“My mum taught me to cook,” she says. “I come from a big family where we didn’t have much money. My mum was a nurse and we had chores and I would swap washing up for cooking as I loved it so much.”
Now aged 41 she wants to share this passion with tweens and teenagers.
“I think it is so important to teach kids to cook as now people are so busy that we do tend to opt for convenience and speed, but you can make things that are quick, easy, healthy and tasty.”
The first workshop for tweens took place on March 14 and sold out.
The fun and informative session were led by Gemma and her assistant, daughter Carmen.
Carmen says: “Tweens are young teenagers, so aged nine to 13.
“I think it is a great skill to learn to cook as if you are hungry you can make yourself something and it gives you some independence.”
For Gemma the workshops aren’t just about giving people the skills to cook for themselves she also wants to educate people about how food can impact their mental wellbeing.
“Kids have a lot going on now,” she says.
“Many feel anxious about so many things, and there is so much they have to deal with be it exams or the pressure of social media.
“Cooking and food not only is a great distraction but can help with whatever issues they may have.
“I’m really interested in mood boosting food.”
She adds: “I want to educate tweens and teens about how what they eat can impact their mental health.
“I let my two kids eat what they want but it is about moderation.
“If you want chocolate cake have the chocolate cake but if you eat it every day you aren’t going to feel great.
“When I started secondary school I became anorexic, I hit puberty and it was all really stressful. I had to take a year off school to recover, so I have always had an interesting relationship with food.”
Gemma has always cooked with her children Carmen, nine and Hendrix who is seven and a half.
But it isn’t just teens she wants to help Gemma released ‘The Self-care Cookbook’ in December.
“Initially I had an idea to do a parenting cookbook and put that in my first proposal,” she explained.
“But then it changed to a self-care cookbook. There is a narrative, recipes and things that can help you with your mental health and looking after yourself.”
Key for Gemma when compiling the book was that the recipes were quick, easy but also that the ingredients were accessible.
“I have included things that can be bought from anywhere be it Aldi or a wholefood shop and won’t cost a fortune.”
The book took three months to put together and Gemma says it really got her thinking about her recipes.
“When I cook I just do it, so I throw in a bit of this and that. But I had to measure out a pinch of salt.”
The publishers got in touch with Gemma after they found the Instagram page for her Brighton based business Gem’s Wholesome Kitchen.
Through the business she offers ‘nourish’ packages of plant-based food that gets delivered.
She says: “I lived in Spain and used Instagram as a way of showing what I was cooking. Then when we came back to the UK and moved to Brighton it became a great visual, platform to showcase my food.”
Gemma cooks plant-based meals but uses eggs and honey in some of her recipes.
“I tend to go for wholefoods and non-processed foods as a lot of vegan items, like the cheese, can be really processed and contain loads of additives.
“I cook a lot of wholegrain pasta and rice, but Carmen would say she is flexitarian as she eats eggs but not dairy. Both my kids are part Spanish so when we go to Spain they tend to eat a lot of fish.”
“I just want to educate people to choose the right food for their health and mind.”
For more information about Gemma her book and workshops www.gemswholesomekitchen.com
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