Going Paleo



If you’ve ever started a diet you’ll know how hard it is decoding what’s good and what’s bad. Everything worth eating seems to be off-limits in one diet or another. And if you’re anything like me, you just have a problem with the word “diet” altogether; life is just too short to be passing up lattes and cheesecake.









When trying to be healthy, eating out can be difficult. Well, cue the applause.

Imagine fluffy scrambled eggs and bacon, sweet thick smoothies, buttery pancakes and possibly even a dollop of coconut ice cream to top it all off. And all guilt free!

Introducing Paleo Cafe.

This bright little café is a small home-grown business with a huge amount to offer. Dreamt up just over a year ago by Cairns couple, Marlies and Jai, Paleo Café is a hub of healthy, tasty and hearty foods and ingredients that follow the foundations of the Paleolithic fundamentals.

Okay, so of course it’s not all cakes and desserts all of the time. The Paleolithic lifestyle (notice how I didn’t say diet?) is a way of eating that mimics the 2.5 million year old nutritional regime of our ancestors. Also known as the caveman diet or hunter-gatherer diet, it’s based on a nutritional plan of natural plants and animals consumed by humans during the Paleolithic era, just a mere 10,000 years ago.

Unlike a “diet”, the Paleo lifestyle isn’t about eliminating food groups. It’s about opening them up and using as many fresh, natural ingredients that you can think of to create hearty, healthy meals ideal for our body’s digestion. So you can have that cheesecake if you so desire, just not the way it comes processed and packaged in the supermarket.

Paleo focuses on eating mainly fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots and nuts. Those following the Paleo lifestyle try to avoid grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes, refined salt, refined sugar and processed oils.

When you think about how we were made to eat – before fast food restaurants and pie shops started popping up around every corner – Paleo just makes sense!

If Paleo is heaven-sent (and I think it is), then Paleo Café founder Marlies Hobbs, is my skin and waistline’s guardian angel. As a qualified lawyer, mother, entrepreneur and now a successful franchisor. This woman doesn’t know what sleep is. But food? Now, that she knows!

I have to admit that I was a little nervous to interview Marlies about her hugely successful café. My presumptions were confirmed when sitting before me I found a smart, beautiful, fit and healthy woman who seemed to have it all and be able to do it all.

Of course by the end of the conversation I was eating my own words (pun intended).

You could say Paleo Café is the product of Marlies and her husband Jai’s two-year-old son, Troy. At just two weeks old Troy was suffering from severe acid reflux which, after many months, was diagnosed as caused by a dairy intolerance. Marlies was worried her little boy was starving.

It was through this experience that Jai and Marlies realised the effects of food on our bodies. “It was a fairly traumatic period. I learnt a lot through that experience I can tell you,” Marlies said.

With this newfound awareness of the effects of food on his family, Marlies’ husband Jai tabled the idea of trying the Paleo diet.

“I thought it was the most crazy thing I’d heard of,” Marlies said, “I say that because I like people to know that I relate with them when they look at the food pyramid of the Paleo lifestyle and think, ‘There’s no way I could do that, because I was exactly the same.”


While cooking Paleo was exciting and adventurous, Marlies said shopping Paleo was another story.

“It was in March/April 2012 when I said to Jai, ‘Wouldn’t it be fantastic if there was one convenient health food store and café dedicated to Paleo, where there was no bad food options to tempt you with convenient meals and take home meals?”

The following day Marlies and Jai registered Paleo Café as a business.

In under a year, the dedicated couple has grown the idea into a thriving and successful café and franchise business. Not only is their café in Cairns drawing in people from across the country, but Paleo Cafés are now planned for around Australia. The newest Paleo Cafés are set to open in Paddington, Brisbane and Bondi Junction, Sydney in the next couple of months. Other cafés are planned for Melbourne/ Mornington Peninsula, Newcastle, Townsville, Adelaide, Manly, Perth, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.

If that weren’t enough to keep them busy, Marlies and Jai are also planning to launch their brand new inspirational cookbook early next year.

“There were lots of very late nights. I kept working as a lawyer and Jai has his own finance business,” Marlies said. “We operated on adrenalin I think. Most nights I would only sleep about five to six hours tops. I would go to work all day then when Troy would go to bed at 7pm I would work until midnight.”

“I’ve learnt to become very adaptable. Everyone’s said I’ve changed a lot in the last 12 months. I guess you have to. It’s been a whirlwind of a year. I underestimated the extent of what Paleo Café would become.”

Demonstrating their passion for the lifestyle, Paleo Café has evolved into a learning space as much as it is a place to enjoy fresh and delicious meals. Walking into the café you’ll not only hear the hum of the blender and the clinking of cutlery, but you’ll be drawn in by a library of books both for sale and just to flick through while you’re chugging back that smoothie.

“One of every book that we sell we put in the library for those that might not be able to afford to buy or just want to have a browse through and write down recipes,” Marlies explained, scoffing at my amazement at her generosity.

“When I started this business money was never my motivation. I had come up with the idea purely as a consumer. Having this for myself was going to make my life easier.”

“Lots of people think I’m mad because I share a lot of my recipes. But we’re never going to run out of recipes to share.” “There’s loads of Paleo recipes available. Our chefs are experimenting every week. They’re pretty good at finding recipes that can be made Paleo.”

“Cheese is something hard to replicate, but then you can still make a cheese cake (or ‘cheese fake’ as we call them, from cashews or coconut yoghurt). You’ll never replicate the taste of a traditional pasta dish, but we use zucchini to make pasta.” “Really the options are completely endless and I don’t feel like I’m missing out at all.”

Marlies said cooking and entertaining with Paleo is fun because it forces you to be creative, especially when entertaining. “My friends know if they come to my house for dinner they’re going to get Paleo. But I never get anything but compliments to be honest. It’s fairly simple eating, it’s not overly complicated.”