ION graduate Catherine Sharman, CEO and Founder of Après, tells us how she discovered a course – and a career – that she never knew existed.

Where does your passion for food and nutrition come from? 

I’ve been cooking for a long time, since I was about 14 years old. My home economics teacher inspired me when I was at senior school. So I've always loved cooking, and have been a chef for many years… I used to do cooking for my son’s schools, for teacher training days, all sorts of things – I used to make a lot of people’s birthday cakes, etc. I’ve always loved cooking!”  

What led you to nutritional therapy?  

“I had just had my son and was a young mum who had gained weight and was exhausted. I also had some health issues... I always had rosacea on my cheeks and used to do lots of different things to try to get rid of it – different lotions and potions, etc.

"Anyway, I've never yo-yo dieted particularly, and I’ve never [tried] the cabbage soup diet, or [any other type of] weird and wonderful diet – I was brought up on just good food… but it was having my son that I realized I wanted to lose weight, and I happened to stumble across Carol Vorderman's detox book. I [followed this diet], lost all my weight and felt fantastic – and my rosacea cleared up, which was an absolute epiphany! I had this lightbulb moment with, ‘Hang on a minute, what we’re eating is actually making a difference to our body and how we’re feeling!’ – and we've never been taught any of that, so it was fascinating…   

“[After more reading], I went out to buy some vitamin B12 to support my energy. Whilst in the health food store I picked up Patrick Holford’s Optimum Nutrition Bible and saw that you could do a course at ION… And I was like, ‘What?! You can do a course in this?!’ – so needless to say, I didn't buy the supplements, but I bought the book! And then I immediately phoned ION and booked onto the next available open day!” 

What was the idea behind Après Food? 

“Once I had qualified, I realised my grandparents were struggling. They were 94 and 95, and my grandma had just been diagnosed with early onset memory loss and dementia, and my grandfather had a big toe infection and a leg ulcer. 

“I had just got a job with a primary school sorting out their menus, and I also set up my own clinic called Remarkable Nutrition, but I cared for my grandparents for two years, until they died, and then I used my inheritance to set up my business. 

“The idea behind [Après] came from my son [saying] to me, 'you've got to tell people [about nutrition]. I thought, 'how can I get this message out?' So I re-taught myself how to cook using all that I’d learnt at ION, and I set up a restaurant where everything I cooked was underpinned by the principles of functional nutrition. I combined my new nutrition expertise and my experience as a chef and running restaurants, [to] bring alive nutritional therapy through food. 

“I wanted it to be beautiful and look ‘normal’, [so] I adapted [recognisable] recipes [to] replace all the ingredients that may contribute to challenging the body with ingredients that would work with the body from a functional perspective.” 

Do you work in clinical practise?  

“Yes, I do! I do a small amount of clinical [work] as I absolutely love doing one-to-one [consultations]. I have a small number of private clients, and I also give presentations in large companies; for example, I've given some support to Chelsea Football Club, to JP Morgan, and to insurance companies and architects... I do a quite a lot of presentations in companies, and [it] enables me to reach more people.”  

How would you sum up your business/career? 

“I would sum it up as exciting, all-encompassing, rewarding, motivating, inspiring, and always evolving, learning more – and as and when new evidence and research comes to light, I then adapt or change what we’re currently doing, so we're using this information all the time. I absolutely love it!  

Do you have a particular food philosophy?   

“I do have a food philosophy, and that is: it’s all about the person. It is not about what you have to miss out on or what you have to cut out. I don't tell people that they should be vegan or keto, or meat eating or intermittent fasting. It's meeting people where they are, and I look at it as, we crowd in the good – so focusing on everything that's good and all the abundance. 

“I also think my philosophy is ‘adapting’ – so I try not to say, ‘don't have’, and I try to adapt; I adapt the recipes, and I adapt things that people are currently eating and their current lifestyle. It [can be] really hard for people to move from where they are, particularly when they're in a challenging situation with their health or stress, whatever it might be; then suddenly giving [them] a lot of new things to do and eat, that’s often one step too far. So I listen to them carefully and look at what their lifestyle is, and what they're eating, and we adapt. And that's really what I've done with all the meals for Après – I look at what everyone is eating and their favourite foods and have adapted them – so they’re still recognisable… but you eat in the knowledge that it's doing you good and it’s nourishing you and not working against you.”  

What does a typical day look like? 

“It's quite busy! On a number of days, I will be doing prep for presentations, researching for one-to-one clients. Other days, my time is spent working on recipes and modifying recipes to fit new equipment, for example air fryers…  

“I also do a lot of promoting dishes to buyers by sending them samples, and I support my sales team through store sampling; so we did a lot of sampling in Whole Foods Market, for example, and we have others booked throughout the year. I also do a lot of marketing support and social media and PR.  

“I spend other parts of my day writing for publications and national newspapers – I’m very fortunate to be an expert in nutrition for the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, Women's Own, GQ magazine, Marie Claire magazine… It's amazing! 

“The remainder [of my time] is dealing with the business side of the business – the ‘to do’ lists that never seem to end!”  

What’s your favourite part of the ION experience?  

“To reduce it down to a few points, I would say it's the depth and breadth of the education that is given at ION. I am so grateful to how challenging that course was, I cannot tell you! Because it's given me the foundations to move on from there. I do a lot of CPD and a lot of research, daily almost, but the depth and breadth of the education, learning from experts in their fields; I just feel we were so lucky to have [lecturers] at the tip top of their careers, and listening to them was just so inspiring.  

“I also loved being around others with the same interests and beliefs as me… Meeting people with the passion and the interest, it was amazing. I found ION inspiring and also they made everything achievable.” 

What's the best thing about what you do? 

“Without a shadow of a doubt, it’s seeing the impact that good nutrition has on others, both in one-to-one clients and in giving presentations and wellbeing events. But also even more remarkable is receiving emails and phone calls from customers that have had our meals. I need to get the message out there more, because we are a small business… So when we get people that have found us and have had our meals, and getting the feedback that they give me, it’s phenomenal. It makes it all worthwhile! 

What advice would you give somebody thinking about studying nutritional therapy?   

“First of all, don't wait – there will never be a right time! I did the Science Access Course for a year and then the three year NTDC [Nutritional Therapy Diploma Course]; and in the middle of the second year of the NTDC, a friend and I were considering deferring final year because it was a lot… but I knew that if I deferred it I probably would never go back to it, because life gets in the way. So thank goodness I didn't! I think my advice would be if you’re interested in it, do it. There will never be a right time and you will never regret it.  

“The other thing I would say is if you want to do something with [the nutritional therapy qualification], beyond studying, so beyond just yourself, then I would recommend pairing up with somebody with opposite skill sets to you, so that all your bases are covered – because you need to wear a lot of hats! And at the beginning, I wished I had done a degree in accounting, marketing, PR, law, the investment process… because you can't afford all these different people [to help your business]. I spent a year writing up my business plan and setting the business up…. You don't realize that you're suddenly in the middle of the business, at the coalface so to speak, and then haven't got time to learn all these other things like bookkeeping! So it was a lot and I would recommend pairing up somebody, having a business partner with opposite skills to yours!”  

Catherine Sharman is a registered Nutritional Therapist in Functional Medicine, award-winning chef and trusted nutrition expert in leading publications. Catherine is the founder of Après At Home, establishing the UK’s only dedicated organic and gluten-free kitchen, developing convenient, award winning, nutritionally functional healthy meals for everyone - all designed around our body's needs, supporting peak health. 

Après Food’s Mission: Change people’s lives through the food they eat,making their very best health effortless, joyful, and delicious by creating and supplying certified organic, ready to eat meals using functional nutrition principles. 

@apresfoodco | 

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