Tropical Rita.


Today I want to introduce you to Rita Ince, whom I tracked down a few years ago because I had to meet the person behind the Orchard St. deliciousness I was privy to, as part of The Royal & Ancient kiosk in Sydney’s CBD (RIP). Rita was hired by Orchard St. founder and naturopath Kirsten Shanks, to bring her vision for food as medicine to life and what a delectable job she has done. Dream team. The food has love in it and a rhythm of flavours that give you a legs up and big hug in one. Energising and nurturing food, plant-based and bloody delicious. That all makes sense now that I know Rita, she is a recipe developer and food designer with a background in nutrition and a big heart. Not to mention a swift styling hand and a great eye behind the lens. Since our initial meeting we’ve worked on a few fabulous food projects together and I can tell you she’s the real thing.. Now, meet the woman dedicated to creating really good-looking food that’s super tasty and can heal you too. Woohoo. X

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Tomato cashew ice-cream with caramelized pine nuts and balsamic pastilles. Recipe and photography by Rita Ince. Styling by Bettina McIlwraith on Milly Dent plates.

Talk to me about being a creative person.

It is quite hard to explain what it means to be a creative person as I have just come to discover that side of myself in recent years. I guess I often associated the rather eccentric artist type like Picasso or Bjork as a typical creative person – the big dreamers and great visionaries that I admired but never did I feel like I was one of them. Therefore, I decided to study something ‘safe’ and ‘practical’ to make sure I will be able to sustain myself in this modern world. But what we very often forget, and I certainly was not in touch with this idea until recently, is that with art there is so much beauty that comes to our life that actually makes the mundane extraordinary and special. Today I would say everybody is a creative in some way in their life by bringing joy into their own and other’s life. For me, I just realised that by getting in touch with that creative side of me it allows me to relate to the outside world completely differently as well and it opened me up to a more wholehearted life.

What was it that got you interested in nutrition?

I mentioned before I studied something safe and practical, a business degree, which still serves me very well on so many levels but with that background I started a career in sales. Very young and driven, I have poured all my energy into my job which led me into a state of complete exhaustion like we witness so often in our fast paced, high pressure work environments these days. I guess it also comes with a so-called A-Type personality. Our bodies are incredible in regards to how much we can demand of them but there will come a point when we either learn to listen and we will be forced by our bodies to stop, rest and replenish. After seeing doctors and countless tests – they could not diagnose me with any disease and therefore prescribe medication. Back then ‘burnout’ was not a thing yet in Austria, but luckily I found an incredible integrated GP practicing TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and she prescribed me herbs and diet. Then I stumbled across a book form a Nutritionist who based her recommendations on the 5 elements in TCM. After that I just became a ferocious reader of books on nutrition and traditional fasting techniques as well as organic farming and sustainable lifestyles and how to reduce toxic load. Eventually, I started looking into courses that offer a deeper level of knowledge which brought me to Australia and a course in Nutritional Medicine.

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Recipes and photography by Rita Ince, styling by Bettina McIlwraith.

What was it that got you interested in photography?

The main reason I bought myself a camera was to take better quality photos of the food I create, so that I could start publishing more recipes on my own blog. While practicing on how to use different settings on the camera, I’ve developed a whole new curiosity. I fell in love with finding magic in the details that I usually miss out on just by looking at something without looking through the lens of a camera. And over the last year I have increasingly loved taking pictures of nature, sandstone in particular, as well as portraits.
With portraits, I love that moment when you just connect to the person in front of you and for just a second they fully relax to reveal their beauty,  I feel lucky to be able to capture that. It is incredibly humbling to be trusted so much to tickle that moment out of someone.

Real life hero? Who inspired you on this creative path?

Real life heroes are all of the  great humans I am blessed to have met throughout life. Some of my family members are incredible sometimes artists too and without even knowing it, purely by the love they pour into things they do.
I get inspired by my friends and the way they live their lives – being unapologetically themselves, fully vulnerable and fierce at the same time. For example, Kirsten (founder of Orchard St) who is the dreamer, visionary, driving force, gentle weaver of spiritual purpose and with an incredible sense for opportunity and business. There are so many females in my life that are incredibly supportive, honest and challenging, loving and empathic at the same time. Without them, I would not have had the courage to ever put any of my work out there. By being in this circle of sisterhood I am experiencing a new paradigm of women lifting each other up and really being there for each other as healers, teachers, devil’s advocates, queens and so much more. #girlpower

How do you work through rough spots, anxiety or blockages in your creative practice?

We all have rough days when nothing seems to be quite right or turn out the way we imagined it. In those moments I always think of my beautiful friend Maryanne who is a yoga teacher and the personification of grace to me. If you can come back to your inner grace you will navigate through rough spots not only in your work but in all life situations. Grace is so gentle and invincible at the same time as it stops resistance, when we stop resisting we stop being our own block. So moving through a road block with grace means that we drop expectation, start with a clean slate and rather than trying to make something into what we imagine is best or what we want – let it come through you and from your heart. To initiate this I have some simple tricks: for food and recipes I often come up with ideas purely by using all my senses to marry those things that make the experience of eating such a pleasure – so I go to the farmers market and indulge in all the colours, textures, scent and flavours. By doing that I literally put myself in the situation of eating the finished dish and seeing how it will come together on a plate. I guess like a dancer who listens to music and feels movement automatically to the rhythm.
The other little trick I use is to step away for just little bit if I cannot step into that space. It often helps me to go for a walk and get some fresh air, especially by the ocean. Meditation also helps me to connect to the source of life itself and often completely unexpectedly.. I know what I need to do! Sometimes all that is needed is a big cry to get rid of the tension. Agreed! Love a good cry for release.


Rita’s infamous ice cream sandwiches. Photography Nick Lawrence. Styling Bettina McIlwraith.

Morning ritual?

My favourite daily ritual is to snooze mediate in the morning. I set my alarm 30 minutes too early on purpose and then just snuggle back into bed to tune in. I usually start with a gratitude practice e.g. thanking the sun for a beautiful warm day, my body which enables me every day to experience so many beautiful things, for all the incredible humans in my life, for all the opportunities and challenges in life, as well as my path that led me to this point in life and for teaching me so many things making me the person I am today.

Food from the gods?

Anything we ingest. We should honour, respect and be grateful for the abundance that is offered to us my Mother Nature. The connection to our food has been lost over the last 2 generations as we have stopped growing our own food and don’t therefore understand its incredible value. I was so blessed to have grandparents with a farm and spend  summers with them: digging up the earth, caring for the veggies and plants, harvesting crops and slaughtering an animal to feed the family. My grandpa talked about the cycle of life and I still remember how he told me that first we need to care for the soil, the crops and animals and in return they will give back to us – nurture, nourish and sustain us. I think we need to find a way to at least honour all that gives us life again even if we won’t all be able to go back to growing and harvesting our own food. Bringing back respect for our food invites honouring our body and ourselves at the same time.

Guilty pleasures?

Dance movies, spirituality and self-development books, crystals, Negroni’s and my mum’s cabbage rolls with an obscene amount of sour cream.

You’re based in Sydney for now. What are your five fave places to see, eat, retreat, meet and just be here?

My favourite places are mostly in nature where I can stop and be still and just enjoy nature. Sitting on sandstone cliffs re-centers me as does the smell and sound of the ocean. Then there are the people, that just make me feel like I’m home. There a very few places to eat that evoke that same sense of happiness but Iggy’s in Bronte takes me straight there. Going to Iggy’s in the morning for a croissant is like a warm hug from a beloved.

Vegan Tomato Gelato with caramelised pine nuts and balsamic pastilles.

Makes 4 serves
Prep time: 90 minutes

Tomato Gelato:

2.5 cups small sweet heirloom tomatoes, deseeded and halved
2 Tbsp brown sugar

½ cup cashews, soaked
½ cup coconut flesh from a young thai coconut
6 Tbsp coconut oil, warmed until liquid
1 Tbsp coconut butter, warmed until soft
2 Tbsp coconut nectar, warmed to same temperature as coconut oil
½ cup water, warmed to same temperature as coconut oil


Add the tomatoes into a big frying pan and caramelize with brown sugar. Set aside ½ cup of caramelized tomatoes.

Into a high speed blender jug add: the cashews and coconut flesh first, followed by the caramelized tomatoes and remaining ingredients. Blend until the mix has a nice smooth and silky texture. Add ¼ cup of caramelized tomatoes and fold them under by hand.
Fill the mix into a silicone mould or in a container and freeze overnight.

Balsamico Candy:

½ cup balsamico
½ cup raw sugar

Combine both ingredients in a saucepan and boil down on high heat until the consistency changes into a thick sticky sauce. Scoop onto a silicon mat or baking paper and form round candy. Set in fridge until hard.

Caramelized Pine Nuts:

½ cup pine nuts
1 pinch salt
1 ½ Tbsp brown sugar


In a frying pan dry roast the pine nuts with a pinch of salt and add the brown sugar once the pine nuts have started to be lightly roasted (light brown).

Arrange the ice cream on a cold plate and decorate with balsamico candy and sprinkle with caramelized pine nuts. Decorate with the remaining caramelized tomatoes and fresh basil leaves.

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