Introducing NADIA magazine
Nadia Lim thrives on simplicity – in her home, family life, Nude Food philosophy and now, in her bi-monthly magazine, NADIA
Who is Nadia Lim? She’s a household name – your healthy, but not too healthful, eating champion. You may know Nadia through her recipes, or the news that she sliced off her fingertip or had a baby boy. Maybe she comes into your house each week through your delivery of My Food Bag or her friendly Facebook posts.
Since winning MasterChef NZ in 2011, the 30-year-old chef and dietician has written five best-selling cookbooks, launched My Food Bag and Bargain Box and been a MasterChef NZ and My Kitchen Rules judge.
She has hosted her own cooking show (on the Asian Food Channel), worked as an ambassador for ingredients as diverse as New Zealand avocados and Regal Salmon, and promoted New Zealand food around the world.
And now she’s the inspiration behind NADIA magazine, in which, every two months, she will share her cooking, wellness and family philosophies.
Because as well as being that driven foodie entrepreneur you know, she’s the laidback mother who lets 6-month-old Bodhi eat grass (“I reckon he’ll be a foodie”) and doesn’t bother changing his clothes too often.
She’s the chilled-out entertainer who resurrects leftovers and “speed cooks” with husband Carlos Bagrie, a fellow foodie and the marketing guru behind My Food Bag. She’s the nature lover who goes camping whenever she can, using Google Maps to seek out remote beaches.
And yes, she’s the gutsy cook who quit her job at the Auckland District Health Board Diabetes Centre to dive headfirst into her dream career after winning MasterChef NZ. Six months later, Carlos joined her in the business – leaving the cupboards a little bare for a while. Thankfully, Nadia’s creative approach to food resonated with New Zealanders.
She’s a Westie at heart, she says, having grown up in West Auckland. And with a Kiwi mum and Malaysian Chinese dad, Nadia experienced the best of both cultures. She partly credits her culinary obsession to her six-year stint living in Malaysia, from the age of 6 to 12.
“Malaysia’s a real melting pot of different cultures and the food reflects that,” she explains. “You have Indian, Malay, Chinese, Portuguese, Thai, Vietnamese, all melded into one.”
As well as learning about Asian ingredients and cooking techniques, Nadia discovered the true meaning of family dining while living in Malaysia. “We’d have a family dinner every one to two weeks, 50 or 60 of us. We’d take up a few tables in one of the local restaurants. It was plastic tables and chairs and everyone just kind of squished in. It was pretty crowded around the table!”
Returning to New Zealand at 12, she started hosting dinner parties for friends. “I’d plan out three to four-course meals and mocktails to match,” she explains. She also cooked three family meals a week “which Mum loved”.
She came top in her food tech class every year at Avondale College. “It’s the only thing I was the best at,” she laughs. “No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t be the best at anything else! Cooking and food always just came easily and naturally to me and I was so interested.”
It was clear she was destined for a career in food, but Nadia had a brief foray into architecture before heading to Otago University to study nutrition. It was here that she met Carlos, who was studying marketing.
After completing post-graduate studies in dietetics, Nadia did a stint in the Annabel Langbein test kitchen, then moved to the Auckland DHB Diabetes Centre to share healthy eating advice.
This focus on nutrition has remained integral to Nadia’s philosophy as a chef. She is committed to getting Kiwis to eat a less complicated, ‘nude food’ diet.
Nude Food is all about ignoring fads and diets and “eating real food that comes from the ground, the sea and the sky, and learning to trust your instincts”, she explains. “It’s mainly about empowering people to be able to make their own food choices, as opposed to following some expert or special diet, because I don’t believe in any of that.”
The Nude Food channel, a series of easy, healthy recipe videos which Nadia launched on You Tube, is an idea she came up with almost 20 years ago while watching Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef. “I was really inspired by him. I started creating my first little cookbook when I was 12. I remember the first recipes were so weird,” she laughs, recalling a lavender chilli milkshake and disastrous bacon and egg-filled bread. “That was one of my first realisations where I was, like: wow, it’s not so easy.”
Home for the family of three is a villa in Auckland’s Westmere, an open-plan space where they can relax or work around the dining table, with Bodhi asleep on the floor. The kitchen, of course, is the hub, where ingredients spill out of cupboards, hot drinks bubble on the stove, and hundreds of recipes are tested each year.
Along with recipe-testing, work can mean anything from the relaunch of Nadia’s website to the latest My Food Bag strategy, research for the next cookbook or charity work for the Cambodia Charitable Trust among others.
The pair have an office in town but a lot of work is done at home, so both parents schedule “Bodhi days” to ensure they get enough quality time. Nadia and Carlos love cooking together and enjoy My Food Bag each night, alternating between the different bags. “It makes it so fast when the two of us cook together and it’s a really nice time for us to catch up,” Nadia explains.
“I’ll put Bodhi to bed and Carlos will start the prep. Then when I come out, we’ll finish cooking together. It’s a nice, relaxing time and you’re doing something together. Then you get to sit down to a meal that you’ve both had input into.”
Downtime is important to the couple. One strategy they swear by is the “mind break”, a tech-free long weekend every few months. “My favourite thing is camping,” Nadia says. “You have to go somewhere different, preferably in nature, because it brings you back to the bare essentials of what humans need.”
That’s often when she comes up with new ideas or reconnects with the true nature of food – like remembering that dinner parties aren’t about perfection, but about spending time together.
Hence her dedication to simplicity and her balanced approach to life – which includes making bacon chocolate truffles at times. It’s about “not taking it all too seriously”, she says. “Have your treats as well and don’t feel guilty about it.”
Not feeling guilty – it could be another Nadia Lim motto.
Words by: Fiona Ralph. Photography by: Todd Eyre.