Living Better with
Bella Natural Food Co
Photography by Tim Brand
If you ignore the dazzling sunshine that is an almost constant feature of Terrigal, Bella Natural Food Co. transports you to a leafy Eastern Suburbs street. The inky black exterior, the restrained signage, the minimalist timber and black tolix chairs … And the food. Not so many years ago Bella pioneered clean eating on the Coast, and they’re still blazing a trail of wellbeing today.
Bella Natural Food Co. started with a personal health journey. Eight years ago Nicole and Kosta Kandis were living in Sydney with their two young children, working too hard and feeling a little cheated by life. Kosta is a graphic designer by trade and was self employed, Nicole was managing child care centres in Rose Bay and Vaucluse.
Kosta developed an interest in naturopathy when he sought advice from an iridologist. Fascinated by the process, and the fact that the changes suggested to him had made significant improvements to his health, Kosta embarked on a passionate mission to learn about natural healing, particularly through food. Meanwhile Nicole had become interested in nutrition too and was taking an active role in the food served to the children in her centres’ care.
Both pursuits were part of a general yearning for a more rewarding, balanced and healthy lifestyle for their young family. 2009 saw the Kandis’ move to the Central Coast.
The next two years were a bit tough – Kosta was working long hours from home and Nicole was commuting to Sydney each day, having stayed on at her job after the move. Their shared commitment to improved nutrition with more raw and whole foods was also proving difficult, with suitable shops scarce on the Coast. As a result Nicole was doing most of their food shopping on her daily trips to Sydney.
Kosta was still studying naturopathic healing when local business, Terrigal Garden Fresh Fruit Markets, came on the market and the couple saw a unique opportunity.
The business was well established, offering fresh produce and a small range of grocery items to tourists and Terrigal locals. There was also a small coffee window doing a modest trade with some simple, accompanying food. Most importantly it was a business with a lot of good will, a good vibe.
Nicole and Kosta purchased the business in 2011 and set about slowly building their dream. The business perfectly dovetailed both selfish and selfless rationales – they both had a passion for helping others embrace cleaner, healthier eating, and … they would now have somewhere to do their shopping locally!
The couple had definitely found their new home lacking in healthy eating options. Reasoning that there must be others like them, ordinary families who wanted access to better quality foods, they set about remodelling the business, now called Bella Natural Food Co. after their eldest child.
Kosta was able to put his love of raw foods and fresh produce into action and he could also indulge in an older passion – coffee. He completed a short training stint with Toby’s Estate and enthusiastically took on barista duties.
Nicole was committed to providing wholesome food choices at Bella, the same sorts of things she made for her own family. Nicole is a passionate advocate for organic, preservative and additive free foods and is convinced that many make the journey to improved health through food way too complicated.
Healthy food doesn’t have to be hard. It’s not about chucking everything out and filling your trolley with all sorts of miracles from the health food aisle. It’s about choosing to put good quality, unprocessed foods into your body. This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavour, it’s just about rediscovering how good real, natural food is.
Nicole’s children (she and Kosta now have four) have access to good food and also to nutritional education through their parents. They also have some measure of control over what they eat – Nicole tells how they burst into the store after school and scoff vegetables off the shelf. It’s a point of pride for her that her kids can grab anything in the store, product or produce, and she knows it’s a good, nutritious choice.
It wasn’t long before demand for Nicole’s food was exceeding what she could produce. Fortuitously a friend had moved to the Coast and was keen to be involved. They were now offering a larger range of foods but they had tapped into an appreciative market – expansion in the kitchen was essential. Luckily a regular lunch customer turned out to be chef Jon Davidson, at that time working at The Cowrie. He was keen to join the team.
They now have two full time chefs – Ray Irvine has joined Jon in the kitchen. And a full time barista is on main duty with the beans nowadays, although Kosta helps out regularly. Bella’s barista recently won the the inaugural Latte Art Throwdown, hosted by Glee Coffee Roasters, a worthy win – Bella is well known for their excellent coffee and the café is a coffee lovers destination on the Coast.
Nicole’s friend Catherine is still in charge of the baking, turning out delicious treats every day. And another member of the Bella ‘family’, Mick, now oversees the fresh produce, lovingly hand selecting everything that’s sold instore and used in the kitchen.
Taking on professional chefs has pushed the food to a new level, also fired by Nicole and Kosta’s desire to add more options to their seasonal menus. But the couple are adamant that the food they serve is healthy and nutrient driven, not ‘restaurant food’.
Jon and Ray’s training is very different to this way of cooking but the four have worked together well. Nicole and Kosta continue to educate themselves in the latest research, taking it to the kitchen and creating delicious food with the help of their kitchen team.
Today a tasty range of simple meals, juices, smoothies, healthy sweet treats and baked goods are served at Bella. And to an appreciative clientele – Bella Natural Food Co. was recently recognised by Women’s Health Magazine’s Top 50 Healthy Cafes and also by the Body + Soul weekend supplement as an outstanding choice for healthy eating. And with the recent addition of CocoWhip, a vegan, gluten and dairy-free soft serve with a far superior nutritional value to any other frozen dessert on the market, they are again sourcing great products and bringing them to the Coast.
The mission with Bella has been twofold – to provide the Coast with a healthy eating option but to also educate in nutrition and to be an example to others who might want to make the same changes for their families’ health and happiness. In the process the Kandis’ have found their holistic ‘living better’ groove. And of course shopping is a whole lot easier now …