Posts tagged #culinary wellness menu


I had the privilege of visiting Japan in May so that I could gain an insight into the culture and therefore conceptualise Japan's first wellness retreat. A luxury destination where guests can experience the Japanese approach to longevity and wellbeing, for which they are renowned. Beyond nutrition and movement, which is where we in the West often limit wellness, is the central concept of mindfulness that is inherent in the Japanese arts, and indeed in their very way of being. 

The simple, but compelling, act of mindful living offers an invaluable tool to cope with the pace of modern day living. Mindfulness reduces stress, improves sleep, cognitive function and balances the emotions. Here below I share a number of mindfulness practices that stem from Japan to offer a perspective on how meditation can be something other than 'the lotus position'. 

ZAZEN - In Zen Buddhism, zazen is a meditative discipline that is typically the primary practice. The precise meaning and method of zazen varies from school to school, but in general it can be regarded as a means of insight into the nature of existence. Zazen is practiced in different ways depending on its tradition. It may involve facing a wall or facing into the centre of the room with eyelids half lowered. It can also include a walking meditation in the room. 

JAPANESE TEA CEREMONY - The heart of the Japanese tea ceremony lies in simplicity of spirit which brings peace to the mind. The objective of the ceremony is not just to make a cup of tea; it is a deliberate exercise in being present in the moment, focusing on one task and appreciating the simple things in life. The ritual of the tea ceremony is based on the 4 fundamental Zen principles of harmony, respect, purity and tranquility.

IKEBANA FLOWER ARRANGING - Ikebana or kado is the beautiful, often strikingly minimalist, Japanese flower arrangement art. Ikebana means “giving life to flowers” and kado translates as “the way of flowers”. When Buddhism was introduced to Japan, monks started to arrange flowers to decorate the altars of temples.

KOTO LESSON - The koto is the national instrument of Japan. It is a stringed musical instrument that is plucked with ivory picks called tsume.

ORIGAMI - Japanese origami began sometime after Buddhist monks carried paper to Japan during the 6th century. The word "origami" comes from the Japanese language. "Ori" which means folded and "kami" which means paper. This traditional paper folding art is very relaxing and meditative. 

JAPANESE INCENSE CEREMONY - Kōdō ( 道?, "Way of Fragrance") is the art of appreciating Japanese incense, and involves using incense within a structure of codified conduct. Kōdō includes all aspects of the incense process, from the tools ( 道具 kōdōgu), to activities such the incense-comparing games kumikō (組 ) and genjikō (源 ).[1] Kōdō is counted as one of the three classical Japanese arts of refinement.

JAPANESE CALLIGRAPHY - Zen calligraphy is practiced by Buddhist monks and most shodō practitioners. To write Zen calligraphy with mastery, one must clear one's mind and let the letters flow out of themselves, not practice and make a tremendous effort. This state of mind is called the mushin (無 ? "no mind state”). For any particular piece of paper, the calligrapher must be fully present and has but one chance to create with the brush.

JAPANESE POTTERY - Learning to use the potter’s wheel takes patience, practice, and focus. It is also very relaxing and rewarding. Initially the class will make small bowls, plates or cups before progressing onto other forms. Hand building or sculpture, is another way to work with clay. The basic techniques are easier to learn than wheel throwing and there is a larger range of forms you can make. 



The greatest challenge when travelling a lot, particularly for work, is the ability to find healthy food. Its quite amazing how hard it can be to find basic vegetables on a menu and it can be quite tiresome always having to ask for a special combination of food items you have located within the fine print of the menu. With this in mind, its so very important for hotels and resorts to start accommodating the wellness traveller, who seeks to maintain healthy habits whilst on the road. If your chef is resistant to this idea then it may be necessary to bring in another consulting chef who specialises in whole foods and other quirky but popular concepts. I often see menu's that 'try' to be healthy but there are holes throughout their entire food philosophy. Many restaurants would consider a potato gnocchi covered in cream and without the bacon to be the perfect vegetarian option, whilst missing the point that vegetarians, by definition of the very term, prefer to eat a diet that is high in vegetables. And therefore this attempt at considering the vegetarian is seen as a lack of true care and integrity to this particular population. Having said that, the paleo food philosophy, which is quite abuzz at the moment, can also be missed through a menu that is heavily laden with carbohydrates and still missing the necessary quotient of vegetables. 

So then how does a restaurant within a hotel or resort create the ideal menu? And better still, how does this department link in to the spa so as to capture more clients and create a cohesive theme of wellness?  

Firstly, I think its important to create a menu that considers food combining, the paleo diet, ayurvedic philosophies and raw foods. The philosophy also needs to be based on organic, seasonal, whole foods that are free from dairy, gluten and sugar. Then link this food philosophy back to the spa and wellness concept in the following ways:

Create a ‘culinary wellness menu’ for each restaurant that captures the essence of that particular food theme, but in a healthy way. For example: your Italian restaurant might offer zucchini pasta, spelt pizza with cashew nut cheese, dairy and sugar free tiramisu. Your Asian inspired restaurant might offer an array of paleo inspired recipes and vegetarian delights. 

Add a stand alone ‘spa and wellness’ breakfast buffet that offers fresh fruits, activated nuts, gluten free muesli and granola, quinoa porridge, sheep and goat yoghurt, almond and rice milk, organic poached and scrambled eggs, home made beans, wilted spinach, sprouted and gluten free breads, vegetarian fritters, buckwheat pancakes and super food smoothies to name a few. 

Add ‘spa and wellness’ foods to any other buffets that are hosted in your restaurants. Create a ‘healthy picnic hamper’ that might be enjoyed as part of a spa package or chosen by guests going out for a full day excursion. 

Possible wording for your culinary spa menu might be... Spa & Wellness Menu, Spa Delights, Delicious Detox, Raw Beauty, Organic Gourmet, Culinary Creations, Health Bar, Wellness Weaver, Health Haven, Spa Bites, Wellness Delights or Organic Gourmet. The list is endless. 

The intention here is to continually bring attention to your spa through the food menu’s, to position your hotel as a leader in wellness tourism and to most importantly, take care of guests with specialised dietary needs and preferences. At the end of the day, if our guests are happy, our business will also show a very happy profit.