With a global career at the likes of Noma in Copenhagen, Vue de Monde in Melbourne and Kokoma Private Island Resort, Australian-born chef Cory Campbell has deep experience of how the push-push-push hospitality game can affect body and soul. “It’s about getting in there and doing it – working long hours on your feet – but it’s mentally challenging too; you have to problem-solve.”

Meeting his wife Kim, a naturopath and nutritionist from Nelson, only reinforced his focus on actively maintaining wellness, both inside the work environment and out.

A Google search for ‘farmers’ markets’ was the digital hand of destiny, directing the couple towards Matakana – and a quieter lifestyle. They had never travelled north of Auckland before, but immediately felt at ease in this foodie haven. So they packed up their two young boys and a will to invent something of their own: “We moved two days before lockdown,” says Cory.

Mornings begin a little differently here. Cory might go with the flow at sunrise in the pair’s home yoga studio; Kim might take an early-morning dip in the ocean with some of the local mums. And the dyed-in-the-wool routine of a caffeine shot or two before springing into action has been ditched in favour of an invigorating herbal brew from a teas-as-tonics brand Kim has created.

In his six years as executive chef at Vue de Monde, Cory was instrumental in helping the restaurant achieve three-hat status. Key to this success was his belief in ‘flavour as a nutrient’. While he acknowledges that regularly eating at fine-dining establishments may not be kind on the pocket, he argues that it is nourishing. “When you source ingredients from passionate growers, and then use cooking techniques that showcases the product in its truest form, you reap the health benefits of the food,” he says.

Nurturing a work environment where health is a priority – “you are only as good as your last staff meal” – also meant developing a ‘greener’ kitchen. Choosing induction rather than gas for cooking (thus requiring a smaller ventilation system) was more energy efficient, just as using electrolysed water for cleaning meant no chemical products were required.

In Matakana, when Cory’s not surfing or trying to keep up with his two young children, his energy is directed towards private events, when he cooks his celebrated brand of deliciousness at personalised, boutique experiences. But the region, on the doorstep of Auckland and scenically idyllic – see our story on page 140 – lent itself to another idea that keyed into the couple’s talents. So he has also teamed up with Kim in a business that offers wraparound well-being.

Kana Retreats feeds into the pair’s health-focused lifestyle with half- or full- day programmes at an exclusive venue. That might include a turmeric-ginger gut shot to start the day, followed by outdoor yoga, a mid-morning dip at a private beach, foraging for herbal medicines, a workshop on making tea tinctures and, of course, a health-dense lunch prepared by Cory. “The meals are very interactive – Kim talks about the nutritional value of what we’re eating, and I answer questions about how to prepare it.”

Deriving its name from the region, ‘kana’ also means ‘powerful’ in Japanese – in essence how the couple want their retreat guests to feel at the conclusion of the experience: empowered and enriched. Towards the end of the day, cocktails (alcohol optional) are served to toast the occasion. After all, say the Campbells, good health is about finding the perfect balance. Connecting with others, and laughter, are part of wellness, too. kanaretreats.com CLAIRE MCCALL