Does Food Matter- Chef Cynthia Louise
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Welcome to a very personal story. A story of my heart that has been through change, work, grief, shock, desire, open heart surgery (twice), shame, compassion and vulnerability. My name is Cynthia and I am a Chef. The next thing I want you to know about me is that I struggled for many years searching for answers of what to eat for optimal health.

I was born in Australia and adopted from birth in 1971. #Bless all the amazing nurses that looked after me in the hospital after I was born, they informed my adopted parents that I had a heart valve problem which over time, would need to be replaced. I was born with just 2 parts to one of my heart valves and not three like normal. 

My beautiful and caring adopted parents said, “Not a problem, we want her and will do everything we know to look after her and her heart”

Life growing up with my adopted parents was delicious, truly incredible! I was, and still am, loved in a way I can only describe as TOTAL unconditional LOVE”

I grew up in PNG (Papua New Guinea) I remember my first cooking class in school (on the few occasions when I actually attended school) with Miss Bull, in Home-Eco. I remember her soft and gentle ways of teaching and my report card was clear, this was the only class I didn’t fail.

My days on the island were surrounded by visits to other islands, filled with coral reefs, rainforests, roaring rivers and surrounded by an abundance of tropical food. I have great memories of fresh whole food, climbing giant Mango trees out the back of my Dad’s workshop, being covered in green ants – I was determined to get the best juiciest mango on the highest branch, and that always required that little extra effort and sacrifice

My food days were drawn to local cuisine and I felt… what I can only describe as – being FREE.

A few years after I moved back to Australia it was decided I finally needed to have heart surgery at the age of 28. I had a valvotomy, not a replacement valve. It was a new technique that opens up the valve leaflets which allows better blood flow. This type of surgery was a temporary solution.  I was clearly told I would need a complete valve replacement in around seven years time after this first surgery

I was in SHOCK when I heard this…

It was the worst thing anyone could say to someone…

 I know that fear alone is intensely suffocating, and of course, I began to count down those 7 years following my first open heart operation

After surgery I was given a diet/lifestyle list of the do’s and don’ts – the theme was clear: 

Low fat dairy, Sugar free sodas, lean meat cuts, whole grains, milo, margarine, salmon, limited fruit daily, crappy protein shakes and steamed veggies.  

Basically… no flavour in sight! And I hated diets, I didn’t grow up with them or any body issues, I find diets are riddled with restriction and certainly not positive. Everything I knew about flavour and food was now quickly becoming a past memory. I really had no idea what was the right thing to do when it came to “diet versus a healthy lifestyle” while living with my condition.

Deep in my soul I knew the diet they gave me yelled – restriction + limitations with no balance. 

  I was a confident home cook with loads of passion and as a young adult I spent endless days helping and learning techniques while preparing food. I learned good foundations and loved cooking at home. I was known by my friends as “Cynthia – a great home cook that has the best dinner parties EVER!” Clearly, I had a gift. I also thought my cooking was super healthy in so many ways. However – now I know – it wasn’t. Most recipes I knew were meat, meat and more MEAT, with of course that veggie add-on twist! 

Looking back, vegetables were definitely not the top of my list when I cooked – they were an afterthought. A few years had passed and I found myself working in one of Australia’s leading health retreats, surrounded by the most incredible team of humans; biochemists, dietitian’s; herbal medicine experts, chinese medicine experts; naturopaths, women’s health doctors, all of whom held daily lectures at the retreat.  

I remember sitting in the nutrition lectures at the retreat being absolutely blown away by what I was learning – that feeling hasn’t changed.”

I witnessed the new guests come though the doors of the retreat every Sunday, attending the lectures. Sixty brand new sick, tired and suffering humans, looking for long term solutions. They were coming to the right place.

I felt my heart everyday and was searching urgently for the right answers that would help me. I tried many things and found it all very f*ck!#g stressful! 

I was told to drink green smoothies….. “Well I just couldn’t… I gagged at the thought of it!”  I was told to go all RAW and found too hard. I felt, once again, this was a fleeting solution and not the right lifestyle choice. I had people in my circle telling me to add ‘heart healthy’ salmon to my lifestyle four times a week and they were sure it was the way forward. 

At each lecture I attended at the retreat, salmon was not the answer for me or for our guests – as it’s farmed in my country and full of nasty food colouring, GMO feed pellets, unnecessary animal fats and antibiotics.

Basically I was CONFUSED, anxious, constantly stressed and exhausted from searching for answers. My self esteem was also shot as I was counting down those seven years – my life was at stake. 

I was trapped in my thought patterns, obsessing over and over about what was the right food…

what were the right ingredients for optimal heart health and what was right for the health of all the other organs in my body. 

I knew I didn’t want a 12 week diet or short term plan, for me that felt impossible – incredibly difficult to commit to. In amongst all this anguish, there was one thing that gave me ease; I was being trained as a healthy chef to cook whole real food that served the organs of the guests that came through the door of the health retreat. “The answer I was looking for was right in front of me!” 

I worked hard as a chef at the retreat, learning about the right sugars, oils and salts, and also learnt that carbs and rice were not evil! I was shown how to balance flavours using mostly plants (and definitely no bottled sauces) it was a whole new world for me. I was beginning to realize that food really does affect EVERYTHING in the human body including the organs which are housed inside. Real food is a common foundation of a strong healthy lifestyle and our bodies respond to those natural ingredients.

I continued attending the lectures at the retreat, I made myself known to all the doctors and practitioners.  I learned about the human body and how the organs operate and absorb nutrition. I learned that the body can heal Itself and that we have lost our way with food choices and our horrible western diet and all confused with a sea full of advice of what the hell to EAT!

I asked loads of questions about why plants have such incredible healing powers. I was given clear answers and hundreds of case studies from the team and their mentors. World renowned mentors such as Dr T Colin Campbell and so many others. It was profound and there was NO dieting or plans at all… the consistent answer was simply, eat mostly plants.

I continued chefing and also started eating what I was serving the guests. I was in the right place at the right time, cooking 8-10 hours a day using ingredients that were mostly plants; following the guidelines of ingredients the Biochemist suggested I use. I was in food healing heaven. 

“I felt the struggle and stress of what to EAT literally leave my body. I also felt a sense of calmness that I can only describe as ‘right’. Everything about it was ‘right’; it tasted right and it felt right.” 

It became super clear to me, FOOD DOES MATTER – not just for heart health, for all-over optimal health. It mattered more than I had ever realized. The list of foods I was sent home with, was simple yet revolutionary.

Years passed and I became a massive part of people’s health transformations. I witnessed the complete renewal of individuals, not just their health but also their mind-sets. I too, was feeling ALIVE; the food I was eating was living foods and I was transforming, all from the inside out. All my organs were loving these incredible tasting recipes that I was learning to create. Eating this way literally changed my entire ecosystem overnight. My skin was super clear, my hormones where at ease and I was not blowing out every month, so much more energy, I could see the effects in my outer frame and can you imagine my inner frame loading up on all these vitamins and minerals, no wonder why I managed to prolong that first surgery.   

I poured these same practices from the health retreat into my life at home.

I was swapping out ingredients from my pantry – sugars, oils, flours, sauces, dressings, anything that was not whole, real food – I just didn’t buy. I had developed a new value system and felt completely supported as my work flourished.

I was looking at food with more respect than ever before. Finally, I had no food fight! I simply AMPED up the plants on my plate; more and more plants than I ever thought was possible – even when I was snacking – I was snacking on plants. I started to feel an incredible difference in my stamina and my skin – my entire world was transforming. I experienced dramatic effects immediately. I was really connecting the dots and my organs were loving it! All 78 organs that is! Every single one functioning optimally. 

Meanwhile, in the back of my mind, I was still counting down the years 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Yes, I was still counting, but with far less fear –

I couldn’t believe it!  I was not only kicking goals. My health was the best it had ever been. My eyes were bright, my skin was clear and my weight was managed naturally. I was like an energy bunny.. I was YEARS overdue for surgery 

I could not believe it, I was now actually17 years over.

 By the way, this is a ‘HOLY crap’ moment as I write this story. I remain – increasingly grateful.

Fast forward, 17 years later, all of my Doctors and specialists were SHOCKED to find that I was able to live in such a way that prolonged my surgery. 

I had lived so much longer without a full valve replacement, in their experience I should have dropped dead!  And yet, I hadn’t. I shared with them what my diet and my lifestyle was and they all said “Oh Yes! Continue that.”

So, On the 10th of May, 2017 – almost 17 years to the day – I went in for a full valve replacement. I was the talk of the hospital for several reasons; firstly, every nurse on duty was drawn to the delicious scent of essential oils floating through the ward. Secondly, the antitheist was completely shocked that I was still able to function; she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. The heart valve was deteriorated for sure, no question there, but the heart itself was healthy and strong – certainly not inflamed.


Because THE FOOD I had been eating allowed my body to operate the best it could – with what it had – without too much pressure on my system

My surgery went so well. 

Afterwards, I built my body and blood back with more plants than ever before. I witnessed the effects of my lifestyle choices and I knew I had found my answers.

I sit here today with an extraordinary heart beat; a beat like I have never EVER felt or heard before in this life – in this body. As I write this, I can feel every heartbeat and it feels magnificent! It is fascinating to consider that NOW I feel what everyone refers to as, “normal”.

If you are in the place that I used to be in; complete confusion about what the right ingredients are for the human body and you want to live a life without continually obsessing over what to EAT for optimum health and prevention of disease; you know deeply inside on a soul level that something needs to change for you to experience health like never before – I am here to help you.

I have put everything I know into these cooking classes; Not everyone can come to a health retreat, or take me home, so I did the one thing that made total sense. I filmed my work, recipe after recipe all the bits I learnt from drs. All that amazing training and experience I have accumulated at ‘over-priced’ fancy health retreats; all the sick people I have helped; all the information and advice from doctors, dieticians, biochemists, naturopaths and the many healers I have had the absolute privilege of working alongside of, and of course, my own personal journey with healing which has brought me the incredible knowledge and 100% awareness that FOOD DOES MATTER! With a little guidance, love and support I got there, and I have the same for you too. I will create the power and the kindness inside of you to change your health – into optimal health – by cooking this way. I did it and so can you.

I say YES

I say  YES to pasta, YES to meatless meatballs and spaghetti, YES to creamy mushroom pasta sauce, YES to “not” butter chicken and YES to all the things that I thought I would miss out on! YES to great health, healthy weight loss and prevention of disease and sickness.

Thank you for your time reading my story. It Was not an easy one to share as the shame to “Be” healthy creates its own life experiences that are not healthy. 

As my dear friend Kat Dawes teaches me to “express, transform, declare” all the things that worked for me over the years and do to this day, as I deliberately navigate in a world full of food trends fads and diets I am “eating” in the answer.


Chef Cynthia Louise


PS…There are two primary choices in life. 

“To accept conditions as they exist, or accept the possibility to change them”….I say YES to you transforming them..


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About the Author

Chef Cynthia Louise is an Internationally acclaimed MasterChef, speaker, author, restaurant consultant, teacher and television presenter in wholefood, dairy-free cooking. She also has the worlds first online cooking classes focused on dairy-free plant-based whole foods with recipes that people are raving about and changing people's health, one delicious bite at a time. Chef Cynthia loves nothing more than educating people about the simplicity and vitality of a plant-based, whole foods lifestyle. Each dish is like art on a plate and her flavour combinations nourish the soul and get everyone talking.

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