Sharna McElligott is a 24-year-old on a mission. While many of her peers may be filling the pages of their passports, girl boss McElligott is busily filling the pages of her soon-to-be released cookbook, as well as the cabinets at her busy vegan café in Tauranga.
This is all while living through the physical and emotional challenges that come with having chronic fatigue syndrome, an autoimmune illness affecting approximately 20,000 New Zealanders. McElligott was diagnosed with the illness in 2013 while residing in Sydney and studying nutritional medicine.
“I think I was just doing way too much in my life – I was studying and working full time and I ran my body into the ground a wee bit,” she says. Moving home to Invercargill, McElligott gave herself a year to get well. She then made the brave step to relocate to Auckland and begin studying and working again. “But I wasn’t getting better,” she adds.
“I was trying to think of what I could do because I didn’t want to be on the sickness benefit for the rest of my life, so I decided that I could start making vegan cakes because no one was really doing that at the time. I put a post up on Instagram and I asked if anyone wanted to buy any and it just took off from there.”
In just a few short months she had run out of kitchen space. She then met her partner, Haydon, who was living in Tauranga and he suggested moving there to start her own café.
The Nourished Eatery features a delicious, 100 per cent plant-based menu and cabinet with everything – even the tables and chairs – sourced locally.
For McElligott, the café was a way of helping herself and others struggling with their health. “I wanted a café where people could come in and if they were struggling with their health, they could get better by eating our food,” she says.
The Nourished Eatery boasts a delicious menu including a customer favourite, the Jackfruit burger. “We also have these sandwiches called ‘not chicken sandwiches’ that taste like chicken, but they’re not. And ‘sausage’ rolls and avocado on toast and all the things that aren’t that scary.”
The Nourished Eatery also has goals of achieving as close to zero waste as possible. “We take home all our compost and we make some of our milk on site rather than buying it.”
The café also had all their tetra packs made into wallets that are being sold for $3 with funds going to Sea Shepherd (a marine wildlife conservation organisation) and all their takeaway containers are completely compostable.
As if life isn’t busy enough, McElligott’s first cookbook is set to be published any day now, and is full of her most popular vegan recipes. It also talks about her wellness journey thus far and includes inspiration for people thinking of starting a business.
The Nourished Eatery 114 Willow St, Tauranga, 3110 Mon–Sat 7.30am–3pm Sunday 9am–3pm thenourishingbaker.com