Our original food as medicine chef

Written by Nina Tovey | 20 October, 2014

Nutritionist, author and entrepreneur Samantha Gowing shares her story of how she left her fast-paced career as a hat winning restauranteur to form her own unique culinary style which has been embraced across the world.

When Samantha Gowing left her fast-paced career as a hat-winning restaurateur to immerse herself in the world of nutrition at a time before it was trendy, it took Australia a little while to catch on. It proved to be a risk that firmly paid off, with Samantha using her unique blend of nutrition, fine dining and business expertise to help put ‘food as medicine’ on the map in Australia.

Samantha’s unique culinary style has been embraced across the globe through the programs she has designed for luxury hotels, spas and health retreats which celebrate local, seasonal and organic superfoods.

The Byron Bay local has also spearheaded a popular series of mentoring programs to support natural health professionals, worked with major food brands to help develop products, established a globally renowned cooking school, become an acclaimed author and worked as a therapeutic chef and clinical nutritionist in private practice and at premier health retreats.

It was the death of her father and well-known business figure Dennis Gowing after a battle with cancer that marked a turning point for Samantha and prompted her to look at food a different way.

“When dad was diagnosed I was devastated to realise that although I knew how to cook beautiful food, I knew literally nothing about nutrition and health,“ said Samantha.

This revelation led to Samantha retraining as a fitness instructor and enrolling in nutrition with Endeavour College of Natural Health (then the Australian College of Natural Medicine).

“I initially enrolled in one subject, and I ended up being so impressed with the quality and depth of the teaching that I sold my house to enrol in the Diploma of Nutrition. It was the smartest and stupidest thing I’ve ever done,” said Samantha.

“I wanted to retrain as I could sense the wellness sector would become a trillion dollar industry. The idea of food as medicine initially was hard for many Australians to swallow and it is safe to say I suffered lots of jibs in the ribs, but eventually I was able to set a pathway for proving healing food could be prepared at a really high culinary standard,” said Samantha.

To expand her business after working as a clinical nutritionist, Samantha used her ‘risk taking entrepreneurial bones’ to think outside the square and explore how else her skills could be of use to the tourism and health industries.

“To take my business to the next level I taught myself a lot of skills – I’m talking branding, SEO, website building, marketing ... it really was a solo mission,” said Samantha.

As much as Samantha enjoyed working in a clinic specialising in treating irritable bowel syndrome and adrenal burnout, it was coaching other health practitioners in areas such as business development, social media and self-publishing that really sustained her.

“To watch other health professionals blossom and grow as they develop their businesses is so rewarding to me... there is nothing like proving to others that the sky is the limit. Every practitioner is so different and I enjoy the challenge of using my toolkit to support them,” said Samantha.

Samantha’s influence in Australia and overseas hasn’t gone unnoticed, with man of the moment Matt Preston referring to her as the ‘font of wisdom when it comes to tasty, healthy eating’.

She has worked on joint creative projects with industry luminaries such as Shannon Bennett of Vue de Monde, and taught Ita Buttrose how to stretch better. She also counts singer Claire Bowditch among her biggest supporters.

She has connected with a new wellness community through her hosting role with the online health and wellness smash hit program healthtalks TV.

“It was an unexpected opportunity to connect with a new generation and share my knowledge in an authentic way,” said Samantha.

It is Samantha’s food philosophy and balanced approach to nutrition that has seen her work resonate with so many people around the world.

“Every last morsel you put in your mouth should be doing something good for you, and should taste unbelievable as well. Eating well doesn’t have to be about denying yourself the good things in life,” said Samantha.

“It is all about balance and self-acceptance – there is nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of champagne and a three-course dinner occasionally. I want to show the world you can have your wheat-free, dairy-free, sugar-free cake and eat it too!” said Samantha.

Samantha’s philosophies are detailed in her book The Healing Feeling, which was released in 2013 at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. The book sees Samantha share nourishing recipes along with colourful personal stories and her extensive knowledge of nutrition and Chinese medicine.

When looking back on the programs she’s developed for leading hotels she counts her work with the Four Seasons in Bali as a career highlight.

“It was wonderful to work with their spa in Jimbaran to transform their menu from quite a basic selection to include an extensive range of fresh juices and smoothies, and to see this approach permeate through to their restaurant menus,” said Samantha.

The Executive Spa Chef has also designed menus for Surf Haven Bali, a luxury women’s only surf spa retreat, and created recipes and a nutritional theme for boutique hotel Kahanda Kanda in Sri Lanka.

As the founding Head Chef and nutritionist for Cabarita Ocean Health Retreat Samantha created a unique, tailor-made luxury retreat menu and food philosophy that helped launch the retreat in 2012. Her work was also noted as being the Best Spa Food in the country by the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

In 2010, Samantha was personally recruited to Africa to share her food philosophies at the prestigious Kempinksi Zamani Retreat in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

Never one to pause too long, Samantha has returned to study and is on the cusp of graduating with a Masters of Gastronomic Tourism, a qualification which explores every facet of the food and wine tourism experience.

“I’m looking forward to using my new skills and knowledge to help my clients understand the cutting edge of wellness tourism and backing this up with academic fact and analysis,” said Samantha.

Samantha is also preparing to launch the Whole Happiness Academy a series of affordable online business programs later this year to share her insights with the world at the touch of a button.

“Since starting on this journey my intention has always been the same – to show food can be something more than a sensual and social experience... it can also be a vital and healing medicine,” Samantha said.


Nina Tovey

Nina Tovey is a public relations expert who has supported a wide range of clients throughout her career, including world leading brands, Government Departments and small-to-medium enterprises. Nina is the founder of public relations consultancy Yoke Communications.

Read more by Nina Tovey

Related Articles