Samantha Gowing is a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to food, health and nutrition. Her knowledge shines through in her recently released first book ‘The Healing Feeling’, it represents her life work and passion for spreading the health and wellness word in a way that’s fun and accessible. Samantha shares her health-giving recipes and remedies, combined with her engaging personal stories and extensive knowledge of nutrition and Chinese medicine. All done with her trademark great humour and endorsed by industry luminaries including Matt Preston, Shannon Bennett, Clare Bowditch and Janet DeNeefe. Meet Sam…
Tell us about your journey, what sparked your passion for the health and wellness industry?
It has been a fascinating journey. I celebrate this year as my 30th year in hospitality and considering I started about the age of 17, you can do the maths from there! My first job was changing ashtrays and pouring water on school holidays in my family’s hotel. I studied Japanese and Chinese history at Geelong Grammar and finished my HSC in Victoria in 1983. I then went straight into the family business. My late father Dennis Gowing was a well known Melbourne restaurateur and entrepreneur, former art dealer and racehorse owner and he had a wonderful, wonderful restaurant that was awarded anywhere between two and three hats through The Age Good Food Guide, depending on the season and the year and the editor and I did a more formal apprenticeship on the restaurant floor, waiting tables, doing a day in the kitchen each week.
Throughout that journey my father was diagnosed with cancer. He and I were very, very close and I of course was devastated as a 22 year old young woman, and I was also disappointed that I knew nothing about healing food or nutrition. So throughout his various bouts of remission we set about trying to discover a little bit more about cancer-proofing his body. He managed to battle through two very gruelling bouts of chemotherapy and in 1991 I lost him to cancer. During one of his bouts of remission we bought an old hotel in Collingwood in 1990 called the Grace Darling Hotel and I became a publican there at the ripe young age of 24!
So that’s how I got in the in and out of hospitality industry. Of course during that time I mourned the loss of my father dearly and it really ignited a desire in me to set about learning about healthier food choices. I also felt – and still do – that as a restaurateur I had a duty of care to understand the quality of the oils that I was using in the kitchen and where the produce was coming from. So the provenance of ingredients, healing properties and more importantly what was the degenerative potential that some of the food I was potentially serving became a big issue.
I left pub life and I went up to the Golden Door, the health retreat as a guest and a year later I returned as a work experience enthusiast for five weeks and lived up there and do all the things you do as work experience in health retreats and around that time I started to learn more about fitness, was studying formally. There was a day of nutrition on the fitness program that was I doing, a VICFIT certificate and that day of nutrition was just like that’s what I meant to do.
So from there I enrolled in a subject of nutrition at the Melbourne College of Natural Medicine now Endeavour College. There was a subject there called Food is Medicine. My first subject on my first day and the beautiful lecturer started talking about the healing property of food and that was it. If there was ever a thunderbolt that goes off in life that was certainly my absolute thunderbolt time. It was life changing and very much an expression of my soul being on the right pathway.
So it’s been a journey since then, that’s taken me into 15 years ago and so now into my 30th year I’ve watched this wellness industry absolutely burst onto the scene and I’ve just come off the stage from the Australian Spa Conference, the ASpa Conference where I was talking a lot about wellness and the concept I’ve got called Whole Happiness™
The testament to the journey and the learning has been for me as a practitioner just trying to keep my head above water. The message behind me teaching yoga, Pilates, corporate health consulting and working as a clinical nutritionist was to never give up and just to follow my gut feeling. As a nutritionist and naturopath we always talk about the digestion and the gut being our place of intuition and I wasn’t sure if I’d really survive in business on a base level or perhaps on paper and I’m sure some of the banks I went to weren’t quite sure!
I was just determined that I knew that my commitment would pay off emotionally, financially and certainly the abundance that we talk about would be enjoyed. And so I’ve gone on from just practising those modalities to forging ahead with something I’ve called Surf Spa food which is the name I gave to my signature cuisine and that has been recognised across various hotels and luxury spas from here to Zanzibar, to Sri Lanka, up to Bali and across the east coast of Australia. That brings me to where I am today, sitting in my beautiful office in Byron Bay looking out and just wondering where we go to from here.
What’s your number one wellness tip?
Turmeric It’s my absolute number one ingredient. Both fresh and ground turmeric assist with immunity, inflammation, eyesight and healing – I rub fresh turmeric on cuts. Turmeric contains curcumin, which is being studied for its cancer-killing properties. It’s grown in my subtropical Byron Bay backyard, too – a big plus. I’m a big believer in the healing properties of some ingredients but a good dollop of scepticism is valuable around the trends. Eating locally resonates with me. I think I’m better having honey from up the road than agave from Mexico, even if I do think the agave has nutritional benefits. I’d rather look at sustainable trends than follow the fads.
What’s your one non-negotiable when it comes to your health?
Those pesky, evil trans fats. Don’t eat them. Be careful they’re everywhere. They give crisp to chips and crunch to biscuits. Lookout for the demons masking as hydrogenated oils, canola oil, vegetable shortening and ‘cholesterol free’.
What motto do you live by?
Be determined, follow your heart, listen to your gut and get your head to organise it. Never give up and always remember that when the student (in you) is ready, the teacher will present.
What is your proudest achievement?
To be honest, it was actually when the proof of my book, ‘The Healing Feeling’ arrived from the USA. I self published the ebook ten months ago and it has since been formatted for print by my darling man Lance. We had been eagerly awaiting the parcel to arrive – almost sleeping at the Post Office! To see something you have created over twelve long years finally in print – and knowing that you had overseen every inch of its journey – is the most gratifying accomplishment of my life.
Buy here http://wholehappiness.com.au/
What are your goals for the future?
I recently stepped away from the stove working 40 weeks as a Head Chef, in addition to running my other business and speaking commitments. This has freed my time up immensely, and more importantly put me back into my creative flow. My immediate goals are now to take my book launch for The Healing Feeling on the road – register here for updates http://bittersweetsour.com/
I will also undertake two more subjects of the Master’s degree I am doing with le Cordon Bleu over summer.
Tell us something not many people know about you?
My voyage across the nourishing waters towards the healing arts began when I was a teenager. I broke my leg in three places riding my little green motor scooter on a crisp autumn Melbourne morning. I don’t really remember how the accident happened, but clearly I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or was I? Everything happens for a reason and the memory of the impact is deliberately dim. I blacked out but then I saw the light.
Yoga found me about ten years after the injuries. In the beginning I could not even kneel. The scar tissue so entrenched that I had a limited range of motion. Back bends were a fantasy and seated twists nearly impossible. Slowly but sure I persisted with a practice and was guided by a wonderful teacher in Fitzroy/ I soon joined the daily dawn practice and over a year I was amazed how my body responded to the movement and the breathing techniques.
It is over fifteen years since I began my practice and I went onto teach Yoga and Pilates for many years. No student is too inflexible. Yoga is a journey and not a destination and I am truly grateful for my connection to the sacred Sanskrit spiritual path.
Can you share with us one of your favourite recipes?
Raw Cauliflower Couscous with Macadamia Nuts and Cranberries
Where can we find you?
Web/Blog/Recipes/Book Sales: www.foodhealthwealth.com
Profile photo credit Nigel Carboon
Have you read Sam’s book, ‘The Healing Feeling’?