A Little Chat With Yoko Inoue
Yoko Inoue is the chef and founder of Shoku Iku, a Melbourne based organic raw and living food cafe. While pregnant with her daughter in 2003, Yoko became interested and inspired by the power of natural foods and their ability to heal and nourish the body, heart, and soul. Yoko studied macrobiotic philosophy and culinary skills at Japan’s Kushi Institute - an experience that then inspired her to train as a holistic nutritionist, opening the door to the raw food movement. She is also the director of Shoku Iku Academy, which offers a range of online education and culinary programs. Today, Yoko is furthering her studies into Kampo, Traditional Japanese Medicine.
With her experience and qualifications in macrobiotic and Chinese philosophies, as well as modern western nutrition, Yoko is able to integrate contemporary and traditional ideas in an effort to promote healthy and holistic food and lifestyle choices.
Tell us about your journey into creating Shoku Iku. What experiences or self-realisations led you to into ancient tonic botanicals, potent superfoods, and culinary creativity.
I became very interested in health and wellness when I was pregnant with my daughter in 2003. I wanted to provide a healthy start for my daughter and I started exploring macrobiotic diet and teachings. Macrobiotic is not only a diet but a philosophy around life and living energy. I studied at Kushi Institute, then decided to study holistic nutrition which opened the door to the raw food movement. I am currently studying Kampo, Traditional Japanese Medicine.
I always liked cooking but it is more of a creative expression to me. Especially with raw cuisine, you are using limited ingredients and techniques. Putting together meals that are nourishing, balancing, appealing and delicious need creativity, intuition and experience. I love combining all of that I have learnt and what I am still learning, into what I create.
What is the favourite part of your job? How do you maintain and develop your creativity?
My favourite part of my work is to create (unless eating is part of my job). I love pottering around my kitchen. Inspiration comes from different places. Sometimes inspiration comes from external sources such as seeing beautiful produce, the change in seasons, other people’s creations or requests. Sometimes it is an internal inspiration that has been within me for a while. What is important is to have enough space for me to receive that inspiration. For a long time, I was too busy and didn’t have time to fulfil what I loved the most. It is essential for me now.
Another part of my work that I love is the community. I am grateful to have such beautiful people and businesses in my life that keep me inspired.
What do you keep on your bathroom shelf?
I tend to go pretty basic with skincare products. I make some of my own with kitchen ingredients and supplement with others. The most important thing I look for in skincare and make-up is cruelty-free (no animal testing), and clean ingredients. I especially love Josh Rosebrook Hydration Mask and Sodashi Polish is gorgeous. I also add a jade roller, gua-sha and LED light to my routine.
Take us through your morning skincare ritual.
My morning skincare routine is pretty simple - I wash, tone and moisturise. I often use a jade roller or gua-sha if my face looks a little puffy. Sunscreen is a must for me all year round.
What do you do before bed to feel grounded and reconnected to self?
I try not to look at my phone before my bedtime. It really improves my sleep quality. Stretching and self-massage or Moxa are my favourite things to do before bed to get out of my head and to feel grounded. In colder months I enjoy infrared saunas or a bath before bed as well.
Is balance in your life achievable and how do you prioritise it?
I can’t achieve balance all the time and I am ok with that. My work and life are so intertwined because I built my work on what fills my heart and my passion. Of course, there are some aspects of work that I don’t particularly enjoy but It is all part of it. I think some people thrive on a strict work and life schedule but I am not one of them.
I am blessed in a way that I have the freedom to choose what is important. Prioritising it is my choice and decision. I know when I need to go for a walk. I know when I need to spend time with my daughter. I prioritise them by saying no (or not now) to other things and being ok with not being perfect.
How do you manage female leadership and what strategies do you have for our fellow leaders?
I am not sure if I am qualified to be answering this question! But what worked for me is to know my personal strengths and characteristics. I like to lead by my example and have strong values and work ethics. If what I do can contribute to someone’s own growth and development, then that is pretty amazing.
What is inspiring you at the moment? What are you reading, watching, and listening to?
I am deep in Kampo right now so philosophy around Eastern medicine is on my mind a lot. As cliche as it sounds, nature is always teaching us as long as we are ready to listen and see.
CREATIVE DIRECTOR AND PHOTOGRAPHER - BOBBY CLARK