Sometimes being vegan is about the journey of self-growth. To find ourselves from the roles we are expected to be and to find the roles that we are most comfortable with. One way to grow is knowing the importance of self-awareness and being mindful of our decisions, then we can find what our true calling is and be the best versions of ourselves.
In this interview, we were able to have a chat with Talita Setyadi, the founder of Beau Bakery. Talita shared with us the importance of being aware and mindful as a part of our day-to-day life as she quotes, “If it feels good, do it, you're on the right track. It's not our place to tell everyone else what to do, and when they see us living our best life, then they themselves will be influenced to try.”
She tells us her journey on mindfulness and her plant-based diet is interlinked as part of her process to be her better self. Additionally, she also shared how she explores mindfulness techniques for her ventures and upcoming projects.
Hi, Talita. We've been following your journey into mindfulness and being plant-based on your social media. Can you tell us how it starts?
So it was a calling. For some reason, in 2017, there's this pull for me to meditate and do yoga that I couldn't explain. It was a natural transition for me, and it wasn't a rough one like I have to abstain from something, but it was like my body was asking to be a vegetarian. But of course, no transition is perfect. You know how when you eat meat back then, it felt so satisfying. It was like this part of you just craves it. When you have it, the feeling is kind of ravenous and animalistic.
One day I was having an awful day, then I felt I needed some comfort food. I bought KFC, I remembered, and I was like, oh my god, it feels so weird eating a dead carcass. Then I realized I could not finish it. It was then I realized that I've been using food as an emotional band-aid. When I have underlying issues around my emotional struggles in life, I ran to food. I realized then, "If I'm able to work on myself and not just use food as my escapism, it's a win-win. I become healthier emotionally, physically, mentally, and also I help the environment."
So early 2018, I started to meditate quite a lot at The Golden Space, and then I made the transition to cut dairy and eggs from my diet too. But actually, I wouldn't call myself a "vegan" because societally, there are just too many rules that constitute being a vegan.
For me currently, it is just impossible because my business and passion are still in pastry. I remember I went to Korea in 2018 and almost had a breakdown because I travelled so far to Korea, and I couldn't taste pastries from my favourite bakeries and chefs.
So slowly, I realized that there's this expectation that society puts on being a perfect vegan, such as not wearing leather and completely abstaining from dairy. I had to find a happy medium for myself that even though I'm 99% plant-based on my own diet, I want to have the freedom to be able to make decisions for myself on a case-by-case basis. If I feel that this cake or pastry is worth trying because it gives me value and enjoyment, I would still eat it.
Of course, I myself no longer eat meat, poultry or seafood, but sometimes I still do need to eat dairy for certain reasons such as research and food tastings. However, I have found that after largely cutting out dairy from my diet that my allergies and skin improved. My skin is the best it's ever been in my life, so I realize that is one of the push factors for me to always continue to be plant-based.
I also still wear leather accessories too. I know it's very controversial to be talking about this, but being largely plant-based in my diet allows me to be more thoughtful when it comes to making purchases to ensure that it is something that I would love and treasure for a long time. My journey is about doing what feels right for me at this time. People can judge me all they like. I feel this kind of lofty standard and expectations that vegans have could also intimidate people into adopting a flexitarian lifestyle too. So I focus on being compassionate and empathetic towards people's personal choices and journeys.
We also reckon that you and your husband are both into mindfulness. Who actually started the journey first, You or Yodhananta?
It was actually Yodha first, so Yodha already joined The Golden Space like a year before me. I actually met him on The Golden Space. What I really liked about being with him in any other relationship is being connected on that spiritual level, which means we have the same universal beliefs and spiritual outlook on life. It's such a plus for us; even though we disagree on everything else, we believe that our bond transcends all else, so it's nice to be in that kind of relationship.
I feel veganism and spirituality go hand in hand. Sometimes we have certain vices such as alcohol or tobacco that we go to when we have issues, and we can't deal with the emotional root cause. There are certain things we do in reaction to something instead of really understanding the root cause of why we are craving certain things. Being mindful with what we eat just adds that added layer or self-reflection of "why" and defining our intention and why it is important to us.
How important do you think mindfulness is to you?
Mindfulness has different meanings, right? I prefer the term awareness – self-awareness. Instead of using the mind, I want to allow my heart and my body to make the decisions for me. Like I said before, my journey into veganism and spirituality was largely a calling. So that's why I don't believe, for example, vegan people who feel like they are at a higher ethical level and more "woke" than carnivores. That kind of energy, in my opinion, is not very conducive to influence people who are on the fence about veganism. Like, who would want to join a judgy, self-righteous movement? So I realize by being more self-aware and finding what works for me and focus on myself, loving myself and living my life well, people will be influenced by that. I intend to always think, be and act from a place of love and acceptance instead of condemnation.
As a mindfulness practitioner, do you have some tips for beginners who might want to dabble in mindfulness?
For me, the tip is to realize what the goal is for yourself. Sometimes we are told by people that we have to meditate, but then we don't feel that we have that calling yet, or we feel we don't really know what the meditation is for yet. Usually, if that's the case, we have no motivation to go deeper into it or incorporate it into our lives.
So sit down with yourself and find out what your goal is. I know that in the past, I wanted to be less emotional, I didn't want to get angry easily, I didn't want to hurt people around me, I wanted to improve my relationship with my parents, my brother and my sister. I wanted to love myself more until I can enjoy this life without feeling that I have to be something else but myself. There's a self-worth issue in me; there are insecurities; there is a lot of sadness, wounds and trauma in me, so I knew what I wanted to heal.
Healing comes from each person understanding and having the awareness that this is the time to change. To be honest, the timing varies for each person, but when it's time, that person often will find it during a low moment in their life. Maybe they break up with an ex, get fired or go broke. During these times of crises, they will inevitably recapitulate and reassess the way that they've been living. However, of course, there are, unfortunately, those who don't realize their destructive patterns and have to experience a more substantial lesson.
Basically, when people have the awareness, and they want to get better, eventually they will come into it with their own motivation and their own goals. It is an understanding that with practices of self-awareness, one can be healthier, more joyful and peaceful. So to have the intention and the why is really important.
For me, I also entered into a spiritual journey because I fell on hard times. I had to close the first two Beau Bakery shops, and my serious boyfriend at that time broke up with me. So it was then I realized something had to change, and I had to find a way to fill the emptiness within myself. So that was the beginning of a spiritual journey. It was the beginning of everything.
Being a mindfulness practitioner, a woman, and a business owner, there is for sure a lot of stigma on having these roles all at once. Could you share with us the perks and the struggles for young women that might want to follow this career path?
For me, my career, lifestyle, and me living my life is actually a process of really breaking down societal expectations and norms and questioning whether it serves me or not. Even when I started in business as a chef, I thought I had to be a chef who had to be in the kitchen to handle the food every day or else the quality would drop. Everyone around me calls me a chef and thinks I'm a conventional chef, but I see myself as more of a big-picture type of person. So I had to build my own job description to fit my strengths and hire my weaknesses.
A lot of people think that if you want to open a bakery business, you have to be a chef who has to be there every day. That's not true, I built my bakery business as a CEO and entrepreneur, so I have space to be myself. I can go abroad for three months, and the bakery is still going without me.
Just like the idea of "veganism", I just want to warn the people to not be caught up in a societal ideal but to find their own way of doing things that sits well with you and know that you're still contributing as best as you can.
Also, having all these roles, how do you manage to do it all at once?
We don't have to do everything, but we have to do what makes us happy and what is calling us to do, so I always check with myself, "Is this the best use of my time? Is there someone else that could do this better than me?". What is my skill set? How am I built as a person? What is the best use of this machine? I know I'm built differently, and everyone else in our life is also built differently. We're good at only a small segment of all available job descriptions in the world, only 1% maybe. So why do we try to do everything?
For me, I just focus on finding what the 1% I am good at and then everything else I make the decision to outsource. I think we have to be honest with ourselves about what we want and what we don't want to do, and hold space for people and help to come into your life!
Running a food business these days requires extra hard work; how did you manage to stay relevant and compete with others?
There's something I learned from running my business; if we think that we're competing, we are always going to lose. If we only want to benefit ourselves, we will always lose because no one would be there to support us.
There's an awesome book on this called The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek. That book really helped me to understand that instead of running the race, I can focus on how we can do things differently and how we can give value instead of how much we can sell and outdo the competitors. One of them sounds very tiring, doesn't it?
For example, this other bakery is selling 300 pastries, so we have to sell 400! Like that's so tiring and petty. I'd rather have the focus pointed inwards; is this business living up to our promise to our customer? Are our products and services living up to our brand? Is this living up to our vision and mission, which is to grow Indonesian talent and expand globally? Will this new project improve education and champion authenticity and honesty in food? Is it actually doing that?
My vision and mission are crystal clear. If there is another bakery that has a different vision and mission and has 100 outlets, why should I compete with that? The one who has the same vision and mission is only me, so why am I trying to run the same races with them? Then I realized once I really knuckle down what is my vision, mission and what is my brand's promise, I'm no longer in competition, but instead, I'm in a league of my own.
Coming back again to mindfulness, but if we don't take the time to recognize ourselves, take into account who we are, our uniqueness, our strength, and our likes, then we can lose ourselves in the world of petty competitions. When you think about it, everyone is different, but everyone is trying to be the same. Once we realize what our assets are as a person or as a brand and how we can be different from others, then that is the key to success.
Beau Bakery has both vegan and non-vegan options; how do you guys manage to cater to both vegans and non-vegans? Are there any challenges that you might have encountered?
So I started beau bakery in 2014; the first shop I opened was in 2015, then I became plant-based in 2018. So it was kind of too late *laughs*. I did have an existential crisis when I thought my business no longer aligned 100% with who I am. I used to feel that this business has to be 100% everything I believe in, it's a very egotistical thing, but then it becomes kind of like a power trip, doesn't it? As a business grows, it takes on a life of its own, it has hundreds of employees and stakeholders, and it becomes a community, not a tyranny.
Beau Bakery's vision and mission are not to spread plant-based living and change people's lifestyle, no. But Beau Bakery is about growing talent, bringing awareness of artisan baking practices with a focus on culinary education.
Beau Bakery is about growing talent, so I focus on doing the basics and fundamentals well. We teach our cooks and bakers skills on how to thrive and survive in a world as a chef. To be a chef at this time, you still need to know how to cook a steak or roast a chicken. To start in pastry, you need to know how to make dairy mousse, bake a butter cake and make Tiramisu. After learning the basics, then they are free to make vegan versions, too, if they like!
Are there any future projects for Golden Space Indonesia and Beau Bakery that we should be excited about?
I no longer practice at The Golden Space so that I could focus on my podcast Taboo Tuesday with my girls Cath Halim, Andrea Gunawan and Gita Sjahrir. It's launching on the 15th of June on Spotify and Apple. We are going to discuss modern feminist issues, politics and have tough conversations about topics deemed as "taboo". Find us @tabootuesday.co on Instagram. And in the next couple of weeks, Beau Bakery is opening a New York-style deli in Kemang named Beau Pizza and Bagels.
We are going to have vegan options as well, and all our pizza and bagels are all "started by sourdough", which is our tagline. I'm happy to give more delicious choices for vegans and also non-vegans the opportunity to come by and taste vegan food. Then hopefully, in their own time, when it's their own calling, they can make the decision for themselves just like I did.