Amber’s Kitchen, which started as a home-run business with $500 and a few container boxes, is now a commercially run kitchen in Whangārei’s city centre. Photo / Tania Whyte
A Northland culinary artist has dedicated her life to making healthy food after nearly dying of severe malnourishment 15 years ago.
Amber Wallace has been running her business Amber’s Kitchen in Whangārei’s town centre with an aim to add healthy, affordable, vibrant and colourful food choices to the city’s food culture.
Wallace was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and nearly died around 15 years ago. The last meal she ate before getting admitted to the hospital was from McDonald’s and she ended up vomiting everything.
“I was severely malnourished and dehydrated. I was shoving more food in my body than it could physically handle.”
The days spent in the hospital changed her view of food and Wallace realised she needed to make lifestyle changes.
“Changing my food habits has saved my life in that sense.
“Stomach’s our first brain so there is a direct correlation between food and mental health. Eating that comes from mama earth, is symbiosis.
“It has united me with people who are on the same journey of discovering a healthy food lifestyle.”
When Wallace began her healthy eating and cooking journey, the single mum to a then 13-year-old found it difficult to juggle between a fulltime job and looking after her daughter.
With $500 in her pocket and a few container boxes, she began her small catering business from home and it grew through word of mouth.
“Initially, it was direct from the garden to kitchen to plate to stomach, but since I moved out of home, I rely on the farmer’s market.
“It is about showing people what is local, being local, and not getting involved in supporting the big chain of multinational corporations.”
Amber’s Kitchen – in James St, in the old Tiffany’s café – was not a café or a restaurant with a set menu or food cabinet, Wallace said.
“People can just walk in, knowing they are going to be fed good nutritious food and they don’t have to think about it.
“I break everything down to the carbs, protein and vitamin portions.”
Wallace considered food to be medicine and cooking meditation.
“The connection between your food and soul is so important because you are going to be what you eat.
“If you eat s***, you are going to end up in a hospital. Knowing what’s in your food, putting your energy into the food.”
Wallace believed herself to be a silent activist, chopping away in her kitchen and stirring dinner table conversations.
“Sharing conversations, thoughts, and ideas … and all great revolutions start on a dinner table.
“It is a different feeling, more like a homely kitchen.
“I was sick of going to every café in the southern hemisphere only to find the same pies, sausage rolls, etcetera, and as a diabetic, I want to make sure the painful injection I am going to give myself is worth it.”