By Phoebe Ollerearnshaw
World Food Tour picks the brains of Pixie Turner, better known as the ‘Wellness Rebel’ or @plantbased_pixie on her Instagram feed. In our exclusive interview we discuss her views on nutrition and society’s changing attitude towards food.
Question: When did your interest in food begin, was it from a young age?
Pixie Turner: I’ve always had some interest in food as my mother stopped working to have children, and would always cook for us every night, as well as grow an amazing array of fruits and vegetables in the garden. We also kept chickens, ducks and geese growing up. I was very lucky!
Q: Your new book, Wellness Rebel, was released this April. Can you tell us the main sentiments behind the publication? What do you hope people take away after reading it?
PT: My main goal is always to educate people so they can make informed decisions about their health based on accurate information. I want to help people feel more comfortable around food and enjoy it because life’s too short not to. This is why each chapter has the myth-busting scientific theory and the recipes to put that into practice.
Q: Your attitude towards food is very different from what it was when you were a young adult. What was it that changed your perspective?
PT: As a young adult I fell into the trap of wellness and believed that cutting a whole range of foods from my diet was the key to health. But instead it made me anxious and less healthy. It wasn’t until I heard some really shocking comments from other bloggers that I realised I didn’t belong with this anti-science rhetoric and decided to search for the evidence behind the claims people were making.
Q: Do you think that we, as a society, are developing an unhealthy relationship with food? If so, how?
PT: I think many of us are becoming increasing obsessed with foods and micromanaging down to the level of micronutrients we consume. It’s just not necessary. We now have access to so much information at our fingertips, more so than ever before, yet a lot of this information is contradictory and misleading. It’s no wonder people are confused.
Q: Do you think that morphing views on body image might be affecting food trends?
PT: It’s hard to say because even though they are very interlinked, beauty ideals haven’t changed whereas food trends are changing all the time. But every food trend generally comes with some sort of health halo or weight loss claims, almost all of which tend to be total rubbish. As soon as we realise one thing doesn’t work there’s another trend on the horizon to replace it.
Q: What influenced you to begin blogging/ Instagramming about food?
PT: I started for all the wrong reasons. I saw all these gorgeous wellness bloggers that looked the pinnacle of health and wanted to be like them, which included being popular on Instagram. But now I use my Instagram and blog as a form of science communication to try and bring accurate and entertaining messages to people about food and health.
Q: Why do you think that Instagram has become such a vital portal for food inspiration and consumption? Is it perhaps the aesthetic satisfaction that comes with a beautifully presented plate?
PT: Absolutely one of the key reasons Instagram and food go so well together is because it’s so visual. Instagram is image-first and that suits food perfectly. People will get drawn in by the pretty picture and then read the caption afterwards only if it appeals to them.
Q: What tips would you give to somebody trying to take an attractive food shot for their social account?
PT: Only do it if you genuinely enjoy it. And try and rely on only natural light. I also highly recommend Snapseed and VSCO as editing apps to make your food vibrant and appealing.
Q: There are very mixed opinions on Instagram’s influence on the culinary world: some believe it gives amateurs a chance to exhibit their ‘work’, others believe that it is ruining the dining experience. What’s your view?
PT: I think it’s a great way to find food inspiration, whether that’s home-cooked or out-of-home. Every time I go abroad I search on Instagram for what food places I should go to and every time I’m impressed. I think the problem arises when people spend so long trying to get a good picture it ruins the food and disturbs the people around them.
Q: What is your favourite cuisine to cook and why?
PT: Probably Mediterranean as there is just so much variety and simple but delicious flavours. I love cooking with fresh vegetables, herbs, olive oil and cheese!
Q: A day in the life of Pixie Turner consists of…?
PT: No two days a week are the same. I tend to spend one full day and two evenings doing my one-to-one clinic work, at least one full day in meetings, one day writing, and the rest of the time answering emails, answering DMs and cooking/photographing food. Sometimes I also get asked to do TV or radio work, which is always exciting!
Q: What is your favourite restaurant in the UK?
PT: Joint favourites are Franco Manca and Dishoom.
Q: You have a background in Biochemistry, how has this affected your approach to nutrition?
PT: Having a biochemistry degree definitely made it easier for me to get to grips with the fundamentals of nutrition. I think it’s helped me to better understand the processes happening in our body and to dispel myths about particular ingredients like sugar.
Q: What is the most prominent ‘clean eating’ myth you’d like to dispel?
PT: That the way you eat makes you morally superior to someone else in any shape or form. You are not a better person simply because you don’t eat gluten or only eat organic. This kind of attitude is elitist and judgmental.
Q: Are there any chefs or food bloggers whom you really admire?
PT: I admire anyone who places flavour at the forefront of what they’re doing. A special mention has to go to Rick Stein though as his cookbook on India led to me becoming obsessed with curry and spices!
Q: Do you have any ingredients or flavours that you are naturally drawn to?
PT: At the moment I eat avocado, butternut squash and halloumi almost every day. I can’t get enough of them!
If you have enjoyed our interview with Pixie Turner, Wellness Rebel, click here to read more on The Master Chefs website about our exclusive interview with The Hairy Bikers.