Buro 24/7 Middle East Interview: Daintree Foods' Jeffrey Zorn
Viva la nutrition revolution
With a mission to start a food revolution across Dubai, the newly launched Daintree Food founder Jeffrey Zorn aims to become the Emirate's healthiest takeaway service.
Daintree features a wide range of recipes that are all paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, GMO-free, soy-free, corn-free, legume-free, grain-free, refined sugar-free, organic and sustainable where possible... And yet they are anything but flavour-free.
'Going Daintree' means a package that offers six days a week of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks delivered to your door – including items such as grass-fed portobello mushroom beef burgers, and Thai chicken curry with cauliflower rice and kale chips.
Buro 24/7 Middle East sits down with the brains behind Daintree, to find out more.
How did the Daintree concept come about?
A few years ago, I was sick with autoimmune and digestive issues. I thought I was taking steps to heal myself and was frustrated by my lack of progress and I finally went to see a functional medicine specialist.
A look at the antibodies in my blood told me what foods where harming my immune system and which foods were safe for me to eat... Ranked highly among my intolerances were gluten, dairy and eggs, and some minor offenders like salad leaves, the ones I ate every day at lunch.
Armed with this new information I set about making a menu plan that was healthy for me that involved variety, rotation and most importantly a list of foods to completely avoid. Of the 240 food I was tested for, 41 of them were making me sick! Having to cut out 41 foods from my diet was pretty intimidating but I knew the problem was real and I finally had an answer as to why I was sick all the time. I set about making the changes to my diet but found that friends and family around me struggled to make the same changes. It was a tough transition for many of us because after all, highly processed food is also convenient and where can you go to get a meal that accommodates gluten, dairy and egg free meals?
We created Daintree in order help those who are struggling with health issues but not getting any answers and find themselves frustrated by lack of progress. So many people out there are struggling with chronic pain, disease and issues with weight, and there is no magic pill. The solution requires a little science, a lot of good food, will power and a some help from your friends and doctors. Now we operate a gluten, dairy and egg free kitchen that delivers to people all over Dubai and we have seen some amazing and measureable results in just a short amount of time. We have a dedicated team of people who are passionate about food, nutrition and exercise who are ready to help people start their journey to optimal health.
Why did you choose the name Daintree?
We wanted to link our brand to something natural and pure. We choose the name after the Daintree Rainforest in Northern Australia where hunter gathers still lead very simple lives in harmony with their environment. For the locals there, the forest acts as their shelter, gym, playground, supermarket, medicine chest, school and temple all rolled into one. It's the very embodiment of the paleo lifestyle!
Which is your favourite item on the menu?
Paleo butter chicken with cauliflower rice. Who doesn't love traditional butter chicken? The only set back is the insulin coma that ensues after eating that mountain of rice and naan bread. So the ability to enjoy this dish again but without gluten, dairy or a ton of carbs is too good to be true. How can it be possible? We replace the dairy with organic coconut milk and yoghurt from our friends at COCO YOGO and instead of boring rice we grate up cauliflower to mimic the texture of rice so you get a full serving of vegetables without the carb overload. Some of our client don't even realise it's not traditional rice!
What is your favourite ingredient?
The spaghetti squash is a big hero of mine! Too many 'health food' companies buy into the tasteless diet version of staple ingredients. For example "new and improved wholegrain pasta, or gluten free pasta" but here is a heads up – it's not healthy and it doesn't taste good. The spaghetti squash allows you to enjoy all your noodle dishes without missing out on the noodly-ness that everyone associates with it. You still feel naughty for eating 'pasta' but this time, its delicious, unprocessed, packed full of nutrition, and gluten free, all at the same time.
Do you plan on offering the service a la carte?
We had considered it but it's a tough decision, ethically. Daintree is a lifestyle choice, not a fad diet. We want to guide and help people to live low inflammatory lives so they can reach their maximum potential for health and happiness. It's our goal to educate people on healthy eating and we simply can't do that with a one-off meal. You can't achieve the results the lifestyle offers with gluten, dairy, egg, soy, grain, sugar and GMO free, paleo lunch. Instead, we offer new clients a 1 week trial package for Dhs1,400 to allow them to try the food and after that, the results speak for themselves.
Why do you use the term 'Paleo'?
'Paleo' is just a label and one I don't particularly like but it's a lot easier to use in a conversation than, "gluten free, dairy free, egg free, grain free, GMO free, refined sugar free, low carb and organic." If we break down what makes a paleo diet its hard to deny it as the diet humans thrived on.
We have a five simple steps we live by:
If you don't recognise an ingredient, your body won't either. We unprocess the food for you and use strictly wholesome ingredients.
2. Cut out the grains and gluten, and minimise carbs.
No grains, no gluten and the carb intake comes primarily from vegetables.
3. Understand that not all fat is evil.
Bad fats are bad for you. There's no denying it – but healthy fats like avocados, nuts, olive and coconut oils are great for you.
4. Understand your protein sources.
Animals are not meant to eat genetically modified food or be injected full of hormones and antibiotics. We are strict about using wild seafood and grass-fed meats.
5. Clean eating is the most important component.
Not counting calories! Count the quality of your ingredients!
"Eating a gluten free meal isn't going to change your life one bit... But eating a variety of 90 different gluten, dairy, egg, grain, soy, and sugar free meals over the course of a month will"
What's the biggest mistake people make when it comes to healthy eating?
The calorie counting. What is a calorie and why do people keep asking, "how many calories is that?" your body doesn't know what a calorie is and chances are neither do you. Tecnically, calories are the amount of energy it takes to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water one degree on a Centigrade (Celsius) thermometer at sea level... So perhaps take some food, set it on fire and use it to boil water. If the water temperature goes up 100 degrees, the food offers 100 calories.
Counting calories is great science if you want to know how many French fries you need to burn to boil water for your morning coffee, but it doesn't tell us anything about being healthy human beings. In fact, people who count calories are more likely to be deficient in nutrients because they don't eat enough food to begin with. Now consider people who are calorie restricted diets and get a percentage of those calories for thing like bread, rice and other staples of the modern diet. It's no wonder everyone is struggling with weight and health issues.
The solution is to count ingredients and colours not calories. The colour of your food is determined by its chemical composition so the more colours on your plate, the more nutrients you have available in your body. These nutrients are the building blocks your body uses to allow you to feel happy, to grow your hair, repair your muscles and support your immune system. All those things associated with being a healthy human being.
"Counting calories is great science if you want to know how many French fries you need to burn to boil water for your morning coffee, but it doesn't tell us anything about being healthy human beings"
What's the easiest thing people can do to be healthier?
Quit smoking. I'm only sort of joking but it cuts right to the heart of the issue. There is no quick fix when it comes to making you healthy, happy or successful. You have to invest in yourself and that takes time and education and a little help from the people around you. This is the reason that we started Daintree Food is to support those people who are committed to leading a healthy life. The truth is, you probably need to do 20 things to be healthier, all at the same time and you have to do them consistently. Eating a gluten free meal isn't going to change your life one bit... But eating a variety of 90 different gluten, dairy, egg, grain, soy, and sugar free meals over the course of a month will.
Where are your favourite healthy spots or things to do in Dubai?
I love the beach. It's a great way to lower stress hormone levels after a long work week while building up your vitamin D levels which are essential for your immune system. It's impossible to focus on the negative when I am soaking up the sun and enjoying the ocean. I usually bring a Frisbee or volleyball and afterwards, cool off with a mask and snorkel and see what I can find in our waters!
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
I love Salmon Sashimi... Beautiful orange protein mixed with creamy omega 3 fats! I die for the taste and the texture but it's not exactly a balanced meal. Can I add in a crunchy seaweed salad?
Can you share with us a Daintree recipe for us to try at home?
Daintree's Paleo Shrimp Scampi with Coconut Creamed Spinach
1 jar of organic coconut oil or grass fed cow's ghee
1 kg wild shrimp, fully cleaned and deveined
1 kg fresh spinach
1 large white onion, coarsely chopped
1 head garlic
1 large lemon
1 small bunch of fresh parsley
1 tin of organic coconut milk
1 whole nutmeg
Sea or Himalayan salt
For the Scampi
1. Heat the 2 tbsp. of cooking fat in a large skillet and cook the shrimps until just cooked and opaque, about 2 minutes.
2. Set the shrimps aside, reduce the heat to medium-low and, with 1 tbsp. of the butter or ghee cook the garlic for about 30 seconds, until just fragrant.
3. Remove the skillet from the heat, add the lemon juice, chopped parsley, remaining 2 tbsp. coconut oil or ghee and cayenne pepper and season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Return the shrimps to the pan and combine well.
For the Coconut Cream Spinach
1. Place the spinach in a pot of salted boiling water and boil for just a minute. Drain hot water and plunge spinach in ice-cold water until ready to cook (This process will help the spinach hold its dark green colour that makes the dish look amazing, not to mention stops the cooking process so you don't destroy all the nutrients).
2. Drain spinach in a strainer and press with a wooden spoon to release the most water possible. Coarsely chop the cooked spinach.
3. Heat a skillet over a medium-high heat and cook the onion and garlic in the cooking fat until the onions are soft, about 2 minutes.
4. Add the spinach and stir around for about another 2 minutes.
5. Pour the coconut milk, season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, add a pinch of nutmeg and cook to reduce by half, about 4 minutes.
Tip: you can also use other non-dairy milks, such as almond or flax.