Flourishing Entrepreneurs: #17 Rachel Graham, Medicinal Chef

My next Flourishing Entrepreneur is Rachel Graham, Nutritional Therapist and Medicinal Chef. I met Rachel through the wonderful world of Instagram - that time spend connecting with other business owners is so worth it if you’re doing it properly!

Rachel and I did a bit of coaching together as she closed down her restaurant and went full-time with her cookery workshops and restaurant consultancy.

I’ll let her tell you more about the way she multi-hyphens and how her self-employed mindset helps her keep taking action.

Rachel Graham | Medicinal Chef | Dublin ireland

Who are you, what is your business and what job title do you have? 

My name is Rachel Graham. My business is Rachel Graham Nutrition. I am a Nutritional Therapist & Medicinal Chef with over 25 years’ experience in the food business. 

Rachel Graham Nutrition was launched in September 2018, and since then I have been involved with many different projects including:

·     1:1 private consultations

·     nutrition talks for sports teams  

·     my own series of kitchen workshops & cooking demos  

·     healthy menu development for food operators incl. nutritional menu analysis

·     medicinal bespoke catering for events and wellness retreats 

·     a variety of collaborations in the fitness and wellness area.

I have also lectured at the College of Naturopathic Medicine in Dublin on their Natural Chef course. This involved teaching the next wave of medicinal chefs to create & prepare medicinal food for therapeutic menus for specific health conditions i.e. diabetes, cardiovascular disease, digestive issues etc

I love to teach, so I also designed ‘My Kitchen Workshops Series 2019’. I now offer a varied selection of small class size, cooking demos & hands on cooking classes from my home kitchen.

I offer multiple dates for sourdough making, fermentation, vegan cooking classes as well as a new Brunch & Learn series covering topics like menopause & mental health.


What were you told about work growing up?

As a child I always had a part time job! Either washing windows or walking dogs to earn extra pocket money. I quickly learned that if you wanted it, you had to earn it. My father is an entrepreneur and so both my brother and I are self-employed.

I didn’t really get any career advice, I think it was just expected that I would succeed. Back in the 80’s when I was leaving school, there weren’t as many career options for women as there are now. If you weren’t going to college you either went to secretarial college or got a low paid job! I decided to travel instead and I lived abroad for the next 20 years.

After a year in Paris, I lived in Munich, Germany, where I worked in the corporate world for three years (at the European Patent Office)  and then left to open a pub with my husband Victor. It was a huge undertaking – we were so young (I was 21!).

It was a massive premises with a big kitchen but we ran it successfully for 16 years before moving home with our two young kids for family reasons. 

In 2015 I went to college. Most people say "oh thats great you are going back to college." But I didn't go to college when I left school - I travelled and worked and then opened my own business.

27 years after leaving school it was my time to go to college! I studied for 2 different courses for a total of 3 years - Nutritional Therapy and at the same time I also qualified as a Plant Based Medicinal Chef.

I'm not going to lie - It was very a challenging 3 years - running a business, bringing up two kids and studying. Crazy!

Thankfully I got through it, thanks to sheer determination and hard work, as well as the support of my fantastic husband.

It was a big sacrifice for us as a family, but my qualifications have given me an incredible knowledge base, that I use every day to help clients manage their health conditions, creating therapeutic menus or teaching workshops - most recently as a lecturer for the College of Naturopathic Medicine, as well as my own.

Rachel Graham Nutrition

How has your mindset changed around work since then?

As I have been self employed for the most part of my working life, my mindset hasn’t really changed. When you are self employed you are pretty much always working. You never stop working on or working in your business in some way.

I have been lucky to run successful food businesses but have also made plenty of mistakes. The mistakes make you appreciate when you get it right and are proof that you are trying.

I am used to dealing with the public, so customer care is still a very relevant part of my business. I have worked extensively in commercial kitchens so I really understand the challenges of the food operator and the many hurdles they face in order to run a successful operation. Underpromise and over deliver is my mantra!


How do you prioritise your health as a busy entrepreneur? 

I eat really well! I make sure I have a varied selection of fruit & veg every day – I eat a whole foods plant based diet (but I sometimes eat fish & eggs too).

I try to get out for a mini mountain hike with my husband at least 3 days a week for 40+ mins & we often meet up with our friends & dogs for the same on a Sunday morning for 60 +mins

I wear a FitBit so its always buzzing on my arm, reminding me of my target of 10,000 steps  per day – I hit it most days. I find I do a lot of steps around the kitchen – more than I thought!

I would love to do more exercise, but the day really gets away from me. I always feel so positive & energised from exercise so I have no excuse – I must make it more of a priority.

Rachel Graham Nutrition

How is your relationship with food? How does food feature in your life and what does it mean to you? 

I LOVE food! I am constantly reading about it, buying it, cooking it and eating it, everything for me revolves around food. I would say I’m obsessed.

I can’t leave the house without packing snacks and food for the car. If I’m out for the day I will take lunch and snacks with me even if I’m going to a conference with catering. I can’t eat crap food! Worse, I can’t bear to pay for crap food.

Every family occasion involves food and I love to be with friends & family around the dinner table. It’s definitely a HUGE part of my life.

What is your favourite meal, something you would recommend others learn to cook or prepare? 

Learn how to make a good pasta sauce. You will never go hungry with a good veggie Bolognese sauce in the fridge – I make Lentil Bolognese & my teenage kids love it! (my harshest critics) It’s one you can batch cook. It’s cheap, nutritious and tastes even better on day 2 and 3.

cooking-classes Dublin.jpg

The voice in your head - we’ve all got one! What negative thing does it say to you most often and how do you deal with it? 

My inner critic is alive and well! I suppose like other solo-preneurs, I suffer from perfection paralysis. Everything has to be perfect before it gets released into the world! I am very detail orientated & like things to be of a very high standard. 

I am just one person though, wearing all the company hats and I have to remind myself that I can’t do it all. I need to learn how to edit myself and just concentrate on the essentials as opposed to all the details.

Repeat after me Rachel: ‘Done is better than perfect’!

Success – what does it mean to you? What is your version of success? 

After running various successful food businesses for more than 25 years, the costs involved in operating a big premises as well as a big team of staff is literally eye watering.

Now, success for me is the freedom to be able to work from home.

It suits my life stage & I can spend time with my kids. I have a little more balance now.

Self-care. What does it mean to you and what self-care practises do you have to look after yourself as a busy entrepreneur? 

I am a very goal orientated person. I love a good to do list and then the pleasure of ticking off the tasks as they are done.

I will set myself huge work goals to achieve, but in doing so, I can literally run myself on empty trying to achieve them. Self-care is very important and I try to incorporate some me time most days. 

I know from past experience when I’m overdoing it, because I get very tired & irritable! You can’t give from an empty cup. I love to have a facial, or a nice warm Epsom salts bath or just switch off and catch up on some of my favourite TV series.

Rachel Graham Nutrition Dublin

What one book, video or podcast would you recommend to entrepreneurs? 

I listen to a lot of Nutrition podcasts! Especially on gut health & plant based eating,  as it is such an emerging field. I like The Plant Proof Podcast.

For business books I read Carrie Green’s book She Means Business which I found really good and full of practical tips (I’m all about the practical!).

What one tip, quote or resource would you share with other entrepreneurs to help them on their journey?

Use all the free resources available if you are thinking of starting a business -  take all the help you can get.

Go to your local LEO (Local Enterprise Office) speak to them & enrol in a mentoring programme, a start your own business course or one of the others available.

There are fantastic resources available that are either free or heavily subsidised. Avoid costly mistakes and do things right! In some cases i.e. if you have a product, you can even apply for funding or investment opportunities.  

A quote I like is:
‘The fact that you aren’t where you want to be should be enough motivation’