On a cold day in mid-December, a healthy hedonist arrived at our brewery. Despite the rather striking description, there’s nothing particularly unusual about that. There are a decent number of healthy hedonists working at the Real Kombucha site. However, as we’d never quite put our finger on what this breed of person might call themselves, we were fascinated to meet another of our ilk – especially one who could talk the talk as well as walk the walk.
At Real Kombucha, we often talk about Modern Drinkers – folks who aren’t in the pub for a skinful, but are there because it’s where people meet, ideas are exchanged, plans are hatched and things get underway. They quaff because they appreciate the nuances of a quality drink, not because it’s the be all and end all. In this ethos, we recognise similarities with the healthy hedonists. Healthy hedonism is a lifestyle we can get behind.
The healthy hedonist wrapped up in several chunky layers at our brewery that day was Cami Vidal. Cami is known for a number of things, not least being an award-winning ambassador for St Germain. On any given day, her job takes her to any number of far-flung, luxury hotspots, but there’s nothing bling about her. Despite walking through what must be a world of constant temptation, Cami is unusually focused on a life lead in the service of balance and presence. Her schedule is a hectic one, but she has an enviable calmness about her, and it’s a relief to hear that her latest venture, La Maison Wellness, is determined to help other people find a similar equilibrium.
So we grabbed a couple of kombuchas and sat down for a chat about her early years, her journey towards wellness, her ability to get her feet behind her ears, and to see if healthy hedonism might be a code for good living in 2019.
Let’s start with that term, “Healthy Hedonist”. Tell me what you mean by that. I think it’s a fascinating phrase.
I grew up in the South of France, so I think it’s partly to do with my upbringing. I’ve always had a view on life that I wanted to make the most out of every moment. I wanted to celebrate not just the big moments but the little things that make life so beautiful. For me, a hedonist is very much someone who is seeking pleasure and happiness, but that doesn’t have to mean self-indulgence. You can bring self-care and self-love to it. The healthy hedonist is someone who is finding balance and creating a balance that works for themselves.
It’s an interesting dichotomy, isn’t it? You’re talking about hedonism, but you’re also talking about a kind of spirituality (for want of a better word). The two things don’t usually go together, do they?
No, they don’t. But I think people get it. When I started using the words “healthy hedonist” together, people seemed to understand immediately. They saw that it’s a celebration of life – that it’s possible to have what we call “good things” – pleasure, fun, happiness – in a healthy way. And for me, “a healthy way” doesn’t mean no alcohol, no sugar, or whatever. “Healthy” doesn’t mean “no”. It means finding the balance.
It’s an interesting time to be talking about this. We’re coming up to New Year, when everyone starts talking about resolutions. I prefer to talk about intentions. I feel as though “resolution” has a bit of a negative connotation. I don’t like the word. It feels like you’re removing things from your life. You can say similar things about the connotations around “healthy”. It has come to mean “boring”. It means you can’t have the things that you enjoy. For me, that’s really not what it should mean. “Healthy” means balance. It means finding the right balance for you. You can have an amazing cocktail, but enjoy movement; enjoy breathing. Enjoy the things that bring you wellbeing. That’s the healthy hedonist lifestyle.
Did you always think in this manner?
I think the idea of celebrating life and making the most out of it was always something that I was aware of. It was a way that I wanted to live. Maybe I’ve been lucky because I got to travel and learn and have an open mind. I got to see the world and its people… its many different cultures… and I wanted to celebrate that. But the understanding that I needed and wanted to be healthy enough to help other people find their balance, that definitely came later, probably in my late 20s. I needed to create the balance for myself first.
The idea of balance, though – it’s important to recognise that that’s never something you achieve. It’s something that you’re always working on. It looks different from day to day. It never looks the same, it’s evolving all the time, and that’s the beauty of it.
It sounds very similar to the Buddhist principle of being in a “constant state of becoming”.
Yes, and I see the idea of “balance” in a very similar way. For me, the idea of balance is like a tightrope walker’s pole. It’s constantly moving, constantly adjusting. You’re in constant evolution and movement, and that’s the beauty of it. Sometimes you lean too far one way, and that’s OK. You just have to adjust to that situation. Maybe lean back a little bit. I love the idea that it’s never going to be the same.
It’s the thing I say to my 10-year-old daughter whenever she’s feeling insecure or frightened. “The one thing we know for sure is that nothing stays the same.” We both take great comfort in that.
Yes exactly. Nothing stays the same. As long as you’re aware and in tune with yourself, it’s a beautiful thing.
I’m a bit older than you, and for my generation, back in the 90s, hedonism meant hedonism! Hard drinking, living life to the wire – that’s what hedonism meant. I have good memories, but I don’t remember a lot of it. Hangovers and nostalgia are a sorry combination. I find it incredibly inspiring that younger people seem keen to embrace what you might call a more positive lifestyle. People are drinking less and doing things in a far more conscious way. Why do you think that change has taken place?
Well, to be honest, I’m in my early 30s and I already see a difference between our age group and the people who are in their early 20s. Maybe it’s simply because there’s more knowledge and more access to knowledge these days. Nutrition, balance, lifestyle – it’s all better understood. It reminds me of stories that you read about when people thought cigarettes were good for you. Now we know that if you’re smoking a packet a day, you’re far more likely to get lung cancer.
That might be why, but I also feel as though the generation after ours is even more in tune. They don’t seem to need to drink so much, to party so hard, to smoke so much. They’re driven a lot more by the desire for experiences. It’s not enough to just go out and get drunk. They’re always looking to try something new. They’ll flock to a non-alcoholic cocktail bar because it’s new. It’s something that challenges the norms. It’s about being more open-minded; the desire to live in a different way.
Tell me a bit about La Maison Wellness and what you’re doing there.
Well, I wanted to inspire people to live in that healthy hedonistic way. I wanted to share all those things that I’m passionate about and inspire people to live the same way – to eat well, drink well, live well, be well. I decided to start by creating my website, which will be a platform for people to come and learn everything about the healthy hedonist lifestyle. There’ll be info and advice on food and nutrition, collaborations with chefs, cocktail recipes from around the world, travel ideas and 24-hour guides, info about wellness and mindfulness, yoga, meditation, and the global communities I’ve come into contact with that embrace all this. I just wanted to put all of that together as a virtual platform where people can connect.
And then I want to bring all of that to life through events. I’m talking about yoga brunches, mindful supper clubs, meditation breakfasts! Bringing together likeminded people to inspire each other. But I want to do it in a way that makes people feel like they belong. In this world where we’re hyper-connected all the time, it’s very easy to feel isolated – to feel like you don’t fit in. As much as I love all the hospitality and creativity of all the people I work with – all these inspiring people in what you might call the Wellness Industry – I’m aware that there are people who don’t know how to approach that. For them to step into all of this can feel a bit overwhelming. Maybe they don’t feel they look right; maybe they’re not confident enough to join in at a yoga studio; maybe they’re intimidated by the idea of meditation; maybe they drink a lot of alcohol and feel they’ll be judged. I want to help them by giving them all the information and all the tools to make them feel welcome and find a balance that works for them.
As I said before, balance looks different every day, but it also looks different for every person.
So, where are you at with La Maison Wellness?
At the moment, it’s just the beginning, but it’s been incredibly inspiring hearing from all these different people who have reached out to say it has inspired them to start moving, to start breathing [laughs], to start meditating, to start eating better, to find things to enjoy that can be non-alcoholic or low alcohol – to celebrate life and bring more awareness to what they’re doing. That’s exactly the reason that I wanted to launch La Maison Wellness. It’s wonderful.
I have some events coming – yoga brunches, mindful supper clubs, yoga retreats, and more – and I’m also starting to work with brands to help them find a way of connecting with what this kind of consumer wants. It’s very much the beginning.
You’ve mentioned yoga a number of times, and if anyone looks at your Instagram page, you seem to be able to bend into poses that I find almost painful to look at!
How long did that take you to be able to do that?
I’ve been practicing yoga for about six years now, and it has become a big part of my life. I’m in love with it. But, you know, as much as I love being able to put my feet behind my head and being a Bendy Wendy – being more of an acrobat than a yogi – that’s obviously not what yoga is about. It’s not about being able to touch your toes, but about what you’re going to learn on the way. The most incredible thing that yoga brought into my life is having this awareness – being more in tune with my body and my self. That comes with breath work, mindfulness and meditation. It doesn’t have to involve pulling crazy yoga poses or having to sweat on the mat for so many hours.
I wanted to take the chance to thank you for helping us with our Christmas drinks article. You made some great kombucha cocktails, which we’ll be doing more creative things with in the coming weeks. From your vast experience working on the international bar and cocktails scene, what is it about kombucha that you think is really catching the imagination?
I think kombucha is an incredible ingredient. There are so many brands out there, and they’re all so different. Coming to visit your brewery has been so fascinating, to learn what you guys do and and how you do it so well. I think I’ve tried all the kombuchas out there, but I’ve always been so impressed by the quality of Real Kombucha. It’s mind-blowing. The consistency, the fact that there’s nothing added to it. There’s nothing to hide behind.
So, I’ve always loved working with quality ingredients, especially where there’s obviously a passion that has gone into making them. I loved working with non-alcoholic and low alcohol ingredients because, as I just said, there’s nothing to hide behind. You don’t have the strength of alcohol, so you don’t have all that body and flavour that comes with the alcohol, so you need to find those nuances and surprising notes. Kombucha certainly helps with that.
I have to say, I also love the idea of having a drink that tastes great but also does you some good. If I can have a delicious non-alcoholic cocktail that also works positively with my microbiome, I’ll take that! There are so many sodas out there, so it’s good to have something that tastes delicious, is good for you and isn’t full of sugar.
For bartenders, though, I think they’d be more interested in kombucha if they had more knowledge about what it takes to brew kombucha – the temperature, the health of the old mothers, and everything else that comes into play. It’s very similar to making a spirit, so I think bartenders would be fascinated if they learnt a bit more. At the moment, they see it as something that’s easy to make at home. They don’t see the craft and incredible understanding that you guys bring to it.
Thanks, Cami, and good luck with La Maison Wellness. What are the big things you have up your sleeve for 2019?
I’m looking forward to bringing La Maison Wellness to more people, inspiring more people, bringing healthy hedonism to more people around the world. More events, more retreats, more collaborations with bartenders, chefs and brands. There’s a lot to come. 2019 is going to be an exciting year for sure.