• Miss Bliss finally got her grandma's secret recipe for spanakopita. (Miss Bliss Whole Foods Kitchen)
For nutritionist and the owner of Miss Bliss Whole Foods Kitchen, Jacqui Toumbas, whole foods are hearty, healthy and a means to preserve traditional Greek culture in Brisbane's West End.
Jacqui Toumbas, Presented by
Yasmin Noone

4 Jun 2019 - 4:06 PM  UPDATED 4 Jun 2019 - 4:08 PM

Years ago, my grandfather’s best friend owned a place called Andy’s Fruit Market in West End, Brisbane.

Every day for about 45 years my grandfather, Andy and all of their Greek mates would come to the fruit shop, sit out of the back, play cards and drink Greek coffee.

But Andy got to a point where he didn’t want to do the front of house fruit retailing any more. He was getting older and there were new fruit centres opening up around West End. So he wanted to sell it.

One night I was having dinner [with my family] and my dad announced ‘I bought the fruit shop’. He couldn’t bear for the [shop to be sold to someone who would see the tradition end] and my grandfather – who was 83 at the time – sit at home all day. He wanted him to continue to go out.

So I said ‘why don’t I turn it into something?’ That was four years ago.

For me, opening a whole food café was about continuing my Greek heritage.

I had studied a bachelor of nutrition at university and was into eating healthily. At the time, I remember taking my dad to one of these acai bowl places to eat and he looked at me ‘saying what is this?’ We would have to leave and go elsewhere to eat.

So my goal was to open somewhere to eat healthy food that my dad could go with me and enjoy. I also wanted to run a cafe that people could go that felt like family. For me, opening a whole food café was about continuing my Greek heritage.

We opened Miss Bliss Whole Foods Kitchen in 2015. We dedicated that back area to the older Greek men in the community, including my grandfather. It’s their area. They all come in every day, sit until 9.30 am, have a coffee and chat.

It makes me so happy that it still gives them a place to go they feel comfortable in.

Whole food is real food

The food we serve is whole food made with home-style cooking. Whole food is food that has been refined as little as possible and is free from artificial substances.

When we opened the café, there were whole food places in Sydney and Melbourne but there weren’t any in Brisbane. So it was a challenge to set up. Today, it’s still a challenge because I still have people saying ‘it’s too healthy’. But whole food is not necessarily ‘health food’. It’s just real food.

We serve my grandmother’s spanakopita at the café. We don’t use any fillers, only good quality whole food ingredients.

That’s where my Greek heritage comes in. My grandma is a big part of what this place means. I always remember her making meals from scratch. I think that traditional food style, whole food cooking, will always be embedded in me.

We serve my grandmother’s spanakopita at the café. We don’t use any fillers, only good quality whole food ingredients.

We also tweak some ‘everyday’ meals to trick people into eating well. Someone might go up the road and have bacon and eggs for breakfast yet you can have the same dish here. My bread is sourced from a local bakery that doesn’t use preservatives. My bacon is sourced from a local butcher, and we cook it in a way so it’s not oozing with oil and fat.

The other day, my dad had the pizza and said it was amazing. It was spelt-based pizza, vegan and delicious. I told later him it was vegan and he rolled his eyes at me [as a joke].

Whole food is also about using local and seasonal produce. That’s the basic principle of the traditional Greek and Mediterranean diet anyway – to use food that’s in season. So we change our menu every three months.

Our winter menu will include a locally sourced crispy skin salmon, served with kipfler potatoes, brussels sprouts, shaved cauliflower and poached eggs

One of my favourite winter dishes on the menu is the hummingbird hotcake, made with spelt and almonds, served with maple meringues, banana custard, pineapple caramel and walnut ice cream.

There’s a lot of development happening in the West End and one thing's for sure, whole foods aren't something that will just go out of date.

It doesn’t necessarily have to taste like a ‘health food’ to be good for you and think of it as real food served as authentic, home-style meals. Even my dad can’t tell the difference.

Jacqui Toumbas is a nutritionist and the owner of Miss Bliss Whole Foods Kitchen, West End, Brisbane.

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