Wednesday 26 November 2014

Why not join Daniella Moyles at the Breakfast Club?

The Irish model explains how her foodie journey has led to her opening her very own breakfast joint.

Published 30/06/2014 | 02:30

Daniella's food journey has led her to open her own establishment. Photo: Kip Carroll.
Daniella's food journey has led her to open her own establishment. Photo: Kip Carroll.
Daniella recommends the Green One smoothie.
Daniella with one of the nutritious smoothies from her breakfast joint.

I grew up in a foodie house. As the daughter of a chef, it was always home-made meals, followed by freshly baked this, that or the other, though our dinners weren’t as healthy as you might be thinking. There would be generous lumps of butter, cream and every other kind of seasoning used.

But I don’t ever remember eating convenience foods, like chips or fried stuff, at home. My favourite snack was Brussels sprouts. You could say I had unusual taste for a child. I loved things like consomme and antipasti platters, because we ate lots of different cuisines.

I remember I would ask my mam to make me prawn sandwiches for my school lunch, and I could never understand why my classmates thought they were so disgusting. We didn’t have set meal times growing up, we were never made to finish everything on our plates and it wasn’t part of the routine to sit at a dinner table.

We ate as much as we wanted, wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted. That could mean having cereal for dinner in the garden one afternoon, or a bowl of stew on the sitting-room floor first thing in the morning. It was this disorderly, individual and really enjoyable approach to dining in my childhood that gave me a strong, lasting relationship with food into adulthood. I mean, we all have a relationship with food, of course, otherwise we wouldn’t be alive. But eating is like a hobby of mine. I love it. Finding an amazing restaurant or enjoying an incredible dish is pure happiness to me.

For most of my teenage years, I was a bad vegetarian. I never ate red meat, but I would eat chicken and maybe some bacon every now and again, if it appeared in small amounts. I lived on enormous salads, a rainbow of vegetables, lots of beans, rice and potatoes. The vegetarian thing didn’t come from anywhere in particular. I just decided one day that I didn’t like the

taste and texture of most meats. I wasn’t met with any resistance, either, after I proudly declared it to my parents, as if I was single-handedly rebuilding the ozone layer. They just left me off the meat bill from then on, no questions asked.

I still remember vividly the day I stopped being a vegetarian for good. I was with my auntie in McDonald’s, before they had branched out into salad bowls and apple slices. McDonald’s was an awkward place for me: everyone was always excited to be there. It was usually a birthday or some kind of celebration, and I would have to order the Filet-O-Fish meal and sit on my own. This day was different. I decided to take a stand and order nothing.

My auntie got a Big Mac and asked if I wanted to try it. I said no and tried to sit it out defiantly. But, 10 hungry, empty-handed, tempting minutes later, I took a bite and it was game over. To this day, I have never tasted anything so delicious. After those half-arsed vegetarian years, I enjoyed a varied diet. In my late teens to early 20s, I had developed a strange, somewhat worldly palate from travelling. I did my shopping at the Asian Market in Dublin, and ate at food emporiums, so the options felt less restricted.

I was lanky and skinny, so I never counted calories, which allowed me to really explore my sweet tooth. There was a phase of a few months where I would treat myself to this sweet pecan pastry every day on the way home from work. But, with daily pastries eventually comes love handles, and, like any young woman, I wasn’t immune to the odd insecurity.

Working in the modelling industry only magnified this. Around the age of 22, I wanted a change, so I started to get active. For the next two years, I was wrapped up in the gym lifestyle and everything that came with it. I worked with an amazing trainer, who put up with my moaning, and, in spite of my exceptionally weak upper body, kicked my arse three times a week and got me to a point where I could lift weights that would have made me cry and/or faint at one stage.

Like most people who train regularly, I ate a protein-heavy diet. It was a bubble of chicken and broccoli and triceps. I was deeply committed, and seeing results only made me stricter on myself. I cut out a lot of carbs, avoided refined sugars at all costs and drank protein shakes almost every day. In the end, the only reason I slowed down with training and eased up on the restrictions was because I got so bored of the diet. I was sick of feeling guilty every time I would inevitably indulge in something more satisfying than lean meat and green vegetables. After all, wasn’t it pure happiness that I found at the bottom of a bowl of home-made nachos or something equally delicious?

The thing I will always be most grateful for from that time is not, surprisingly, the abs, but the education it gave me about my body and its relationship with food. I learnt a hell of a lot about healthy eating, and found it fascinating how you can change not only the aesthetic of your body, but also your mood, your energy levels and your quality of life, simply by investing some time in what you put into your mouth. It sparked my natural interest.

As I got more curious about it, I started reading up and making some conscious changes to my daily routine. My mam is a cancer survivor, thankfully out of remission and back to good health. She made the changes, too, mainly because I kept harping on at her about it and she just wanted me to shut up. But even she will now attest to the daily benefits. I’m not a scientist, I’m not a nutritionist and I’m not even a very good cook, but, for the last couple of years, I feel healthy, happy and full of energy every day.

I no longer have days where I’m agitated, or sluggish, or bloated. My skin is better, my thoughts are clearer and I’m not sure if this is just good luck, but I’ve even avoided getting a cold the last two winters. Nowadays I walk my dog every day, go to the gym twice a week (most weeks) and eat a fresh, colourful, balanced diet, meaning all macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fats), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and plenty of water.

I suppose that you could call me a meat-eater, too, although I don’t eat duck, lamb, rabbit, goat or horse. I’ll order steak on a rare occasion and, for the time being, chicken has taken a back seat to fish. I think the protein diet kind of turned me off meat. I still enjoy eating out, mainly sushi or vegan, and even the odd late-night drive-thru binge doesn’t fill me with dread. 

Two summers spent travelling, and then living and working in Los Angeles, really broadened my food horizons. In LA, healthy eating is very accessible. Almost all cafes and restaurants cater for it and promote themselves as health-food venues.

Ingredients such as chia seeds, coconut, buckwheat, and lots of other good stuff, can be found on most menus, and things like cold-press juicing are common practice. It’s easy to find wholefood supermarkets and farmers’ markets selling local organic fruit and vegetables, and other fresh produce. Of course, they have their fair share of diners, fast-food places and general junk, but I love having all the options. There is no shortage of choice if you just fancy starting your day with a belly full of healthy food. Coming back to Ireland, I missed that.

However, no one can deny we’re in the midst of a culinary revolution here in Ireland. I spend most of my days in Dublin, and there are some delicious, dynamic things happening on the food scene that are very exciting for the city.

Every few months, a new restaurant, cafe, pop-up, juice bar or other foodie venture is opening, and most are thriving in a market that’s clearly hungry for change. It’s not just dining, either. Dublin is developing a coffee culture to rival that of Berlin or San Francisco, and we have cocktail bars serving up creations on a par with those you would expect to find in London and New York. It’s a real pleasure to enjoy a day or night out in the city.

There’s another culinary concept slowly flooding Dublin of late. Brunch is not a new idea, but it’s certainly becoming more familiar. I’ve seen people of all ages, from all walks of life, mulling over their style of egg and cocktails on a Saturday or Sunday morning. For the most part, brunch seems to have shed its Sex and the City stereotype and is now as normal a social engagement as after-work drinks. Brunch is a real guilty pleasure of mine, because breakfast has long been my favourite meal of the day. In fact, I would eat breakfast dishes for lunch and dinner if I could. I never skip it and, if circumstances result in me having to, I will generally be out of sorts for the whole day. My working week is often irregular, so it’s handy to eat out of the house some mornings, plus I enjoy the search for a new delicious breakfast spot. I’ve tried and tested places in every corner of Dublin and there are some great traditional gems.

But I noticed there were none that really hit the spot for me, or offered the kind of wholesome kick-start that I could conjure up in my own kitchen. I started asking around, wondering if people would eat the kinds of dishes that I liked to cook up in the mornings, and if they felt these options were missing when it came to eating

out. Most people answered yes to both. I always imagined I’d open a small cafe later in life, or maybe when I retired. I could see myself acting as an amateur florist, crafting up flower pots for the tables, and baking every morning. It’s the stuff of my untold dreams. But aged 25, and at the beginning of a career in broadcasting, it didn’t seem very likely.

Until one day, when I was eating frozen yogurt in Yogism, in Dublin’s George’s Street Arcade, and I asked the owner, Stephen, if they stocked real Greek yogurt. He said they didn’t, but that I wasn’t the first person to ask and that they were looking into it.

We got chatting and, for some reason, I ended up talking to him about this idea I had for a breakfast cafe based loosely on a hybrid between Cafe Gratitude in Los Angeles and this place I had been to in Tel Aviv called Benedict, which served all-day breakfast. He must have liked the idea because that was almost eight months ago now and, since then, we have been steadily working away on our little cafe, which has just opened its doors as part of Stephen’s already established Yogism store. It has been, and still is, a nerve-racking, exciting, terrifying, rewarding, brilliant, character-building experience, and I have loved every minute of growing a shell of an idea into an actual cafe that is operating in the real world.

The Breakfast Club at Yogism is a modest undertaking with a big future, if things work out as we hope/know they will. I was completely afraid of the prospect of it all to begin with, but collaborating with ambitious, positive, like-minded people, who share your vision and passion, has been a more fun and creative process than I ever imagined.

We’ve had the luxury of no deadlines, so we’ve taken our time with every detail over the last eight months. We have spent a lot of time in the kitchen

trialling dishes, juices, smoothies and health foods. We eventually narrowed the menu down to what we felt was a wholesome, healthy, unique, affordable and manageable number of food and drink options. Everything is prepared freshly, if not home-made, and we’re happy to keep it that way, because, at the moment, we have a small team who care a lot about every dish we produce. Our menu is focused on nutritionally balanced breakfast alternatives, cold-pressed juices and a small selection of green smoothies.

There are lots of unusual, nourishing ingredients, such as goji berries, bee pollen, chia seeds, almond flour, cacao nibs and buckwheat, as well as optional extras like coconut yogurt. We use natural sweeteners, such as agave and maple syrup, rather than refined sugars. Most of our dishes are accompanied with real Greek yogurt, which was the one thing I found really difficult to get my hands on anywhere in Ireland. It’s a great breakfast food, full of protein and good fats, and something we really wanted to have on offer in the cafe.

The menu is not traditional and we aren’t serving the kinds of food that everyone is accustomed to eating regularly, but the energy and fulfilment a nutritious breakfast brings to your day really sells itself. If you decide to drop by, I recommend the buckwheat-flax pancakes with banana and The Green One smoothie, to eat in or take away. 

For more information, see  www.tbcdublin.com

Photography by Kip Carroll

Hair by Christian Shannon; make-up by Sarah Hope Smith,  both at Brown Sugar, 50 Sth William St, D2, tel: (01) 616-9967

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