It was May 2014 when I quit my corporate career and packed up a comfortable but ultimately unfulfilling life in Sydney and moved to a rented farm 15 minutes drive to anything in the Hunter Valley and opened an organic, health-driven restaurant called Nanna Kerr’s Kitchen.
I'd always wanted to own a restaurant since travelling through France and Italy as a child on family holidays and being in awe of the little bistros in French market towns and trattorias in the hills of Tuscany. I was food obsessed... more on that later.
The only thing I miss about corporate life is pay day. The last 5 years have been a rollercoaster to say the least and 2019 is the year of realisation, consolidation, change and I don't regret a thing.
Nanna Kerr's Kitchen was rebranded in January 2019 to Love Kitchen Hunter Valley and along with the name change I overhauled the business to align better with my personal food and wellness journey. In June the restaurant became the first meat-free eatery in the Hunter Valley - at the same time I went from being almost vegan to 100% plant-based.
A selfish Vegan?
In the late 90s I was diagnosed with Gilbert's Syndrome which causes fatigue and the specialist suggested a diet low in red meat and high in fruit and vegetables seemed to be helping some people; raw fruit and vegetables particularly. I immediately became vegetarian and that lasted about two years before bacon got the better of me for a while.
Then in late 2008 I was diagnosed with an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism, the symptoms were early baldness, getting fatter and forgetfulness. I was prescribed thyroxine and the battle to find the optimum dose began. Whilst the medical doctors told me it's the pill for life and nothing else I noticed and there's Google support for it too that a plant-based diet seems to keep the symptoms from flaring up.
I spent my twenties and thirties going from vegetarian to omnivore to pescatarian and back again.
In December 2018 I stopped taking the mediciation and started to get serious about removing all animal products and ingredients from my diet.
I am no dietician or nutritional expert although I do consume a lot of media around it. I have simply found that I feel so much better when I eat only plants.
I also like that evidence suggests a plant-based diet is be better for our planet as well.
What happened to the restaurant?
After 4 years of investing everything that I had and more building the business and serving more than 120,000 meals I needed to hand over the reigns to someone else.
The operation was sold in July 2019 to a long standing vegan customer who has since rebranded to Kawul
and continues to serve a delicous plant-focused menu.
Selling was both the hardest thing I have ever had to do professionally and the most freeing. I had gotten into a lot of debt as a business and personally getting it to where it was (47 out of 1142 in Greater Newcastle on TripAdvisor [he takes a little bow] and it was never going to survive without new investment and new leadership. Without change it was going to end badly.
The business that owned the restaurant was placed into liquidation immediatly after the operation was sold in order that a line could be drawn and everyone involved could move on.
An organic plant-based future...
I relcoated to Byron Bay in August 2019 with my partner Denham (a fabulous Make-Up Artist
and Ambassador for UK vegan skincare brand BYBI
) and our chocolate labrador Miss Cee Cee Babcock. We have a shared studio space at the Habitat complex at North Beach where I create vegan food and Denham helps people experience the most beautiful confident version of themselves.
My purpose is to spread the message that a plant-based diet isn’t just about a healthy body, community and planet - that it can be a deliciously indulgent experience too.
Love Kitchen Australia
and the Organic Vegan Chef are now available all over Australia (and beyond) through private dining and pop-up experiences along with a range of pantry products that are available online, in retailers with great taste and at markets.
The mission is to serve a million plant-based experiences by 2030.