Islands during a ‘Yoga Trade’ experience in 2012. I was there on a work exchange to teach yoga and and help out around Togat Nusa Retreat for a month or so. Cat was the retreat chef and her partner Matt was surf guiding. Cat and Matt had been there for a while before I arrived, so they took me under their wing and showed me the ropes:) Dinner was one of my favorite times of the day, when we got to sit down together to share stories and enjoy Cat’s delicious and healthy meals. I was in awe of Cat’s knowledge and passion for cooking and wanted to soak up all her wisdom. There is a magic about travel experiences that seem to create life long friendships in short amounts of time. Although I was with Cat for only about a month on that island, I feel like the bond we have will last a lifetime. I still have yet to visit her and Matt in their hometown in Western Australia. Oh the beauties of travel! Thank you Cat for inspiring and believing in your path! Here we  catch up with Cat to learn more about her passion…

Tell us a little bit about your love of cooking and how you started WildRaw.

I started my love of cooking well before I was a teenager. My mum is a wonderful cook and she had to feed 6 kids and she also ran a small catering company. To earn some pocket money my sisters and I would go with mum to the functions and help prep food and do the dishes. I have two distinctive memories one is of my aching feet but the other was this canapé that my mum gave me to try. It was a vol au vent with a smoked oyster filling. I will never forget that moment, that taste and I still remember it today. Mum was pretty busy in the kitchen whether it be at home or work so I didn’t get that much time working with her but I got a lot of time watching and doing a little prep, even with my Italian aunties. My dad was a wonderful gardener and still is today at 80 years of age. We had mostly organic vegetables and fruit bought from orchards rather than supermarket food. My childhood set me up for what I do today, organic gardening and creating delicious recipes, and a lot of plant based recipes. I started working under a Michelin star chef who had crossed over to raw, he made me his apprentice and for three months he taught me as much as he knew before he returned to Europe and from there I began to spread my wings and create my own brand. It was a fun comment from a visiting massage therapist from another country who asked me if he could watch me make my signature raw chocolate tart. While he watched me working he said to me, ‘you are wild and you are raw.’ That is how I started WildRaw.

What do you enjoy the most about cooking for retreats? Do you have a personal yoga practice?

I just love creating amazing food with incredible amounts of flavour for guests at retreats. The food is one of the most important things on a retreat. If the food is bland or boring it makes people feel really dissatisfied and they will look for food in other places which might not be healthy. I get so much from designing dishes that delight and inspire people to eat well and keep that theme for themselves when they get home. I’m always happy to share techniques and recipes with them. One of the things I love about retreats is that you can roll out of bed and go straight into yoga practice and the guests love it when the head chef is rolling around the floor with them.

Do you have a tip that can help us all eat a bit more sustainable and mindful?

Grow as much as you can.  If you live in an apartment or somewhere that has no garden at all you can always grow some herbs in pots. Go to your local farmers market and cook with seasonal fruits and vegetables. By putting your money back into your community you will always have fresh vegetables that have not been sitting in a supermarket cool room or in storage for weeks. Think about the proteins you would like to eat. Go to your local butchers and ask where does the meat come from? Is it local? Are the animals treated well? You will get much better meat and keep your local butchers business thriving if you spend a few extra dollars rather than shopping in a supermarket.

What are some of your favorite foods and flavors to cook with right now?

Right now it’s winter in Australia and the Brassica family is thriving so we have cauliflowers, broccoli, brussels sprouts and kale coming out of the garden. Cauliflower fried rice is one of my favourite things to make during this season. I feel like I’m hovering over the garden waiting for them to be ready to pick. Our cabbages are just about ready so we will be making a lot of kimchi and sauerkraut in the next few weeks.

What or who inspires you?

Anything that comes out of the garden. I love it when I am overseas and I go to a market. One of the most fun markets one year was in Quebec and it was snowing outside. Inside I found fresh kipfler potatoes and cranberries. I had never seen cranberries fresh in my life so it was so exciting. The people selling the potatoes gave me a traditional recipe and I had purchased some truffle oil in Naples so from that I made this amazing creamy mashed potatoes with truffle oil to go with our dinner that night and then I made a fresh cranberry sorbet. I get inspired from beautiful, real ingredients. It’s as simple as that.
Born to cook, eat, write and travel, Cat Cannizzaro is Australia’s leading raw food gourmet chef. Her food, recipes, chocolates and food styling are sought out around the world. Cat focuses on simple and seasonal ingredients and inexpensive kitchen equipment. She is the creator of WildRaw: It’s about teaching and sharing the knowledge of how to become more self-reliant and how to implement those lifestyle changes, simply, efficiently and without breaking the bank. How to make raw, vegan, cooked vegan and cooked vegetarian delicious food. How to shop consciously and where to find those great food buys. Connect with Cat here:

2 replies
  1. Kelly Fielding
    Kelly Fielding says:

    I was lucky enough to work with Cat on some retreats in Australia! Her food is AMAZING and she always made me laugh in the kitchen with her brilliant sense of humour. Im thrilled to hear she is out in the world sharing her vibrant creations with more lucky guests! A great read- thank you!

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