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Lunch Lady Who? Linda Ellis makes sure that even the time poor are richly nourished

Posted by: Patrick Catanzariti on November 25, 2015

When you hear the phrase “lunch lady,” automatically an image of an old tuck shop lady, wearing a hair net, serving meat pies, bland soups and rock hard bread rolls in a school canteen pops into your mind, right?

But Linda Ellis is here to prove this stereotype wrong. Better known amongst the Sydney corporate community as “Lunch Lady Lou,” this health food entrepreneur is so much more. By providing delicious and nutritious foods to the Sydney corporate sphere, Lou aims to ensure that even those who are time poor are still receiving a richly fulfilling, nourishing and delicious lunch!

Battling cancer at 21, Lou wasn’t always the advocate of good health. Even after her disease she worked in a corporate role, ate out everyday, drank with her office mates, then would go home, sleep and do it all over again.

“While I loved food and I loved cooking, I couldn’t really balance the healthier side of me with the part that wanted to go out and socialise,” she admits.

“I got lazy, lost my way and I started buying my lunch everyday.”

Lou’s moment of truth came when she ripped her jeans while holidaying in South America.

“I thought to myself “okay, I am probably a bit overweight so how am I going to change this,” she recalls.

“I realised that the only thing that was wrong was that I wasn’t in control of what I was eating.”

So she began making hearty and healthy salads and taking them in to work, and to her disbelief her colleagues began offering money for her to bring them salads for them too.

So she started cooking for most people on her office floor, and before she knew it she was Lunch Lady Lou.

With minimal advertising, she was able to quit her job and run her new business full time.

Her menu features delicious salad and lunch jars packed with poached chicken, baked salmon, luscious greens and fresh herbs and spices.

“My menu is seasonal, and I get very excited when I see colourful vegetables at the markets,” Lou tells me.

Currently, her menu boasts a haloumi salad on Mondays with green olives, pear and roasted sweet potato, chicken coconut noodle curry on Tuesdays with bok choy, zucchini and rice noodles, corn fritters on Wednesday, almond crusted schnitzel on Thursday and on Fridays you have the delicacy of meatballs slow cooked in tomato sauce and soba noodles
with parmesan and greens.

Lunch Lady Lou also hosts cooking classes in her own home because she wants “people to see my pantry, what I have and how chaotic it is.”

She has come a long way from her days of having no culinary skills, admitting that she didn’t know to cook because she had no knowledge of “the basics,” the reason why many people don’t or are afraid cook today.

“One day my mum sat us down and said, “that’s it I am not cooking anymore, you guys are old enough now,” Lou recalls.

“So I cooked on Tuesday nights, and I am pretty sure that every Tuesday night for a year and a half we had spaghetti bolognese because I didn’t know how to make anything else.”

Now, rather than following recipe guides, she teaches how to cook by using the senses and what you feel like, so that her clients learn how different ingredients, herbs and spices work together to create delicious flavours.

“I see them reading the recipe and I say “no lets just go into garden and grab some mint,” Lou says.

“I just say use hand full of this and a dash of this. They look at me like I am crazy but then they try it and they really love what they have made. The rule is there are no rules. You are only really bound by your lack of imagination.”


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