Taste the Essence - Interview with Nazli Develi

Nazli is a vegan food artist and international chef, the founder of gurmevegan.com and Green & Awake plant food studio. She specialised in raw food and plant-based cuisine and creative concepts, all rooted in food expression with nature as a core. She’s strongly committed to spreading awareness about plant-based food as the most sustainable and necessary alternative for the planet.

Tell us about your journey to become a vegan chef. Is it your childhood dream? If it is not, what did you want to be when you were a child? What was the “aha moment” that has inspired you to become a vegan chef?

Since childhood, I couldn’t eat some animal-based food; I instinctively refused to eat. I did not understand why until my 20s after I discovered the concept of veganism. I noticed that I was not alone. Over time I learnt the ethical and spiritual reasons behind this instinctive rejection , hence I made a quick transition to become a vegan.

When I was very young, I had the opportunity to cook with my chef grandfather in various kitchens with cultural diversities. I'd say that becoming a chef was my childhood dream. I loved two things - traveling around the world and cooking. When I graduated from university, I applied to a gastronomy school in Naples, Italy. Unfortunately after my graduation, I changed my mind and pursued a master's degree in design and digital marketing. 

As the years have gone by, that connection I had with the culinary arts has only grown. After my transition to vegan, I focused on creative projects all rooted in food. I'd say that going vegan was the "aha moment" for me. It encouraged me to go back to my true passion and complete the missing pieces in my life.

We notice you are not only a vegan chef. You are an author of 4 cookbooks and you have created cooking training and education. What is your vision of your purpose-driven business? 

I’m strongly committed to spreading awareness about minimally processed vegan food and mostly organic, raw as the most sustainable and necessary alternative for the planet. We aim to educate more people in this field without giving up the joy of eating. Our food is close to its natural state but still gourmet.

I will be publishing my 5th cookbook which is an art project this year as well as another book in a different area. I would say that I am actively involved in several projects in parallel, for instance product developments, a magazine and other long term education programmes.

As mentioned above, you are a multi-talent entrepreneur. How do you manage everything? Do you have a team?  

It is not easy to manage everything. However, setting priorities keeps my business running smoothly. I have a small team, who have been helping me with social media, marketing and technical bits for a long time.

 As a creative person juggling multiple tasks and running a business, what is the most challenging for you? 

The most challenging thing is the unexpected. To deal with this, we streamline our workflow to avoid fight or flight response. Keeping calm and patient helps us to handle the unexpected in a better way.

Can you share with us your daily routine?

I wake up around 6-7 am every weekday and spend the first 45 minutes on deep breath work and then another 15 minutes in quiet meditation. Then I have fresh juice or smoothie for my breakfast.

I have no screen time until I finish my breakfast. This is the best time of the day for reflection and idea generation. After my breakfast, I check my emails for 30 minutes and start working on a new dish that I've planned a day ago. This may take 2-5 hours depending on the concept. 

When I finish, I have my lunch and take a 20 to 40 min-nap from 1 pm. 2 pm is my exercise time and 4 pm is my brainstorming time with my team on our upcoming projects. At 5 pm, I have a cup of tea, check my emails and weekly appointments, do online grocery shopping, and paint the picture of my next dish. At 6 pm, I close down my day with a set routine of some basic admin tasks, setting my objectives for the next day and closing out my journal for the day. 

For the rest of the day, I usually read a book and treat myself with a cup of herbal tea and something sweet- this is totally a way of self care! Then I go to bed around 11 pm.

Does cooking / creating cuisine bring your serenity? 

Cooking definitely brings serenity to me.

I believe cooking is a way to meditate. Because concentration always brings serenity. I also believe in the power of a good eating experience. Right choices help us to catch moments in our lives and be in the present. I think the best food is not only about the food we consume, also about the experience we create. It is a very comprehensive process, from the colour of the plate we use for its design, the preparation, the presentation, to the feelings we affect while preparing the dish. 

Details heighten our enjoyment of food and bring us into the serenity!

Are you a calm and serene person?

I'm definitely a serene person. Because a calm life is more balanced, full of happiness and peace.

To be honest, six years ago I was as calm as I am now. At the time, I went for a healing ceremony in the Amazon jungle which was life-changing. After the retreat, I observed significant self-improvements, including reduced anxiety and improved emotion management. Now, I am moving forward at my own pace without rushing in life. This gives me incredible comfort, calmness and freedom.

 What are your favourite activities or rituals when you need time and space to reflect, heal and recharge? Do you have a comfort corner, place or object?  

I love Palo Santo's ability to add positivity to my kitchen space. As it lights up, I find positivity and clarity.  I also love spending time in nature, such as taking long walks, smelling flowers, leaves, watching the sky and birds. 

During the pandemic, has it had any impact on your life? How did you manage to get through it? What did ?

I am never keen on having an active social life. All I love is spending time in the kitchen and nature. So it was not too difficult for me to stay at home for a long time. But lately, it has started to affect me especially because of the cold weather. I miss moving more, breathing fresh air outside and visiting new places.

In the past year, I have focused on my creative projects to expand my portfolio. When you do something with passion and inspiration, time flies and it is easier to get through.

Are you a tea drink? What is your favourite tea? 

Yes, I switched from coffee to tea last year. My favourite tea is ginger tea. I also love blending some flavours such as rose-hip, cinnamon, cardamom, orange.

What does tea play a role in your life – for connecting or for quality self-time?

Actually both! When I hold a beautifully designed tea bowl, I close my eyes and feel the beautiful aromas of tea and observe positive effects of the smell on my body. I love to treat my all senses with a cup of quality tea.

Can you share three tips to our readers if they would like to live a serene / mindful life?

  1. Decide what is important for you. Life can be hectic with never-ending to-do lists. Life is not a sprint. So live more slowly and enjoy every moment. I'd recommend doing less. Decide on your essentials and do less of everything else. When you reduce your commitments, you will increase your fulfillment. Do less, be more.
  1. Eat slowly with awareness, connect with your food, savour every bite. Pay attention to the taste of the food, the colours, the smell and form.  When you slow down, you do not only work along with your digestion, but also absorb more nutrients from your food.
  1. Learn to forgive and let go. Sometimes people may let you down, and that is a natural part of life which you can’t change. Try to be willing to see people's actions as misguided instead of intentional, and give others the benefit of the doubt. Then you will not have to carry around the heavy burden of resentment.

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