Personal trainer and self-confessed gym junkie, Trivaran Naidoo, may have studied mechanical engineering, but it seems inevitable the fitness fanatic would switch to something more closely aligned with his passions. Now he's ready to take his focus on healthy living to the next level with Prahran's new Paleo cafe, Paleo Den, opening soon on Chapel Street.
"I'm borderline obsessed with this whole game," Naidoo says. "I really like what I do and a lot of my clients appreciate the level of passion I have for it, and that's why they stick around."
Naidoo started training himself around a decade ago, and has been a personal trainer for five of those years. "When I started out I was investigating nutrition and what to eat and I'd have a look out when I was out and about for any establishment that carried body builder-friendly food or just good, healthier options and there wasn't much about," he says.
Spotting a gap in the market for a great Paleo cafe in Melbourne, Naidoo has teamed up with chef, Hai Tranphan, to open Paleo Den in the core of Prahran's health-conscious heartland. "I'm very fortunate to have paired up with Hai, who's just as passionate about healthy eating as I am," Naidoo says. "Somebody introduced us and we hit it off from the get go. We have a very similar outlook on life and healthy eating. I'm very big on gut feeling; when I have a good feeling about something, I go with it."
If you're not quite as fanatical as Naidoo but you're definitely keen on exploring the Palaeolithic, natural wholefoods diet, this Paleo cafe is the perfect spot to dip your toes. There will be two menus at Paleo Den – the mainstream one with a more consumer-friendly, metro focus and, down the tracks, a more hard-core Paleo one for the heavy lifters who want to measure out every gram of protein, carbohydrates and fat.
The standard menu will include the likes of a scrummy-sounding poached egg with chorizo, spiced carrot mousse, grilled zucchini and pickled beets, as well as coconut confit salmon with herbs, orange, fennel and cucumber salad. If you want your brekkie to pack a Paleo punch, try the Vietnamese BBQ chicken with jalapenos, slaw and lemongrass.
One thing Naidoo is keen to get across with Paleo Den is that healthy eating and a Paleo diet doesn't have to equate to boring. "If you think you need to eat nothing but broccoli and boiled chicken all day to get in shape, nothing could be further from the truth," he says. "Think meat, poultry, fish, nuts and a loads of vegetables of different colours for different photo-nutrients. We'll have sweet potatoes and a variety of rices. No wheat and dairy is also a big part of a Paleo diet."
Naidoo hopes he can share some of his passion for healthy eating through the cosy and inviting space that is Prahran's Paleo Den. He feels like the neighbourhood is natural choice for what he's trying to achieve. "Prahran seems to have the coolest, funkiest crowd that's also very health conscious, not to mention with the number of commercial gyms as well as smaller studios in the area, it's a good fit."
One thing Naidoo's counting on is a growing hunger for realistic options when it comes to healthy eating, rather than a focus on fad diets that change with the seasons. "If you follow a fad diet, what do you do when the diet's over? Go back to what you were eating before? This is a lifestyle choice. People are catching onto Paleo. You can't go wrong when you go natural. That's what the body is designed to digest. It's not just about the calories, it's also about the response to specific foods."
Naidoo says that switching people's mindset over to a new way of thinking about healthy eating is a big part of what he's trying to achieve with Paleo Den. "A typical cafe breakfast would be poached eggs on toast with a side of bacon. We'll be baking our own paleo bread, which is wheat-free."
Of course, this being Melbourne and bearing in mind our particular obsessions, Paleo Den will carry a few exceptions too. "I'm sure coffee's not all that Paleo," laughs Naidoo. "It will be organic though."
Editor's Note: We can't wait to check out the latest Paleo cafe in Melbourne! In the meantime, here's where we're indulging in the best Paleo breakfasts in town.
Main image credit: Half Baked Harvest