At 25-years-old, Eleanor Ozich is a mother, wife, creator of Petite Kitchen and co-owner of Auckland based cafe, Mondays. It’s women like Eleanor that have me the most curious and also the most presumptuous. Scrolling through Petite Kitchen, it’s easy to envision a life as proportioned and perfect as the photographs. Her recipes are impressive, but it was Eleanor’s character and story that really got me. She’s a straight talker with a sense of clarity that only comes with experience; her family is the foundation for all that she does.
“I left school when I was 15, and did hairdressing for a while before working in a cafe. I met Valentin when I was 18, and we had Bella while he was studying graphic design at university. It was fun times, but also hard times. At around 4-years-old, Bella started to show behavioral issues and developed terrible eczema. It was a really horrible time and after going to a million different doctors, we tried a naturopath as a last resort.
She spoke to us about disease stemming from the gut, which in turn could be healed through food. It made sense to me—I’d struggled with depression on and off but always thought it was normal. Looking back, I see I wasn’t in a good place at all. Valentin and I decided to really think about what we were putting into our bodies and feeding our daughter. We didn’t eat badly, just regular supermarket food that we’d grown up eating. We went on an extreme overhaul and took our diet right back to good, wholesome natural food. Lots of bone broth soups, organic vegetables, fish, meat and eggs. We drank quality raw milk, made our own cheese and yogurt, heaps of fermented food also. We did that for about six months and then slowly started adding everyday food back in.
The changes we noticed in all of us were insane.
Bella’s skin completely cleared up besides the very occasional flair up. She became so well behaved and she’s a happy, calm little girl now. Valentin and I have so much energy—we’re clear headed and wake up in the morning ready to go.
That’s how Petite Kitchen really started. While pregnant with my son Obi, I was on strict bed rest. As a way to pass the time, I started to watch Jamie Oliver, among some other home cooking DVDs. These really inspired me with my cooking and shortly after I started a blog with recipes, which then led to a Facebook page. It was amazing to hear from people going through the same struggles and desperately wanting simple, healthy recipes with basic ingredients—no fancy super foods. That’s really the essence of how I cook—I’m not into making crazy meals that take hours, and I don’t actually spend as much time in the kitchen as people might think.
Building a career around a blog is really hard work, especially to bring in an income.
The reality is it’s expensive to live, and it’s expensive to raise kids.
It can be incredibly difficult, but you just have to keep on going. I was ridiculously passionate about developing the blog, to the point where it was taking over my life. Towards the end of last year with my book I was beyond stressed and it was a bit of a wake up call—I was projecting all of this healthy wellness to the world but wasn’t living it myself.
My resolution for this year was to find a better balance. I have days that are good and days that are not so, but I am learning to take each day as it comes. That’s been the hardest thing, to separate personal time from work. Valentin and I try to make an effort to not do any work when we’re together or spending family time with the kids. We make a point to switch off.
I’ve had to make sacrifices. I don’t get as much time with the kids as I would like, but Valentin is the most incredible man—just having him as my husband has inspired me so much. He’s really pushed me to do this and driven me to follow what I want. My main thing is to share with everyone how possible it is to overcome whatever you’re struggling with. It’s not easy, but it’s doable.”
As told to Amy Woodside, March 2014
Photographed by Yasmine Ganley