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Health, nutrition, wellness – she wants to help people ‘make better choices’ in all three


My mother could speak Japanese, but found reading and writing difficult, so I read all the communications from school for her. It helped me develop a sense of responsibility.

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Picture of health

My mum was very interested in organic food and concerned about not using preservatives. Even the detergent she used was natural, which meant that my PE uniform was never as white as the other kids’ because she wasn’t using bleach. When the other kids were eating white rice, I was eating brown rice.

As a kid, I didn’t want to be different. It was only as I got older that I appreciated that she’d drilled this healthy-living approach into me.

My father was concerned with natural medicine and I didn’t have a painkiller until I grew up and was living on my own. At home, we had fans instead of air conditioners so our body would learn how to control its temperature. Although I didn’t like it at the time, I think it helped make me strong. I never really got sick.

Shimizu in a photo taken around 2012 during a pop-up cooking class. Photo: Shima Shimizu

Planting seeds

My mum cooked a mixture of Western and Japanese food. At Thanksgiving, she made turkey, I loved her spaghetti bolognese and she made tacos. She also made Japanese food.

What I took from her was an understanding of healthy ingredients. In my late teens, I enjoyed converting traditional recipes into healthier versions using healthy ingredients.

We moved to Hiroshima when I was 13. I was an arts student and enjoyed social studies. My English grades were good, and I went to Osaka University of Foreign Studies to do a degree in international relations with English and Mandarin.

I arrived [in Hong Kong] in March 2003, it was the Sars outbreak and everyone was wearing masks

Shima Shimizu
At university, I cooked for myself. As I was on a budget, I quickly realised that vegetables were cheaper than meat and started eating a more plant-based diet. I noticed that my acne cleared up and I lost weight. I decided vegetarian was the way to go although I wasn’t too strict about it.

Love, life, love

In the third year of my four-year degree, I did 20 to 30 interviews at trading companies. I thought the job would allow me to use my English and travel, but the firms weren’t keen on hiring a woman unless she was in the back office. They all said no. It was a very male-dominated place.

I did some translation work for the East Asian Games and that’s where I met Wat Tze-wan, a judo player from Hong Kong. We began dating. He was also studying in Japan but at a different university. He was older than me but a year behind me at university.

Shimizu established Sesame Kitchen in 2010. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

After I graduated, I went back to my parents’ place in Hiroshima and taught English for a year. When Tze-wan graduated, I moved to Hong Kong with him.

I arrived in March 2003, it was the Sars outbreak and everyone was wearing masks. We got married a month later. No one from my side of the family could make it because of Sars.

I got a job as a coordinator at a Japanese logistics company, where I learned Cantonese and more about Hong Kong culture. My husband became a workaholic and wasn’t spending much time with me. After five years we got divorced.

Because I look mostly Asian to Americans and Andy is clearly Chinese, the photographer asked us if we’d rented a crowd

Shima Shimizu

A week after I signed the divorce papers, I went to Lan Kwai Fong. A friend invited a friend who was also divorced – Andy Lau, a lawyer – and we started dating.

Rented family

I injured my knee when I was doing yoga and a colleague suggested I try raw foods to help speed up the recovery. It didn’t heal my knee, but I felt energised and happy eating raw vegan food.

The author of the raw vegan cookbook I was reading had studied at the Living Light Culinary Institute, in California, and I decided that’s where I wanted to go. It was 2008, soon after the financial crisis, and the office relocation company where I was working offered me a redundancy package. It was perfect timing.

During the seven-week course in California, I met Yui, who owns the Rasayana Retreat in Bangkok, and we became friends. Back in Hong Kong, Andy and I split up and I went to work at Rasayana Retreat.

Shimizu with two Thai chefs at Rasayana Retreat. Photo: Shima Shimizu

It was a great experience working with Thai chefs.

After a few months, Andy and I got back together and we had a long-distance relationship. I’d planned to stay in Bangkok a year but came back after nine months.

Our daughter Leah was born in 2012 and we got married a year later in Las Vegas. As the wedding was in the US, it was mostly my mother’s side of the family that came. They are all white.

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Because I look mostly Asian to Americans and Andy is clearly Chinese, the photographer asked us if we’d rented a crowd. He was very apologetic when I explained they were my actual family. Our second daughter was born in 2017.

Open sesame

I established Sesame Kitchen in 2010, with the intention of teaching raw vegan cooking in Hong Kong. I didn’t have the capital to have my own space, so I was popping up in places like Pantry Magic.

I offered lessons in raw vegan food and started to get followers. Over time, I expanded to corporate settings, offering cooking classes that could be held in office conference rooms or hotel function rooms, without the need for cooking with fire.

Shimizu around 2014 during a pop-up kombucha class. Photo: Shima Shimizu

People in Hong Kong are so busy that, after a class, many asked if I could make and deliver the food they’d learned to prepare. In 2014, I rented a small kitchen in Central and started producing meals and supplying health snacks to cafes and juiceries.

I realised that my body wasn’t really suited to raw vegan food. I got too much sugar, which caused problems for me with acne outbreaks and candida. I started to learn about fermented foods and began making miso and sauerkraut.

When I started to heal my gut with that it solved a lot of my health problems.

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When I was pregnant with my first child, I learned about bone broths and incorporating them into my diet helped heal my gut and I felt the benefits. My focus then shifted from vegan foods to fermented foods.

One-woman inspiration

In 2015, I got my own licensed kitchen in Kennedy Town and set up an online store called Foodcraft. There were a lot of things to learn, like how to manage deliveries and communicate with customers.

We make chickpea miso and five kinds of sauerkraut and a lot of fermented hot sauces. We make sourdough, which is a lot easier to digest. Cooking classes remain the foundation of my business.

Most of our classes are health-focused and the people who come usually have a story – they may be sick, or someone they love is sick and they want to heal them.

Seeing so many people get sick and people with depression and kids with autism and ADHD – it’s really coming from our lifestyle. It’s not our genes, it’s what we eat and put in our bodies three times a day. By changing that, as a society, we can improve ourselves so much.

I love doing what I do and have no plan to retire. I don’t know how this will evolve, but I’ll probably be doing something to do with health, nutrition and wellness in my later years. As I age, I can be an inspiration for other people around my age to make better choices.

Article was originally published from here

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