As the spring weather restores the greenery to our leafy city, it provides us with an opportunity for introspection. Spring symbolises rebirth and propels us forward as we shed the fatigue that prolonged the winter months. It’s a time of restoration, during which we tend to re-evaluate, shift and prepare ourselves for journeys ahead. This spring, we are pressing the reset button with Rebel Remedy as we discuss spring cleaning for the body, conscious consumption and the ideas underlying their inventive menu.
Julie Kortekaas and Shayna Patterson founded Rebel Remedy three years ago— lead by their shared passion for delicious, freshly-made foods. They recognised a lack of consciously sourced options in London's culinary scene and took it as an opportunity to contribute something meaningful.
Kortekaas, a wellness devotee, with a degree in globalization studies, is the brains behind Rebel Remedy’s colourful juices and elixirs. Her studies focused on food security, development, and international politics— which imbued her with concern for the global food economy. When we bite into a pepper, we seldom think about where our food is coming from and how it makes its way to us. Naturally, these considerations have been baked into Rebel Remedy’s business strategy, which prioritises quality over convenience.
Patterson, the culinary savant behind the shop’s cuisine, accredits her cooking skills to self-teaching and techniques gleaned from coworkers over the years. Having developed her culinary finesse working in several restaurants, both in London and Toronto— Patterson, like many of us, found herself tired of chasing other people’s dreams, which prompted her to open a business of her own.
Together, driven by a community mindset and a flare for curating beautiful, nutritious cuisine— these women are challenging the way that we think about food. Read on to discover how Rebel Remedy is adapting recipes that are expanding our palette here in the Forest City.
Tell us a little about yourselves — your background with food, how you came to the health food/Sustainable Table?
Julie: We both love food: good, well-made, flavourful food, and are constantly searching for the real good stuff in our city. I came to healthy food through my family situation and a health condition — my sister had a serious disability, dad had diabetes, brother with a heart condition and myself with Hashimoto’s disease and food allergies. We experimented with all the cuisines: pescatarian, vegan, low-carb, paleo, just about everything that happened in diet culture in the 90s. My mom’s cooking wasn’t great, so I took up the role of family cook (sorry Mum, it’s true though.)
I went to Western for Globalization Studies and focused on food security, development, and international politics, and came out with a profound and deeply disturbing sense of the global economy and where our food comes from and how it arrives to us. This pushed me to support local producers, and buy direct-trade or fair-trade for commodity foods like coffee, tea, sugar, chocolate, etc. Maybe it was the nervous breakdown caused by the hopelessness and darkness of all this information I learned at Western, but after I left I had a major health crisis. I dove into self-education in nutrition for healing, worked with an Integrative Doctor, and found out I had a real-deal food allergy and pretty severe Endometriosis. Later, I took a program with CSNN and graduated Valedictorian as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. Through consulting with clients, it became clear that the issue was that people do not know how to cook as well as they should and people don’t have time to cook as well as they should. This is what planted the seed for Rebel.
Shayna: There has always been plenty of good food around me, all the things from scratch when I was growing up. Because of my super allergic-to-everything sister Shantel, we didn’t eat anything that came out of a box. I’ve worked in restaurants for at least half my life, some good and some owned by literal tyrants. Some appeared good but were very problematic in their own special way. Most of what I’ve learned in terms of technique has been self-taught, learned from co-workers and experienced in each genre of restaurant I’ve worked in, rather than from Culinary School or from Head Chefs. I like knowing how to make good food in my restaurant rather than relying on the deep fryer to pander to people’s base instincts for fried crap. I’ve always preferred just real down-home cooking, learning why certain ingredients are used in a certain way, which has really helped develop my creative abilities and given me the confidence to create dishes of my own. Julie and I have known each other since around 2005 and get along pretty alright, so when we started talking about building what would become Rebel Remedy, I was friggin’ pumped and excited to leave kitchens in which I had little to no control over the food going out. The end goal for me was to never fucking work for any of these people again.
What is interesting about these issues?
Julie: I think we are at an interesting point in health, nutrition and in the restaurant industry right now. People are empowered with the knowledge to decide what is good food, how they want to eat, where good food comes from and what are good choices for them at this time. But people lack the time to do all these things for themselves. We’re reading articles on a daily basis that uncover connections between food and mood, food and sickness, food and sleep, food and skin quality, food and aging, food and disease. It’s the most powerful tool in our personal medical plan. Rebel enters people’s lives by providing options that fit within their no-concerns regular life, or within their health and wellness plan.
It’s also pretty common knowledge now that women’s health issues, in particular, are treated as less urgent in the medical community — this I know from personal experience, but also from feedback from my nutrition clients, our Rebel customers and from the media. We are seeing people come into Rebel on a daily basis who are basically self-treating their various conditions with food, for better or for worse and generally without guidance. Women in particular, come in with questions about different functional foods to help out their particular health condition. The influence of media (Goop, Dr. Oz, Google, and Instagram influencers), is huge and the tide turns quickly on certain foods. We try to be responsive and provide what our customers want to try and provide a little context through education.
Shayna: I’m generally an optimist, but I find myself chronically disappointed with restaurants in London. I don’t come at this from a health and wellness standpoint (although I do love learning about it), I come from it as a Chef in a kitchen who likes good tasting food. It’s pretty well known that this industry sees razor-thin profit margins, but it’s obvious the places that take a bigger slice of profit at the expense of their customers. We see chain restaurants closing pretty often, from being too rigid in their offerings or gradually offering lower grade food to their customers. People see what’s up, they taste the crap they are being served at chains (factory made guacamole at a certain K-chain still gives me the shivs). Locally owned restaurants are more able to be responsive by providing more options and choice for people with food allergies and different preferences or styles of eating, but it’s almost not enough. Our customers love that we help them learn the why of food, what different foods do for us, and why we should start eating/drinking them. This is the most interesting part; people really are starting to care what is in their food — where it came from and who made it.
How would you describe your approach to food?
Shayna: Simple, seasonal, flavourful ingredients prepared properly. When we make dishes, we first think of ingredients we’d like to include; what’s in season and what our farmers are growing and then sort of extrapolate that idea with theory. We always include complete proteins (for plant-based dishes) in our salads and sandwiches, so that our customers eat their meal and feel satisfied but good. I love that I own a restaurant that I can eat in everyday without issue.
Julie: I tend to design more of the drinks, lattes, smoothies, etc., but my approach is much the same. What kind of functional food do we want to include (like mushrooms, algae, flower powders, seeds, fruit extracts, tinctures) what do we want the drink to do for the patron, and what seasonal ingredients would pair well with it in terms of flavour? We like to make food and drinks that have bright colour, crunch, creaminess, flavour, sweetness, acidity, you know — all the good stuff.
What should people be aware of when it comes to food and eating out?
Shayna: You get what you pay for. When you look at a menu and think “that’s expensive,” try to think about the components of what you are actually getting. Did it get dumped out of frozen bag that came off a Sysco truck? Or was it made by someone who is paid a living wage from scratch using local and organically grown ingredients? Is this coffee bought direct-trade from a farm in the Global South that supports women and pays workers a decent wage and builds schools for the community? Or is it lower grade commodity coffee?
Julie: Restaurants want to help you lower your waste. We all are busy, sometimes we get takeout too. Bring your own containers, put cutlery in your purse, bring your coffee mug, your own bag. Every little bit helps, and you’ll get a discount too. ASK QUESTIONS. If the restaurant can’t answer them, they likely aren’t aware of their sourcing, what is in certain foods, and when they received it (re: especially with seafood).
What do you like to indulge in every once in a while?
Shayna: I like the Bibimbap at the Seoul Seafood Shoppe at the Covent Garden Market. We go to Morrissey House for meetings and to hangout with friends and I like the Great Lakes Blonde on tap and Schnitzel.
Julie: I went to high school on the border of Pickering and Scarborough, there was no shortage of good Jamaican patties. Every once in a while, I get a special JPatty with Coco bread: pickles, iceberg lettuce, and hot sauce are a must. We have staff family meals at the shop a couple of times a week, and once every month or two we order burgs from Burger Burger for everyone.
London’s best kept Secret?
Grickle Grass Festival!
5 DRINKS WE’RE SIPPING FOR SPRING
Quad espresso and a serving of Four Sigmatic 10 Mushroom Blend
basically rocket fuel that stockes your immune system + brain, with compounds that feed your hungry little gut bacteria and yet are calming and focus building.
Grape + Ginger Kombucha
Concord grapes, organic ginger, fermented into a bubbly probiotic drink
Super hydrating, delicious, probiotics make you feel great.
Long brewed Chaga tea, raw cacao, coconut sugar, vanilla
Very mineral rich, which makes this a relaxing and nourishing drink. Really popular for menstrual cramps, stress, anxiety. Minerals help you chill, mentally and physically.
Low sugar, high flavor. Good warm or cold.
Pure Aphanizomenon flos-aquae blue-green algae
Nature’s best superfood (high in vitamins, minerals, proteins, EFA’s)
Makes your brain work better, especially if you’re tired
Peppermint chamomile tea latte with honey, reishi spores, schisandra, rose
Creamy, dreamy, spring flavoured, adaptogenic, and anxiety-reducing treat.
For when you need to chill the F out.