Chef Tora from Sweden has arrived in Sri Lanka for the Vegan Week 2017 organised by Galle Face Hotel, Colombo together with SLYCAN Trust and Meatless Monday Sri Lanka. Tora spoke today with the SLYCAN Trust team about her experiences as a food and meal scientist, giving us an insight into her meatless and healthy lifestyle.
Having arrived in Sri Lanka for the first time, what was your first impression about Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan food?
I really fell in love with Sri Lanka from the time I landed here. The people are so nice and warm. In terms of food, there seems to be an abundant supply of fresh food in Sri Lanka. Food in general tastes fresh.
How did your journey begin?
I was living in Istanbul and when I moved back home to Sweden, I started my Masters in Food and Meal Science. During this time, I felt like I wanted to do something new so I started my Instagram page @toraflorafood and posted my food creations. Then I realized that people out there really liked what I presented. The fusion between art and food was highly adored since my food is always decorated. When people came to me asking for my help and advice, I realized that maybe I can run a business using what I do. So that’s how it all started.
Do you think it is difficult to eat healthy, living a busy schedule?
Not at all. I live a busy life and I eat healthy so it’s not a difficult task at all.
How is your daily meal schedule like?
I make sure that I eat clean food and I believe that it is important to make food from scratch to make it more fresh. This is not a difficult task. I would prepare easy food like soak some beans in water overnight and use that to prepare a dish or sometimes I would just make a huge pot of soup and eat it for days. I think we need to find easy ways to be healthy to complement our busy schedules. I don’t decorate the daily food I eat, but it prepare easy, tasty and nutritious food.
How did you get inspired to pursue your passion towards culinary arts incorporating a healthy lifestyle to it?
I have always been interested in being healthy. I started a gastronomy programme in Sweden and was thinking of becoming a dietician, but at University while following a course called, “Product Development”, I began developing new stuff and found that to be interesting and fun. This is when I combined my interest in living a healthy lifestyle with experimenting new food recipes. Since then I keep inspiring people to adopt a healthy lifestyle not as a dietician but as a healthy food practitioner, because dieticians provide support to patients but I want to inspire people to live a healthy lifestyle before they fall sick.
How important is it to be meatless to live a healthy lifestyle?
Being meatless is important for personal as well as environmental benefits. It costs a lot of energy to produce meat, which is harmful for our environment. Therefore, we need to reduce the consumption of meat and dairy products as a society.
What would you say regarding the general statements out there about vegan food being dull, boring and tasteless?
Those stereotypes are exactly what I want to change through my food. In addition, it is important to prepare vegan food that taste good and look good to defy such stereotypes.
People say that it costs to eat healthy since fast food is cheaper, what do you have to say about the unavailability of affordable healthy meals in the market?
The situation in Sri Lanka can be different to that of Sweden but in both countries we need to emphasize on the fact that vegetables and fruits actually cost less while the purchase of meat and seafood is expensive. However, fast food is provided at a cheaper price with the cost to the environment and it depends on what you think is important, your health and your environment or temporary satisfaction from food?
Adam-Gaunt-Evans (Executive Chef at Galle Face Hotel, Colombo) added : Fast food is cheaper but the cost to the environment is huge. So, it is the environment that is subsidizing that cheap price. It’s the planet that suffers due to meat production. There is a hidden cost to it, which people don’t notice directly.
How do you get your ideas for your recipes to create innovative food?
I find inspiration in nature. I observe the environment everytime I go on a power walk and then I identify what could be used for my recipes. Actually, I also learnt a lot from my father who’s a botanist, specialized in wild flowers. Since childhood, I was exposed to nature and that’s when my love towards nature developed. So, it is important that children are educated and exposed to nature to understand the importance of eating healthy and natural products. It is important to give nutritious and healthy food for children at a very tender age and practice a healthy lifestyle which they would then continue to follow when they become adults. For my food recipes, I use Swedish flora, which I experiment with on a regular basis, but Sri Lanka has much more products that are clean and fresh which can be transformed into healthy recipes.
As an entrepreneur, what’s your advice for budding entrepreneurs in the food industry in Sri Lanka?
Social media is what is working for me, helping me to promote the word together with pictures. My followers are mostly from USA though I live in Sweden, so social media can be used as a platform to reach a wider audience, even beyond geographical boundaries. It is important to keep fit and eat right in order to inspire people to follow your advice.
To gain more information about healthy food recipes and lifestyles, Tora will be present at the Walk-In Culinary Workshop happening on the 13th of November from 6.00 to 8.00 pm at Galle Face Hotel, Colombo. She will also be conducting a Yoga Session on the 15th of November from 6.00 to 8.00 pm (costs Rs. 2500 per head, includes Vegan nibbles) and will conclude the Vegan Week 2017 with the Vegan Cocktail by Sunset at the Chequerboard, Galle Face Hotel on the 17th of November, 7.00pm onwards.