A Whole Lot of Love

. September 18, 2015
Photography by Bronwyn Kan.
A Whole Lot of Love

A childhood of green smoothies and exotic superfoods meant Olivia Scott was interested in plant–based cuisine long before it was fashionable.

Like many of the women with whom Olivia Scott is profiled in Bronwyn Kan’s first cookbook, Whole, her business began life on social media. In 2013, she posted a photo of a raw Beetroot, Cacao and Ginger ‘cheesecake’ on Instagram, with the caption ‘#rawcakes’. A few more photos later and Olivia had gained a small but captive audience of raw food fanatics who wanted to know where they could buy her interestingly flavoured cakes. 

Armed with a camera phone and a desire to replicate indulgent flavours like salted caramel and chocolate, but without dairy, sugar or gluten, Olivia got to work soaking dates, blending nuts and pulverizing fruit to create prettily decorated cakes that made the raw food community swoon. “I was studying nutrition at the time so making cakes was just meant to be a side project. In exchange for a bowl of Bliss Balls a week, a café around the corner from my flat lent me their kitchen in the evenings.”

Cake planning began to take up Olivia’s days too, and with a rapidly expanding list of café customers to supply, demand quickly outgrew her capacity. Eight months into the project she decided to leave university, employ an assistant and rent a commercial kitchen. “I had 15 customers at this point, and none of them knew I didn’t even have a car! I would get the bus to the wholesalers and do my deliveries on foot, sometimes even by taxi.”

Given this level of dedication it’s not surprising that within a year, and aged just 22, Olivia had saved enough money to buy a business on Auckland’s Ponsonby Road and turn it into The Raw Kitchen café in December 2014. With the help of her partner, Joss Jenner-Leuthart (formerly Auckland Director of Mojo Coffee), the pair stripped back the previous café’s interior to reveal white ceramic brick tiles that they treated with the same pared back aesthetic of Olivia’s cakes: colourful, simple and pretty.

With a few vintage light fittings and furniture additions from industrial antique importers The Vitrine, The Raw Kitchen was ready for business, offering a cabinet of sweet and savoury items and a blackboard full of liquid ‘elixirs’, smoothies, juices and even exotic hot drinks, like Turmeric Lattes made with almond milk and coconut sugar. 

Olivia’s style of food resonates with the group of New Zealand women with whom she is featured in Whole – they all share her passion for delicious food made from natural, plant-based ingredients. In fact, for a brief period she shared a kitchen with fellow contributors Hannah Horton and Eleanor Ozich of Kingsland café Mondays Wholefoods, and knew of Jordan Rondel (The Caker) through social media. “Auckland’s small like that,” Olivia explains, “When you’re in such a specific industry everyone knows each other.”

While raw food is clearly having a moment, Olivia’s passion goes back to her childhood. “My love of raw stems from my grandma. She was a naturopath and lived on Rakino Island in the Hauraki Gulf. There were no shops so she had no choice but to grow everything she ate. My mum says she used to be sent to school with crazy concoctions for lunch, bright green soups and nuts and seeds, which means that style of food is just normal to me."

It’s a diet that seems to lend itself naturally to summer eating, but Olivia is sure that raw food can still be comforting in winter. Her raw ‘lasagna’ perfects the traditional textures of the dish with nut and vegetable substitutes for the meaty, glutinous elements, but maintains a level of heartiness that apparently totally satisfies. In winter, The Raw Kitchen offers hot homemade soups in seasonal flavours, but she’s quick to explain that juices are even more popular at this time of year than in summer: “People have often had a rich pasta dish for dinner the night before and so at lunch they crave something light, fresh and raw.”

It’s easy to see the appeal – Olivia’s 17,000 Instagram followers do ­– and so there’s no doubt that her next venture with Joss, a juice bar in the newly opened third level of Auckland’s City Works Depot, will be another roaring success.