Whole Over Perfect: The story behind Living Food Lab


On June 2018, Max Zahariadis, better known as Insanely Raw on Youtube, interviewed our director Pauliina Salmenhaara, extracting some of the most beautiful insights of her life and Living Food Lab’s story and mission.

As you enter Living Food Lab, there’s a feeling of authenticity and honesty reflected through their open doors, transparent glass kitchen and wholesome food. These values are a clear reflection of the milestones in Pauliina’s life, which culminated in a philosophy of Whole Over Perfect. She recalls how a childhood and early adulthood eating disorder put her on the path to trying to find what fit for her. “At a certain point, I thought it was raw food, I was very excited and I did it 100%, but it just didn’t feel good. I felt deprived and unhappy… and that’s when the clarity of “Whole Over Perfect” came to me.”

Pauliina explains that her biggest realization came through meditation. She knew then that her purpose and mission on earth was to facilitate other people’s path to healing, and also to spread an acceptance of how it is ok to be imperfect. The “Whole over Perfect” awakening for her represented a moment where she started to have an authentic conversation with herself and her body.

She also realized that the human relationship with food is not static, that it is constantly changing, affected and determined by several factors such as hormones, moods, lack of sleep, overall happiness or even small elements as feeling thrilled or drained by work, or feeling that you are enjoying your kids or completely annoyed by them… All of these day-to-day issues have a direct effect on our food decisions and after understanding this, Pauliina started to be more conscious about what she ate: when, why and how. This personal growth was crucial to create a clear path regarding Living Food Lab’s essence.

Pauliina explains that Living Food Lab has three keywords that are equally important. The first one is “Living”, that denotes being alive: the people and the food. She illustrates “living” by the process of soaking nuts and seeds and allowing them to sprout, and about people being alive, aware and awakened. The second keyword is obviously about Food, but for her, it will never be only about food, but also about conscious eating. Finally, “Lab” embodies the spirit of continuously experimenting, of creating out of curiosity and never settling down: “What new ideas do we have?”.

The aesthetic of the restaurant was carefully defined; her vision was “industrial meets green”. She wanted everything to have not only a visual pleasure effect, but an actual function as well. For example, the breakfast bar was inspired by traditional Chinese pharmacies with L-shaped metal shelves and glass jars with wooden tops: “We worked with local wood designers, metal workers, steel workers, and it was a nonstop conversation.”


Breakfast Bar at Living Food Lab in Canggu Square

She describes how every spot of the restaurant has a different feeling, all of the structures are on wheels so people can move them around to fit their mood and intentions. Moreover, she emphasizes Living Food Lab’s readiness for creation and connection: “We are open to anyone that wants to share. We love people and we love food so we want to bring them together in a co-creation and co-working space.”

Coming back to Max, the interviewer, he lived 20 years as “home-less”, and the first thing that he looks for in a new city is a place where he can restore a sense of home: a place where he can work, eat and socialize. A place that resonates enough to build a routine around, and that’s what Living Food Lab was for him: a home in his 20 days in Canggu.

Here is the full interview.

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