I shall be interviewing Michael and Renata the loveable and happy go lucky couple that makes up Caveman Kitchen. Caveman Kitchen produces a selection of traditionally made sugar-free and grass-fed biltong, offering a monthly biltong subscription service where members get their biltong lovingly delivered straight to their door. But Michael and Renata didn’t stop there – they also stock a Spiral Cutter that has 2 super sharp Japanese stainless steel blades that will have you whipping up a great zoodle bowl in minutes. I wanted to get know them a little better and find out what really keeps them ticking.
I’d like to start by asking about your backgrounds; where are you from? how long have you been together? and what do you do in your spare time?
Michael & Renata: We’ve been together nearly nine years and married for nearly eight, meeting through mutual friends when we both lived in London. Nine years on and with a 14-month old son and a Bengal cat – both of whom eat Paleo (most of the time) we’re living in the gorgeous, outdoorsy and very sporty Marlow on Thames.
The feeling we get when a new customer like a CrossFit Box sign up to sell our biltong or like at the moment where we’re settling a wholesale agreement… gives us such a buzz that all the hassle and arguing, pale into insignificance.
Renata’s the easiest one to explain! She moved to London 10 years ago from Sao Paulo, Brazil. With a degree in teaching back in Brazil, she’s actually spent most of her time working in either PR, the leisure industry or as a PA in an international security company. However, as with a lot of people who are from south of the equator Renata’s always had a strong interest in eating healthy, getting plenty of sun and just the right balance between exercise and fun (nothing that feels too much like hard work lol). Michael’s an international mongrel – British/Irish background but grew up in Holland and South Africa. Michael’s always had a keen interest in being outdoors, playing and teaching sport and being a bit of a didactic spends a lot of time reading and learning about new things.
Michael works fulltime in London and helps where he can with Renata’s running of the Caveman Kitchen business. To be honest, with this and a small boy spare time is a rare commodity but we’re lucky that our work is also our hobby in as much as it’s fun (most of the time) to be chatting and working on it.
When we do get spare time it is usually spent with friends, either eating and drinking and generally enjoying their company or doing something in the fresh air – walking, SUP-ing on the Thames in Marlow or in Renata’s case, running along the tow-paths.
Caveman Kitchen produce some great biltong and I have had the pleasure of using your spirilizer personally. How long ago did you create the company that now produces these products?
Michael & Renata: Thanks Dean – really kind of you to say so! Caveman Kitchen’s been incorporated for just a year and yes it was set up especially to market these two products (and hopefully more to follow). Michael’s a serial entrepreneur and when this collided with Renata buying him a Biltong Box a couple of Christmases ago to make his own biltong we knew that we’d found the “muse” for our business that we’d been wanting to get started for a couple of years.
Setting up a new business is never an easy task and no doubt there’s been some up’s and down’s along the way, what’s been your biggest challenge with the business?
Michael & Renata: Working together as a couple and not wanting to kill each other lol. It’s tough when you’ve got two people with very strong minds and personalities for one to take a junior role, even if they know they should do. I guess the other challenge has been getting a work/life balance but for Michael at least it’s always just been a “life balance” i.e. he tends not to differentiate between work and play.
…nothing’s insurmountable if you stop and count to ten; for every obstacle thrown in our way, we’ve always seemed to have come up with a solution.
Other challenges have come and gone – nothing’s insurmountable if you stop and count to ten; for every obstacle thrown in our way, we’ve always seemed to have come up with a solution. It’s like they say – the Universe only throws stuff at you that it knows you can cope with. From getting our biltong produced to our exacting standards (that’s seen us certified by the Paleo Foundation in the USA) to dealing with the manufacturing and shipping of our Spiraliser to the UK and the USA (where we mostly sell this product via the Amazon platform) we’ve had to be creative and resilient in equal measure to not give up when met with a variety of challenges.
The feeling we get when a new customer like a CrossFit Box sign up to sell our biltong or like at the moment where we’re settling a wholesale agreement to see our Spiraliser distributed in Ireland, gives us such a buzz that all the hassle and arguing pale into insignificance.
At what point did you decide to turn your dream into a reality and go from just eating Paleo food to selling it?
Michael & Renata: It was a couple of years back after Michael started to make his own biltong to a traditional recipe (which meant the preservation process took place purely by drying and the salting/spicing process) and post pictures on Facebook. Initially South African buddies were commenting and asking to try it, but when the messages came from friends of friends and even people he didn’t know, we started to get excited as to the potential. Coupled with our growing awareness of Paleo eating – we both realised we felt a lot better on it – and seeing the growth of good, clean eating in other fields (like CrossFit and specialist food markets) we realised we might be onto something.
There’s currently a lot of mixed thoughts on the Paleo lifestyle, especially for those that do not eat this way. What does being Paleo mean to you?
Michael & Renata: The crazy thing is the most vociferous people we’ve encountered are either the most ill-informed or so unhealthy that the irony of their arguments isn’t lost on us. It’s not about going feral and eating from the hedgerow or picking up road kill; for us it’s about eating real food. We send out a complimentary recipe book to people who sign up to our mailing list or buy the Caveman Kitchen Spiraliser and it’s entitled “JERF: Just Eat Real Food”. Fresh, organic (if you can afford it) and mainly green stuff. And guess what? The food is pretty amazing! It’s not just a raw/burnt piece of meat and some insipid looking veggies – we’ve had dinner parties and drinks parties where ALL the food was Paleo, and guess what? Our guests didn’t realise! Hey – did you realise you haven’t had: bread/pasta/rice/white potatoes? No? And don’t you feel satisfied without that obscene bloated feeling or a Carbohydrate Coma? Yes? So might we have a point with this “crazy” diet you say we’re on???
You obviously have a love for food, who is the Master Chef in the house? Do you have certain Paleo meals that you prefer over others?
Michael & Renata: Michael, definitely – he can come home and I’ll say “there’s nothing in the fridge to eat” and an hour later there’s a bonafide gourmet feast on the table. He’s lucky in that he can see something and replicate it (whilst tweaking it to make it Paleo). There’s no firm favourites, it depends on what veggies (and meat e.g. game) is seasonal. It always consists of animal protein (about the size of the palm of your hand), animal fat, the size of a thumb (rendered fat, ghee or grass-fed butter ideally), greens (whatever’s seasonal, including foraged stuff – we’re lucky in that we live in the country) and lots of them, If we’re trying to hit ketosis we’ll cut back on the carbs but usually that means the sweet potatoes rather than the kale or chard.
This “Fat is the Devil” all goes back to a load of BS from an American biochemist, Ancel Keys, in 1953 when he erroneously highlighted fat’s effect on cholesterol levels as being behind the risk of heart attacks.
Breakfast is a great one and even with an early start (Michael’s up super early to go to CrossFIt then London and Renata right behind him to plan the day ahead of our boy waking up and demanding unrequited attention) – we stick to the old mantra of “Thirty within thirty” i.e. 30g of protein within 30 minutes of waking up. For Michael this’ll be a bullet proof coffee or fat shake and for Renata a protein-rich smoothie. On days when there’s more time it’ll be a family affair – eggs, bacon, avocado or Paleo pancakes and berries or scrambled eggs on flax seed bread with smoked salmon. As we get more comfortable and informed with the whole Paleo lifestyle, we’re getting more adventurous – bone broths, offal, foraging. Heck, we could go on and on and on… I guess we just love food!
I have found that a lot of my friends and family question certain aspects of the Paleo lifestyle and the media don’t help at times by only discussing myths. So what’s the one thing you hear non-Paleo people say that frustrates you the most?
Michael & Renata: “Fat is bad for you. Cholesterol is bad for you!” – there are good fats (i.e. natural, animal-based ones) and good cholesterols (found in eggs, avocados). This “Fat is the Devil” all goes back to a load of BS from an American biochemist, Ancel Keys, in 1953 when he erroneously highlighted fat’s effect on cholesterol levels as being behind the risk of heart attacks. His theory was too simplistic and deeply flawed but played into the hands and agendas of lobbyists who ultimately pushed Senator George McGovern in 1977 into publishing the “ideal” dietary goals for Americans based on a high carb low fat diet (HCLF). Forty years later we have not just morbidly obese Americans but all those who emulate this HCLF diet advise. Fat is not bad for you! Grains are! To paraphrase a well known prayer (and further alienate conservative Americans) “Give us this day our daily bacon”.
Finally, as this lifestyle increases in popularity a lot of newbies will be reading for some valuable tips, that being the case what’s the one piece of advice you would give anyone new to living Paleo?
Michael & Renata: If it’s processed, don’t eat it. Stick to stuff that is as close as possible to its natural state. You’ll be amazed how good good food tastes.
Thank you guys, I wish you all the best in the future with Caveman Kitchen and can’t wait to see where the adventure takes you next.
Michael & Renata: Dean, thank you so much for this opportunity for us to climb on our Paleo-friendly soap box! Wishing you all the best with all your great endeavours and see you soon!
If you’d like to keep up to date with Michael & Renata’s adventures then check out the links below!