FOLKDAYS Nº 61
The terms "celebrity chef" and "nutrition guru” carry very specific imagery of swaggering male TV chefs cooking heart / show stopping dishes, and waifish women warning against the dangers of everything currently in your fridge and championing various super foods that individually cost more that my weekly grocery budget. So what a joy it was to discover - and subsequently sit down and talk with - two natural firecrackers; the food world's favourite sisters: Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley, who manage to straddle both titles with none of the associated guff. In fact, in their own no-fuss way they are changing people's worlds for the better, dish by dish.
My path first crossed with Melissa at the wedding of a mutual friend where we were both seated at the naughty table - that wonderful place at any wedding reception where all the most interesting people are deposited. And it causes me no embarrassment to say in print, how her vast energy, physical ease and glowing complexion impressed on me because I'm certain that anyone who has met her has noticed this too.
Months down the line, I found myself in Berlin’s Soho House at a live demonstration and tasting of "The Art of Eating Well" (Auch auf Deutsch: "Natürlich gut essen"), from both the Hemsley girls, and on seeing the pair of them cook and speak about their food philosophy, things began to make a lot of sense. With a focus on good natural fats, the replacement of empty grains with more beneficial carbohydrate sources, the removal of gluten and refined sugar, and a more logical approach to home cooking for all times of day and schedules, they were preaching what I have slowly come to realise whilst living in Germany: there are better ways to engage with food than the ones I’d started to think were normal and acceptable. Ones that are tasty and satisfying and make you feel and look great without breaking the budget. Eating that makes you happy. Having both worked in the full force of London’s fast-paced fashion and media industries, Jasmine and Melissa had both been exposed to the constant turnover of food opinion, diet fads and unhealthy systems of eating; and seen all the negative effects these practices had on their users both physically and psychologically. I understand why so many people ask them about the concept of “guilty eating”. It has become such a normal part of so many people’s lives, that even the idea that you can eat well and enjoy every meal, every day without having to cheat at some point seems completely impossible.There are so many tips these wonderful women have in their larder that make the Art of Eating Well a daily reality. For example: did you know that turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties, and makes a deeply satisfying tea that you can add lemon and ginger to? Or that it works really beautifully in sweet dishes? No? Me either. The versatility of this and various other spices is something the girls really embrace in their cooking, and the food discoveries that are sprinkled through their recipes are what keep them interesting and fresh. How about using avocados - everyone’s favourite - as a dairy substitute in making a healthier version of cheesecake! Once you start to see how the girls use ingredients, you start to see new directions in your own classics and favourites in the kitchen. The mind opens up. In fact talking with Jasmine and Melissa about food is probably something that should only be done in a kitchen full of food, or on a full stomach because the recipes and ingredient pairings that they throw around the conversation are just too tempting. It get’s particularly difficult for me when they talk about bone broth, because this is in many ways the cornerstone of their philosophy, and also one of my favourite things in the world. For its deep hearty flavours, for its pre-biotic health properties, and its ability to sooth and comfort - there are so many reasons why bone broth is a big hitter in the Hemsley kitchen.
The other things that really draws you into Jasmine and Melissa’s world is the way food is completely woven into their lives - past and present. When they talk about a current favourite ingredient, for example, they have a wealth of stories to go with it - childhood memories of spotting rare coconuts on sale on the local high street, watching their father fighting to open the blessed fruit, then giving the remains to the grateful birds in the garden. Listening to them, you know their ideas about food come from a place of love and respect that has filtered down through the family and grown strong with the sisters. Mixing this natural heartfelt relationship with the hard science that they engage with when developing their nutritionally balanced outlook, gives their food mountains of strength.1. Who are you?
We’re Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley and we run our family business H&H, where we work with clients – often celebrities – to help them eat well and feel healthier, happier and more energised. We are contributors to Vogue.co.uk, authors of a bestselling cookbook The Art Of Eating Well and we also cater for high-profile events for clients like Chanel and Louis Vuitton.
2. What are you up to here and what made you start?
Quite simply, we do what we love…We are food lovers with a passion for wellness and delicious, nutrient-dense cooking and The Art of Eating Well is our international bestselling cookbook. As well as contributing to Vogue we also cook and consult for celebrities and high-profile events around the world.
J: I worked full-time as a model from the age of 19 and was fascinated by the many different ideas surrounding health and nutrition. Over the years I developed a way of eating that made me feel energised and toned and I found that natural, easy to digest and nutrient dense foods were what truly counted despite whatever ‘fads’ were being hailed by the media. I was soon sharing tips and tricks with friends and family. Mel, who worked as a footwear brand manager and later in marketing and promotion for gastropubs and bars, caught the bug and helped spread the word!
M: 6 years ago, we started a bespoke service aimed at helping people with their digestion and relationship with food. We became private chefs and wellness coaches but we didn’t intentionally ‘launch’ the business - it came about organically. We were cooking for clients, clearing out their cupboards, filling up their fridges and freezers and showing them how to cook our recipes and feel better - happier, healthier and more energized. Back then we didn’t have a name, our clients called us their ‘food fairies’! Within two weeks of launching our own blog, we were asked to contribute recipes to Vogue.co.uk and became the London based editors of sousstyle.com. We then developed our book The Art of Eating Well as a go-to guide for people to use as the foundation of eating and feeling well by championing good food.3. How has your work on H&H changed any of the choices you make in your personal life?
M: We’re lucky enough to be able to combine work and pleasure every day and have control over our schedules to travel or explore as we wish - deadline permitting of course! We’ve met amazing, inspiring people too, like our dear friends Yasmin Sewell and Gary Gorrow, who we collaborated with to create an urban retreat, The Mind Body Reset. I’d say that it’s been beneficial to my wellness overall - time to sleep and the ability to make better more positive choices for a happier self.
J: We’re in a great position to be able to research and try things out and then share our findings with people.
4. How do you imagine the ideal world?
M: A place where children learn to meditate, everyone cooks with love, shares more and looks after each other and the planet a bit more.
J: Slower! We’re always in such a rush to get somewhere. It’s sounds cliched but it’s all about the journey and we risk missing out on life. The world is full of gadgets and remedies to do something quicker but everyone still complains of never having enough time and we can’t remember what we did yesterday!5. Any last words?
M: I’ve always liked the quote ‘May the rest of your life be the best of your life’ - I try and enjoy every day.
J: Do what you love and love what you do.Curious and hungry? There are so many ways to meet the Hemsleys and learn more about their methods: you can visit their website (www.hemsleyandhemsley.com) or find them regularly on Vogue.co.uk. But if - like me - you prefer to take a book rather than a tablet into the kitchen, get to a shop and buy “The Art of Eating Well” and start changing your eating habits with their delicious recipes. By the time spring rolls around and you’ve tried and mastered all their recipes, their follow-up book “Good & Simple” will probably be available too!
Pictures by Nick Hopper, words and portrait by Ruth Bartlett.