Q&A with Slow Food Guru Cade McConnell in Byron Bay
We first met Cade McConnell at the original Body Holiday retreat in Bundjalung Country, Byron Bay where he cooked a beautiful evening meal for us. Once he joined us at the table, Cade read us poems from his poetry book and shared his perspective on food and what it means to him. We love his slow, mindful approach that we deep dive into below and are so excited to have him sharing two of his recipes, a green mango salad and beetroot dahl from his upcoming cooking book in our Byron Bay online retreat.
At the table at the original Body Holiday we began to understand that cooking for you is so much more than the food. Can you tell us a little about your background and approach to cooking and food?
I’ll try keep this brief, as I dive a lot deeper into all this in my cookbook.
My way with food is an extension of my way of life. I try to follow principles around being resourceful, supporting local organic farmers, cooking with local spring water, cooking in earthenware vessels and using wholefoods that have not been heavily processed.
When I cook, I feel connected to a lineage of people who’ve come before me. Cooking has sustained human life since our ancestors first made fire. I source my inspiration for cooking from these traditional ways. A slower pace, the use of clay pots, grinding ingredients between stones, cooking over fire, using my hands throughout every step of the process – these methods connect me to what it has always meant to be human.
There is a tactile element to cooking that can be deeply meditative. It is a simple, albeit profoundly purposeful task. In the inevitable challenging or full times of life, the task of cooking anchors me, tethering my awareness back into my body, and into the here and now.
We first met you on Bundjalung Country, Byron Bay and learned you sourced your ingredients locally. Can you tell us more about your relationship with the land and your ingredients and how that impacts the food you cook?
We are blessed that so many farmers up here care for the land and grow without the use of chemicals. To me, this is food grown with integrity and love. We have 4 farmers markets a week within 30 minutes drive, it’s pretty special. This allows me to run my catering business using predominately local organic market produce. Of course some ingredients are not local like my spices and some grains.
I believe that every hand that has touched the food has impacted the meal I’ve cooked in some way. When I buy directly from the farmers, we share a joyful exchange. This goes into the food.
I also believe that my mindset is transferred into the food I am cooking. I make the kitchen a calm environment, I cook slowly with my full attention and presence. This is passed through my hands into the food and gives deep nourishment to those who are eating it.
We know first hand how truly delicious your meals are, so naturally were so excited when we heard you are releasing a cookbook! Can you tell us what inspired you to create this?
I’ve wanted to create a cookbook for many years, it’s been big project! It has allowed me to express and share creatively through many forms compressed into one project. These include the recipes, food styling, travel photography, poetry, journal articles, and my work making stone vessels. It has also allowed me to collaborate with friends who’s skills have benefited the book and helped to bring it into form. It’s been an amazing experience, I’ve learnt so much from the journey of self publishing. The book is called ‘Plants, Clay & Fire – Bring the Earth into your Kitchen’.
Your meals are made with so much love – You also have some incredible other projects we would love to know about them and how they came to be?
I have a cookware company called Quiet Earth where we offer clay and stone cooking vessels made by artisans from around the world. It’s a bid to bring the Earth back into our kitchens and to keep traditional crafts thriving by supporting the artists and makers. I am so passionate about this and know from experience how feeling connected to our kitchen and cooking vessels can have such a positive impact on how we cook and feed ourselves.
I am also making my own bowls and mortar and pestles from foraged beach stones.
At Body Holiday we love to explore the world, can you tell us about your travels and how you continue to carry what you have learnt?
I love travel. It has helped shaped me. So much of what I share with the world is influenced by my time abroad – cooking with families in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka and watching the way it’s been done for generations. I think travelling encourages me stay open and curious. I love being in new environments and settings and observing people doing life in different ways than me. It’s medicine.
What’s in the future for you? What do you want to achieve and what should we look out for?
Hmm, the future is a mystery haha. I don’t have big plans or goals, I don’t operate that way. I do have visions for my own expansion and the expansion of Quiet Earth. Though, I like to hold them close to me and let them unfold in natures hands.
My cookbook will be out late December 2023. It’s currently open for pre order over on my website. I am really proud of this creation and excited to see what this brings for me. I hope to travel around sharing cooking classes and talks about the importance of home cooking and perhaps running my own retreats, incorporating mindful cooking and time in nature.
I’ll also be releasing a new line of clay cookware in the coming months over at Quiet Earth. Where this business will take me is a mystery but I’m here for the journey!
Where and how can we follow along with you on your journey?
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts Cade!
If you haven’t already, chill out, slow down and immerse yourself in our Byron Bay retreat where Cade’s recipes feature.