Dr. Ritu Chhatwal is not your run of the mill entrepreneur. Born in Cuba (Her parents were posted there as Indian diplomats), she has lived in Canada, India, Jamaica, Kuwait, Malaysia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, the UK, and the US. Having graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Wesleyan University, a Master’s degree in Inter-disciplinary studies from J.F.K. University, she went on to become a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, Coach, Mentor and a Master Practitioner of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). As her interest in alternative healing grew, she trained in various healing modalities including the Silva Method, Reiki, Rising Star, Acupressure and at the Barbara Brennan School of Healing.
She began her career in social development as a consultant for the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) before working for the United Nationals Population Fund (UNFPA). Her main areas of focus were Primary Healthcare, Reproductive Health, and Gender-related issues. Unhappy with the slow pace of international bureaucracy, she moved into the private sector, developing quality assurance and training programs for a BPO servicing Fortune 500 companies. From the Caribbean, she moved to India, where she established a successful practice in clinical hypnotherapy, coaching and mentoring. In 2011, she moved to Sri Lanka with her partner, where a patch of bad health ultimately led her to found Beyond Passé, where she curates and distributes foods that are delicious, environmentally friendly and animal free.
I’ve had allergies for a long time but I dealt with them, not in the way that people usually deal with such situations – by popping pills. Instead, I learned to control my allergic reactions by managing what I ate and by reading up and educating myself on how to minimize my exposure to allergens.
After a couple of years in Sri Lanka, my partner and I went through a bad patch of health and that is when things changed for us. After consulting a number of doctors we finally met one who introduced us to Integrated Medicine, which is a holistic approach to health that brings together different healing traditions and seeks to treat the root cause of the illness. Although I was familiar with many of the modalities he used, I had never experienced or seen it applied it in a systematic manner. His treatment encompassed everything from modern medicine, acupuncture, nutrition, exercise, meditation, homeopathy, and craniosacral therapy. Most importantly he taught us to work with our bodies! Diet assumed an incredibly important part as this is the primary basis for the energy required for healing and health. That realization I think was the starting point of this journey.
While integrated medicine really helped us heal, we realized that because of our allergies our diet had become pretty restrictive. I really love dairy products and wheat, but we had to forego all foods that contained these ingredients. So no more masala chai, lattes or cappuccinos, bread or pizza and not even most wines – because casein, a milk protein is used as a fining agent in many wines. Our food had to be dairy free, gluten free, and in my case corn and soya free as well. I also had to avoid peanuts, preservatives and most types of lentils and we even had to be careful about the cooking oils we used. It was an incredibly steep learning curve! What we found was that wherever we went, it was tough to find things that we could eat. Luckily, traditional foods like rice and vegetables were widely available, but whenever we ate out we had to be careful as they often contained butter, cream, yogurt, ghee or milk so it became important to carefully read menus, labels or ask repeated questions.
We ended up having to simply give up on some of our favorite foods like bread, cakes, roti, ice cream, butter, etc. It was a serious challenge for us and to make it worse, people insisted on giving us food that had just a “tiny bit of ghee” not realizing that allergens are like poison – even a tiny amount can have serious repercussions. The few acceptable foods we found in the market were often imported and cost a lot yet tasted like cardboard. These foods came in nice packaging and looked attractive on the outside but once you had a bite, your appetite vanished and eating became a chore.
I really wanted to be able to eat something that was delicious and yet at the same time would affect my body positively. We started looking around and noticed that there were so many people going through the same situation or had someone in their family going through a similar experience. I realized that we were not alone and I wanted to do something about it, for all of us, instead of just complaining. And so I started researching on the internet, exploring supermarkets and specialty food stores, and I asked lots of questions. What I found was that there are a lot of foods aimed at people like us in the US, UK, and Australia, where vegetarians and vegans are becoming a large consumer group and food allergy awareness, is generally higher than in India. Unfortunately, be it local or imported, a majority of these “healthy” or “good for you” food just tasted awful. I then made it my mission to find delicious and guilt-free foods that I can eat. That search continues to take me across the world to curate and procure food that I, and hopefully you, would love to eat!
I went looking for deliciously guilt-free food and I started finding these suppliers and I shared these food finds with others and saw that there was a lot of interest.
I realized that if I started buying and distributing food products from these suppliers I could also help people whilst making it a viable business. So that’s what we are doing with Beyond Passé: distributing food products from these really unique suppliers, who are deeply interested in the food they create and how it impacts people’s health. We hope to raise awareness among people not only about the options available to them but also about how our food choices impact us as individuals and the environment that we live in. Having allergies requires modifying your lifestyle, however that does not mean that you have to give up on tasty foods!
I hope people will come to trust my judgment so when I recommend a food product they know that it tastes delicious while being healthy for both them and the environment. I understand that taste is subjective and extremely personal, so my goal here is to introduce foods that are different yet delicious. For example, there are many dairy-free cheese options available but so many of them have little or no taste! Instead of having to go through a lengthy and expensive trial and error process with different brands, I have selected and imported a dairy-free cheese brand that tastes just like the dairy version! All you have to do is choose which form of dairy-free “cheese” you want to try first! I want to make this easy for others. My aim is to provide a platform where you can get trusted, delicious foods for you and your family. A one-stop “shop” to find delicious versions of all kinds of stuff – chocolates, snacks, ice creams, dips, drinks, etc. All our food products are minimally dairy AND gluten-free!
I think it’s mainly because we are so far removed from what we eat; most children don’t even know where their food comes from. If you live on a farm you know how the grain is grown, how the animals are raised, etc. But most children growing up in cities have never been to a farm, and most people forget that their meat comes from a living animal. Factory farming has changed the way animals are reared and treated – they are kept in inhumane conditions, fed increasing amounts of antibiotics and artificial foods and are far removed from anything “natural”. How many people who have been to a such a farm or slaughterhouse would eat meat or consume grains loaded with pesticides? Seeing where your food comes from and how it’s grown is important as it allows you to make informed dietary choices. I believe in the future; society will be harsh on meat eaters as they are now on smokers. Governments everywhere have taken steps to limit where people can smoke and are continuously telling people that it is not good for them. Fifty years down the line I think meat eaters might be subjected to similar proclamations and restrictions.
However, I must emphasize that I don’t believe that I have the right to force my views on others! I would like to invite people to explore, find information and let them make their own choices. It’s like sowing seeds, you sow seeds and hope they grow well. I believe in encouraging people and giving them options. After all, each of us is on a unique journey. Wherever one might be on their evolutionary food journey, I want to make sure we are there to provide them with delicious guilt-free options should they choose to forego foods they consume today.
There is a lot of information out there, especially now that people just Google things. The danger lies in that much of the information found on the internet for examples generic, but people are not–everyone is different. You have to find out what is good for you and your body. Luckily we all have a built-in guidance system. Try out food, and see how your body feels after eating it. It’s as simple as that. If you eat something and you feel fine both physically and mentally, then it’s probably Ok for you but if you feel bloated or nauseous or need to take an antacid after eating or just feel irritable, perhaps something is not right. Look at a few differing viewpoints. I wish it was easier to discern but what could be right for you might not be right for me. Just because a food does not agree with me doesn’t mean it’s bad for you. Sometimes, it helps to just abstain from a certain food or food group for a few weeks and see how you feel. This is particularly true if you think you might have an allergy to dairy or gluten.
We have both organic and non-organic products. All our food is free of harmful preservatives but is not necessarily organic. Some are near-organic, in that they are close to but not necessarily completely there yet. All inputs including soil, water, the seeds used – need to be of a certain standard to be certified organic. Sometimes, just one of these inputs cannot be confirmed as organic and thereby the certification is deferred. Furthermore, obtaining organic certifications from the US, EU, Australia, and Japan, for example, is both an expensive and lengthy process. Certification is only issued for a limited period of time, so you have to keep renewing it. All these lead to added costs. The consumer must be made aware of why organic food is more expensive. It’s ironic that we now need to spend more money to grow our food naturally as our ancestors did!
We carefully label all our food on the website, clearly identifying which items are organic, non-organic, pesticide-free, dairy free, gluten free, non-GMO, etc.
Beyond Passé is a mixture of English and French, which basically means “beyond the norm”. What I wanted to convey was that we are doing things in exciting and different ways than we used to do in the past. Being “different” and unique is “in”! Being a caring consumer is not passé!
As for the logo, I chose a chameleon because it’s an animal that changes itself to suit its surroundings. Our goal, at one level, is to change and prosper in the world we live in. On another level, our products originate as one thing and end up as something that is unrecognizable from its original form. For example, we have cheeses made out of coconut oil that looks and taste exactly like regular cheese but has clearly changed form from its coconut origins. So, like the chameleon, our products have changed their form to suit a new dietary reality.
I believe that most people when given information and evidence, will come to their own conclusions. People think of vegans as puny, non-muscular people but that is not the case at all. A lot of top athletes are vegan or vegetarian, like Carl Lewis winner of nine Olympic Gold Medals, tennis player Martine Navratilova who played professionally into her 40s, MMA fighter Mac Danzig, boxer Mike Tyson, and ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek. Many actors are vegan too like Pamela Anderson, Ellen Page, James Cromwell, Alicia Silverstone, Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Jaqueline Fernandez, Woody Harrelson to name just a few, but this is not something that gets a lot of publicity for some reason.
I think both women and men are into making healthy choices. But I guess traditionally women have been involved in choosing and preparing the food, so they understand the importance of eating wholesome food. With the changing of gender roles even here in India, I hope to see this automatic association disappear over time.
A trusted name with a reputation for supplying delicious vegan and gluten-free products sourced from all over the world. Also, a platform that everyone can join, contribute to and use to make meaningful changes to the way they live.