To really understand my background and where my love of food began we will have to go back to the very beginning. My father is Norwegian my mother Bulgarian/ Danish and me? Well I was born in Denmark but grew up my first 11 years in East Africa, Tanzania to be precise and after that in Sweden. In Tanzania I used to go with my mother to the food markets to pick our fruits and vegetables and learnt quickly the art of haggling for best quality and price. We also used to visit a small farmer with just a few cows. I would sit in the back of the car with a bucket full of fresh milk that my mother would magically turn into butter, cream and yogurt. I learnt early on that good things were worth waiting for. There is a running joke about my father taking his time to cook because by the time the food is ready we are all starving! He would spend hours getting all the ingredients ready, meticulously organised in between sips of wine and chats. Making sure each element of the dish was cooked properly and just right.
Our holidays were spent in Bulgaria with my grandmother and auntie who were both amazing cooks. I used to sit at the kitchen table at my auntie’s house watching her make pineapple upside down cake, creme brulee, stews, and breads baked from scratch. All on their way to the feasts that used be conjured upon our arrival. Other summers were spent on the other side of the globe in Scandinavia, Sweden, where my other grandmother lived. Again, an amazing cook with green fingers who has all sorts of wonders growing in her garden and a tiny summer house in the woods. Jams, cordials and pickling were her specialty.
The beginning of Bettina’s Kitchen
My original background is in the Hotel Industry. I have a BBA in Hotel Management & Business and studied in Switzerland, Ireland and Spain. However I was always in front of house.
That background helped immensely when I got into the wellness industry in 2011 running my own health retreats in Spain.
Following struggles with some personal health issues including PCOS and endometriosis, I soon discovered that what I ate made a significant impact on my physical health, to a certain point helped me manage my conditions and had a profoundly positive effect on my mental wellbeing, too. Despite doctors’ prognosis, I was able to fall pregnant and bring my beautiful daughter into the world. Cooking became a way of inspiring people to include and cook with ingredients that can sometimes be daunting. I wanted to show others how food could be inspiring, where it comes from and that cooking from scratch is the single most powerful thing you can do for yourself and your family. The retreats were my initial stage into spreading the message.
My lifelong passion for food meant I appointed myself retreat cook and my hobby quickly transformed into my career as a chef in plant based cuisine. From here, I specialised in gluten-free and free-from cooking, which form the foundations of my cooking, recipes and workshops to this day.
I went on to study at the Matthew Kenney Culinary Academy in Los Angeles to expand my cooking skills and knowledge and learn the culinary arts along with extensive travelling and discovering how other cultures cook and use plant foods. I started sharing recipes on Instagram and slowly but surely people wanted more and Bettina´s Kitchen was born.
Bettina’s Kitchen today encompasses culinary, yoga and mindfulness retreats, plant based cooking workshops, recipe development, food writing, and most recently, my first cookbook, Happy Food. Everything I do honours my own beliefs around food and wellness and aligns with my philosophies: that we should eat seasonally, locally and from farm to table as much as we can; we should support small businesses within our communities; we must use roots, shoots and all! Cooking waste free is particularly important to me; and we must let our veggies do the talking – the best plant food is fuss-free, simple, easy, inexpensive and speaks for itself.
The last few years have been quite the adventure! I have had recipes featured in the Telegraph and Sunday Times, have been endorsed by Jamie Oliver and Conde Nast and am lucky enough to get to work with some top brands and names in the industry. My second book is now out 7 Day Vegan Challenge that enables anyone to include as many plant based recipes into their repertoire as possible. Combining healthy cooking with travel and wellness worldwide and you can find me cooking on and training local kitchen teams with Reclaim Yourself Retreats. Reclaim Yourself speciality is introducing people to remote, magical places including Mongolia, Iceland, and Zanzibar. I also host my very own Retreat once to twice a year in my favourite place in the world, Bali. The rest of the year you can cook with me and learn from my experience by joining one of my Retreat Chef Academies that I run a few times a year. It is a one week intensive course where I teach you everything that I have learnt over the years of being in the wellness industry.
My knowledge of and passion for plant-based foods continues to grow and I am constantly on the hunt for delicious solutions to the belief that eating plants is boring, expensive and time consuming. I hope that I can help to inspire you to incorporate more plants into your diet, provide a starting point for your journey and show you just how easy cooking with plants can be. I believe we can start now to positively influence the next generation in the importance of true self-care and choices so that, unlike us, they don’t have to relearn them later in life. This includes sourcing local ingredients in any shape or form, preserving traditions, eating seasonally and cooking from scratch.