Jacqui Toumbas is a very busy lady; no wonder she creates food to eat on-the-go.
The West End local is founder of Miss Bliss Treats, the homemade and natural health balls popping up in cafe jars all over Brisbane. The 27-year old nutritionist bubbles over with an infectious enthusiasm for eating and food, before she has to rush off. When I catch up with her she is busy delivering treats to Paniyiri Greek Festival with her dad.
Family and food are at the centre of Jacqui’s life. Raised in a Greek family, she lives in an apartment a few floors above her “Yiayias” (her grandmothers) who taught her to cook and to whom she looks for the tick of approval on new recipes. “I remember spending days in the kitchen standing on a chair to reach the bench with my Yiayia, kneading dough, stirring pots or helping her in any way. All of our family events revolve around food, so naturally it became something I loved.”
While studying a degree in nutrition, Jacqui was seeking ways to marry her passion for food with a healthy and balanced lifestyle. She launched Miss Bliss Treats in January 2014, in response to an overwhelming demand for the health balls she was packaging as Christmas gifts for friends and then selling on her popular healthy-living blog, Get Fit Chicks. The raw, energy boosting bliss balls are 100 per cent natural, and refined sugar, gluten and dairy free. The bliss balls are where Jacqui’s love of food and devotion to nutrition meet. It’s a welcome revelation that flavour combinations such as apple and cinnamon and peanut butter cacao or coconut lemon are actually good for you; a treat you can “grab and go” as an alternative to eating a piece of cake. It could be why Miss Bliss Treats are now stocked in more than 20 Brisbane cafes.
Come late June, jars filled with Jacqui’s fabulous bliss balls will line the counter of her own cafe, when she opens the doors to Miss Bliss Whole Foods in West End. In a stroke of serendipity, the opportunity arose for Jacqui to open Miss Bliss Whole Foods in the building which has been home to Andy’s Fruit Market since 1968. Until it recently closed, her grandfather would meet his friends at the back of the market every morning to drink coffee and play cards, returning at two in the afternoon for another round. Jacqui hopes to keep the same sense of community and family at the heart of her new cafe which is sure to please the local crowd with nourishing breakfast items like vegan chia pudding topped with housemade granola and strawberry jam.
“I wouldn’t open it anywhere else. My family is based in West End. My brother runs a business here, my dad meets his friends for coffee every morning and my grandparents’ house is a meeting point for my whole family. I want to bring a community sense to Miss Bliss Whole Foods — somewhere everyone feels comfortable. If you ask my friends, I don’t venture out of West End much; it’s home to me. I just wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Words by Julia Baker | Images by Sophia Tsiros