Pete Evans: Healthy and wise

Chef Pete Evans has gained an international following as host of TV’s My Kitchen Rules. But his greatest passion, he tells Jacklyn Lloyd, is to share his knowledge of healthy eating with the public

Pete Evans is a familiar face on Australian and American television screens. In Australia he’s often referred to as a celebrity chef, as host of TV series My Kitchen Rules. But Evans is more than a handsome celebrity chef; he has a conscience and has evolved his way of eating and cooking to focus on following a Paleo diet, largely influenced by his own food intolerances.

Having established restaurants across Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and soon Brisbane – each offering distinctive dining experiences – Evans is using his well-honed culinary techniques to bring healthy food to the masses by launching ingenious products/television programmes.

“It has been, and continues to be, an evolving journey,” he says. No longer satisfied with only cooking delicious meals, for Evans: “Food is medicine or food is poison depending on what you choose to put into your mouth. I’m committed to sharing the medicinal properties of food and making people aware of the toxic side of food too, and if that happens to ruffle people’s feathers, then so be it.”

Born in Australia’s culinary capital, Melbourne, Evans was raised in Queensland then returned to Melbourne where he learned to cook professionally. His interest in food began when Evans worked at a friend’s bakery at the age of 13 and then went on to work at quite possibly the best training ground – yes, McDonald’s. “At 17, I decided I needed a trade under my belt and thought that cooking was the most common-sense decision. Once I’d learned the craft, I would always be able to cook beautiful food for myself, family and my friends.”

Moving to Sydney to further his culinary aspirations – “I wanted to try my luck in Australia’s busiest city, and of course the weather was a strong lure” – Evans went on to build his brand. Having previously been part of Sydney’s famous Hugos, as well as the Pantry in Melbourne’s affluent suburb of Brighton, Evans opened the Spanish-influenced, Bar Nacional, also in Melbourne.

“I’ve teamed up with internationally acclaimed US chef Gavin Baker from the Mist Project and  The Fat Duck (UK), along with Lang Walker, an Australian property developer. We opened Bar Nacional late last year and enjoyed amazing success due to Gavin and his team’s commitment for perfection and seeking out the best producers/farmers/artisans to supply us with the best ingredients to work with.”

That focus has resulted in dishes such as tapas of charred broccoli croquettes and braised beef shin empanada, and larger sharing raciones of baby flathead [fish] with smoked eggplant and salad greens, as well as fig, jamón and endive with lemon dressing.

Evans’ restaurants have all showcased distinctive menus – from the upmarket but casual fare at the Pantry, to the sophisticated dining experience at Hugos. Each venue has offered diners unique interiors to mirror his unique dishes. “I’ve designed many commercial and domestic kitchens in my career, and it’s always a challenge given the limited space you have to play with. Gavin and I make a great team when it comes to designing kitchens; the goal is functionality; my advice is to start with
the menu and then build the kitchen and restaurant from there.”

New beginnings

Taking inspiration from the restaurants he’s visited all over the world, Evans is constantly “making mental notes of what I love or dislike… once a chef/restaurateur, always a chef/restaurateur – I can’t help it!” Both Evans and Baker are currently working on another six projects. “Gavin is inundated with emails from me of things I love when I’m overseas: it could be a plate, a design feature or a simple menu layout or uniform – it all comes down to attention to detail.”

Evans recently launched a new product, Culture for Life, that has been two years in the making. Culture for Life helps people easily ferment their own ingredients at home – food stuffs which Evans believes are essential for the balance of flora in our guts. Evans explains: “Cultured/fermented vegetables are such an old culinary art form that’s quickly regaining popularity, and I wanted to create a foolproof way for chefs and cooks to be able to ferment with confidence.

“Fermenting food is a really simple process: you need to keep it anaerobic, and you need to give it time to ferment at the correct temperature.”

In addition to launching products, Evans is working on a new cable TV series about healthy eating. Since adopting a healthier way of eating, versus the often calorific, special occasion options that chefs can find themselves indulging in, Evans’ health improved dramatically. Inspired by this change, he travelled to the US, interviewed and cooked with Harvard professors, cardiologists, neurologists, science writers, doctors and nutritionists to learn more.

Evans believes governments are feeding the wrong information to the public about the way
we eat. He adds: “The latest scientific evidence is startling and I felt I needed to get this information out to the public. There is little wonder why we have so many health problems.”

Passionate about his pursuit for healthy eating, Evans new television series will be called The Paleo Way and will feature an online programme to assist viewers in reclaiming their health.

A holistic view

Outside the kitchen, Evans appears quite at one with nature, he enjoys surfing and getting outdoors. Being environmentally conscious is part of this. “My family and I are very conscious of doing our best by the environment, so we’re always mindful to use environmentally safe cleaning products. Plus we grow many of our own vegetables and an abundance of herbs, which is a wonderful way to live a more sustainable lifestyle.”

Bringing his holistic views into the kitchen, Evans is currently in partnership with a company that is about to launch a vertical garden solution for restaurants and homes. “Think of having nutrient-dense herbs and leafy greens that cost a third of the price they do in the supermarket and are as nutrient dense as organics,” he says.

At home, Evans and his partner, Nicola Robinson, have reaffirmed their passion for cooking with a new indoor kitchen by Apollo, and they have also installed one in the garden from the Outdoor Kitchen Company. And his best tool in the kitchen – inside and outside? “A quality sharp knife,” Evans says.

Evans’ career has taken many interesting twists and turns from working in numerous kitchens all over the world, releasing cookbooks, launching products and recently completing a course at New York’s Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Aside from eating poorly in the past, Evans recognises that failure has also been a part of his progress over the years.

“Every failure is a step closer to your goals. I’m probably the most driven person I know. One of my current goals is to be the world’s most influential chef on health and nutrition.

“Last week I spoke to over a thousand nutrition students in Australia, and next month I’ll be in the US doing the same, as well as appearing on television and talking as a qualified health coach and chef.”

Having cooked for royalty and Martha Stewart, the highlight of Evans’ career to date is “cooking for my family at every opportunity… they’re the most famous and important people in my life and always will be.”

You get the impression Evans’ success is just beginning, and his enthusiasm and determination can only lead to life-changing revelations for many people. His simple message for life?

“Keep cooking for health with love and laughter.”

Jacklyn Lloyd

More Relevant

View More