Creating her own wholesome treats as a way of managing her polycystic ovarian syndrome, Shelley Grainger decided to move away from her high-flying career as a corporate strategist last year and put her delicious gluten, dairy and refined sugar-free morsels where her mouth was.
“I really like the idea of a place like Townsville kind of leading the charge on healthy eating, rather than being trend takers”
Now one year old, you’ll find deliciousness from Nourishing Bites all over Townsville with Shelley preparing to catapult her creations up a notch as she moves into a commercial kitchen and hosts a grand opening this weekend. Yes, there will be fudgy walnut brownies. And coffee.
We chatted to Shelley about her wholesome food journey so far, what treats she loves the best, the importance of not killing tasty in the quest for healthy, and what drives her.
So, from corporate strategy to chocolate brownies… how did that happen? Although I really enjoyed my career, I was looking to do something with my hands. There’s something so satisfying about producing something tangible, not just a PowerPoint strategy presentation, and actually being able to share that with people and experience the joy of people enjoying what you make for them. Plus I’ve also been on my own health journey for the past seven years. I was diagnosed with polycystic ovaries when I was 16 and suffered quite badly from it. I spent years bouncing around different doctors trying all these different medications and having no success at all. I decided to take control of my health myself and manage my condition naturally. That journey started in 2008 – I gradually addressed gluten, cut out dairy, and then grains, and I found that my symptoms finally subsided and my body settled into a healthy rhythm naturally. I feel better than I ever did, and I’m not on medication anymore.
“It takes enormous self-control to make the mixture and put it into the container and not eat it all myself [laughs]. It’s the same restraint I use when I receive a 55kg shipment of dark chocolate”
How did your own food journey evolve into a business? When I started sharing my food with friends and family, they enjoyed it and encouraged me to keep developing my skills. My husband and I moved to Townsville [from Sydney] and I continued to play around while I was training to be a health and wellness coach. Then I thought, ‘Why don’t I combine the two and actually start a business?’ I can share what I’m creating with other people because I know how stressful it is going out and not being able to eat, and feeling like a bit of a pain asking, ‘Do you have any non-cow’s milk?’ I just really wanted to give people options, so I started with sweet treats as they were the hardest for me to find healthy options for. Do you have any formal training, or did you teach yourself? I started experimenting about five years ago and I haven’t had any formal training – I’ve taught myself. I’ve had lots of input, and lots of experimentation along the way.
“At least 50% of my customers have no [dietary] restrictions; they just want to make healthier choices. They say: ‘I want to have something that’s delicious, but I want something slightly virtuous’”
What does the move into your first permanent kitchen mean for you? Can we look forward to even more deliciousness? Yes, I’d definitely like to expand my treats line further and offer savoury lines as well. I guess I’ve been restrained by the capacity that I’ve had up till now. In time I’d like to go beyond Townsville, because there’s lots of other areas that are crying out for healthy options. Even my friends in Sydney are saying, ‘We can’t get this, we need you!’ I really like the idea of a place like Townsville kind of leading the charge on healthy eating, rather than being trend takers. So, my plan is to continue working with my wholesale customers who retail my treats, but I’d also like to expand my market to provide businesses up here with options for events and catering.
A hard one: What out of your sweet things do you crave the most? That is really difficult to say! I think I have a really soft spot for my brownie, and the brownie truffle… that comes first because that’s the first treat I ever created. Then my second favourite would be the salted caramel. I just love the gooey caramel and it is so addictive – it takes enormous self-control to make the mixture and put it into the container and not eat it all myself [laughs]. It’s the same restraint I use when I receive a 55kg shipment of raw dark chocolate from Loving Earth.
“She was upset that she would miss her favourite treat so he posted it to her, and of course it arrived in this sloppy gooey mess, but she still ate it.”
What are you hearing from customers? I’ve had lots of really great feedback from people who felt like they couldn’t have any treats at all because they had their dietary restrictions, and now they can: they can enjoy themselves, and also respect their health conditions. But, in saying that, it’s been interesting because when I first started out I thought that I would only be attractive to customers who had dietary restrictions, but I would say at least 50%, if not more, of my customers have no restrictions; they just want to make healthier choices. They say: ‘I want to have something that’s delicious, but I want something slightly virtuous. I want to know that it’s unprocessed and I want to know that it’s full of natural goodness’. So that’s been really great too.
So it really is possible to marry ‘healthy’ and ‘tasty’? Yes, and I’ve tasted so many treats that – yes they’re healthy – but there’s no taste to them, so you end up eating the naughty thing anyway. That’s why I invest so much time and energy in experimenting, refining until I get to that point, rather than just looking something up and putting it out there. I really make sure I tick both boxes. So how long would something like a salted caramel take to develop and what’s involved in the process? It tends to vary: sometimes I get lucky and it just happens really quickly, but generally I’ll be working on something for up to a month. I know when I created my chocolate beetroot cupcakes I think I made 15 different batches of those before I was happy.
How did you get the idea for them because it’s not your run of the mill sort of treat is it? I was determined to include beetroot in my cakes and I loved the idea of coming up with a red velvet-style cake that was just naturally coloured, rather than red dye-coloured. I was also fascinated with the idea of having a vegetable that would complement a cake, plus I thought the earthy flavour of beetroot would complement the dark chocolate as well. What really drives you and gives you that buzz when you’re just really in the zone and loving it? Nothing makes me feel happier than hearing customer feedback. When a customer tells me that they look forward to a Nourishing Bites treat all day or all weekend that achieves my mission. One lovely customer recently posted a picture of my salted caramel slice on Facebook – her husband had actually mailed it to her when she was in Charters Towers for a week. She was upset that she would miss her favourite treat so he posted it to her, and of course it arrived in this sloppy gooey mess, but she still ate it. So that made my week.
So do you pinch yourself that you’ve come so far in a year? I’ve always hoped that it would take off and felt confident that it would serve a purpose to people, but still it’s really nice. I’m really excited and so grateful for the support that everybody has given me and it’s something that wouldn’t happen in another place. Finally, being a health coach, do you have any advice to people who are struggling, feeling crappy and don’t know what to do about it? Especially based on your own experience. The easiest but really important first step to take is actually making sure you drink adequate amounts of water a day. If you’re not having anything, start with a glass and work your way up to whatever is right for you. In terms of your nutrition, it’s really important to break it down into one change at a time – start to swap something out of your diet or try something new every second week. You’ll look back in six months and think, ‘Oh goodness, I’ve made all these amazing changes because I’ve done them one-step-at-a-time slowly. I’m actually maintaining, rather than doing these massive crash extreme diets for two weeks then falling into a heap’. facebook.com/NourishingbitesAU
Nourishing Bites’ grand opening
Come and sample Shelley’s treats first hand this weekend at the combined grand opening of Nourishing Bites and Defined Coffee at Shop 4, 78 Mooney Street, Gulliver. The morning tea celebration is from 11am on Saturday, November 22, 2014 and includes coffee, treats, and a lucky door prize.
Where to find your Nourishing Bites
Otto’s Fresh Food Market – 3-5 Illuka Street Currajong, Townsville Defined Coffee – Shop 4, 78 Mooney Street, Gulliver Paleo Cafe – 373-383 Flinders Street, City Lane, Townsville City The Spirited Goat Cafe – The Precinct, Idalia Cocoa Latte – Castletown Shopping Centre, Hyde Park Newsbreak – 23 Palmer Street, Townsville City Tobruk Kiosk – Tobruk Pool, The Strand Lollipop’s Playland & Cafe – Shop c16 Domain Central, Garbutt