Bettina Campolucci Bordi is a self-taught chef and passionate plant advocate. Her speciality is plant-based and free from recipe development for brands, the hospitality industry and within food development. She has written three cookbooks, Happy Food, 7 Day Vegan Challenge and Celebrate. She also runs health and wellness retreats, works as a freelance retreat chef and teaches others to do the same through her retreat chef academy. She is passionate about unravelling the potential of plant foods by following basic principles of seasonality and local produce. She cooks food that makes you feel good, that is grown within the seasons and nurtured by people that care.
Hi Bettina. What made you go vegan, or have you always been vegan?
Bettina Campolucci Bordi: From a personal aspect, I became strictly vegan and gluten-free for a good few years alongside my career in wellness. I made not only dietary changes but many life changes that led to a more positive outlook and also, to a certain degree, helped with my very early diagnosis of PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and endometriosis. As I embarked on my new career, I also became pregnant and had my daughter even though I was told that it was never likely to happen.
I am always very careful with claims when it comes to food and healing and would like to pinpoint that everyone is different and that different things work for different people. Fast forward nine years and I am now predominantly plant-based and have been able to include gluten back into my diet – hurrah for sourdough! I believe that we all go through different stages of life and things constantly change and evolve. Now more than ever, sourcing locally and seasonally, are just as important to me.
How did going vegan evolve into your career as a plant-based chef?
Bettina Campolucci Bordi: I think that many things happened to me on a personal and career level when I started cooking plant-based. I started off hosting and cooking on my own wellness retreats over nine years ago in Southern Spain where I lived for 12 years.
After a lifelong romance with cooking on a personal level, but never pursuing it as a career, I finally took the leap. After hosting and cooking on my first ever retreat that happened to be plant-based, I felt like everything fell into place.
I finally got to cook for a living and had this whole new plant-based world to discover and techniques to master. I enjoyed making people fall in love with the ingredients they ate during their stay at the retreat, without the feeling that they were missing out on anything like meat or gluten. My mission is to offer countless options rather than the narrative of what one cannot have – I want to promote all the exciting options that are available.
Your career has taken off in so many exciting directions! Tell us how you became an author and podcaster.
Bettina Campolucci Bordi: I solely ran retreats for several years in Southern Spain. Whilst doing so I started using social media to document my dishes and that took off, as well as developing recipes for brands and magazine articles. I started freelancing more and ended up cooking on a press weekend where I was introduced to a book agent. That is how I ended up writing my first cookbook Happy Food.
When the book came out I relocated to London and two more books followed. I still run wellness retreats and also teach retreat cheffing at my Bettina’s Kitchen Academy. The podcast was founded with Niki Webster, a good friend and fellow cook and author. We chat with prominent people within food, their passions and advice. I have my fingers in lots of pies but feel very lucky that I get to do what I love every day!
Some vegan recipes can be complicated, with lots of ingredients, processes and cooking utensils required. You offer easy, simple recipes. Do you have any tips or hacks for easy vegan cooking for someone new to it?
Bettina Campolucci Bordi: I do! Get good, seasonal and local ingredients.
A plant-based diet does not have to be complicated. Simply start off with grains, pulses and basic veggies and so much can be achieved. When you have great seasonal ingredients, you don’t need to overcomplicate things.
It’s one of the reasons why I wrote the 7 Day Vegan Challenge, a book that shows how vegan cooking from scratch is easy and delicious. My top tip for those wanting to be a bit more plant-based is to sign up to a local veg box. At the moment I am receiving one from Ashdown Organics and Natoora but there are many wonderful companies out there.
Tell us more about your new online classes. They look very tempting!
Bettina Campolucci Bordi: I released my online classes in February. They are all about learning how to create incredible plant-based and free-from staples such as milks, yoghurts, bread, sauces, dressings, cheeses, desserts and much more.
Whether you are a plant-based eater or not, you will be sure to learn a host of new skills that will up your cooking. People are blown away by how easy it is to make your own vegan cheese.
There are a few different recipes I include in the course. The course consists of pre-recorded recipe videos where I teach you the recipes first-hand. I cover ageing, flavouring, preparation and presentation.
Why are seasonal eating and local produce so important to you?
Bettina Campolucci Bordi: Because it’s eating in a way that supports the environment and local food producers. I am aware that in this day and age it isn’t possible to do this 100%, but by doing as much as possible, we can really make a difference to our lives and our planet.
What is your favourite seasonal ingredient right now (March)?
Bettina Campolucci Bordi: I love forced rhubarb because of the beautiful pink hue and taste. With such a short season, it makes it even more exciting for me. I also love the story of how it’s grown and picked, and the amount of care that goes into the process. There is something incredibly romantic about the bright pink stems being picked in candlelight, don’t you think?
What other passion projects are you cooking up?
Bettina Campolucci Bordi: I am working on a proposal for my fourth book, which is exciting! I also really hope my long-haul retreats, in places like Bali, India and Ecuador, will happen after being in the pipeline for the last two years. I have also released an intimate pop-up called ‘A Table For 10’, where I host dinners in my kitchen.