For Courtney, all paths lead back to the sea where she finds her calm. We sat down with Canadian born Courtney to learn about her self care rituals, passion for cooking and some good advice we all should live by; to simply start our day slow and embrace the nature around us and appreciate the little things.
Can you please tell us a little bit about your background, where you’re from, where you grew up, and where you live now?
I was born in Vancouver, Canada - it’s where I grew up, where my family is, and it’s so special to me. It really puts on a show when the sun is out: looking up at the mountains from the ocean can still make me gasp for breath — but it’s also notoriously gloomy. Oddly, when reflecting on my childhood, I don’t remember the rain.
What brought you to Australia and what’s your take on living here so far?
I definitely gravitate to sun-filled, ocean-adjacent locations. I also love the early morning culture here: getting outside for a coffee spackles my day with a really vital source of dopamine and caffeine. It’s really helped me merge my vacation dreams with my everyday routines – nearly 2 years later and I still can’t believe I’m not on vacation, actually.
What do you miss most about Canada and what do you love the most about Australia?
I feel that I have a really strong sense of self, but I’ve been surprised at how constantly being perceived by new people has challenged that for me. I’m only now recognizing how stabilizing it is to feel so wholly understood and supported in the way that I am by my friends and family in Vancouver. I miss them the most (along with my best friends’ dog, Ollie). Sometimes I miss the sound of the rain, too.
I love the sense of community in Sydney and I think Vancouver has fewer third places (the weather does that). ‘Third places’ is a term coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg – they’re places where people spend time between home ('first' place) and work ('second' place). Places where people can exchange ideas, have a good time, and build relationships; socioeconomic status doesn’t matter. Life in Vancouver often feels like going from first to second, over and over. I love how the weather in Sydney allows people to live a whole life in the morning before the work day starts – the ocean/work balance. I love people watching as they do it. I think the sun brings out such childish wonder and seeing people of all ages so earnestly take joy in it makes me well up. I never stop appreciating it.
Where is your favourite space to recharge and just be?
Time spent outdoors, a dip in the ocean, sun. A meal - seasonal - shared with people I love over lots and lots of good wine. Something to wear that makes me feel like myself. Surrounding myself with things that bring me joy — using and looking at them often.
What are your must-do daily rituals and why are these so important?
The ocean is my greatest emotional equalizer. I like to start my day before the sun, so I can watch it come up with a good cup of coffee and an ocean swim. I love the bleary light and the mundanity of the morning - expectations are so low at 6am.
We absolutely love your videography and the feeling you’re able to capture in your videos. Is this something you want to dive deeper into and do for other businesses and brands as well, or is it more something you do for fun?
Thank you! It started as a lifestyle project to coax out a connection to our surroundings. It’s an ode to eating and a love letter to the natural world. It does provide some visual escapism, but the hope is to ignite nostalgia and provoke you to find pleasure right where you are. They serve as a reminder to slow down, elevate the essentials, and find the beauty in every daily act – if only for the duration of a meal.
I love creating through the lens of food and I think it’s what’s most aligned when I picture myself with a career that I really love. I actually have my very first commissioned brand deal in the food space in the upcoming months, so I’m very excited for that. They’ve given me full creative control. Watch this (@palatevacation) space!
What’s your view on sustainability and being an eco conscious human?
I love timeless, sustainable, effortless fashion. It’s the pieces and products we return to - day in and day out - that have the biggest impact. So, if we can choose those mindfully, and encourage others to do so too, then I think we can create positive cumulative change. I take so much more joy in pieces when I resonate with the values of the people making them, especially as a creator where I get the privilege of supporting businesses I love through social media. Choosing carefully really lends to greater daily enjoyment for me. I understand that for some people, fast fashion is the most feasible option (it’s cheap and accessible), but for those with a bit more disposable income, I think there needs to be a shift. Anything consciously, well made is going to have a higher price tag, but it also lasts a lot longer. Buy less but better, then use them and love them for a long, long time.
I also love the romance of having something so lasting... having it feel like a part of my life; using it well and letting it age and change with me; passing it down, having people remember me by it. I think I’m only now, in my 30’s, beginning to make sense of my personal style in a way that will be enduring. My style icons are always women over the age of 50: the best style comes with knowing yourself, and if you’re lucky, that comes with age.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received - professionally or personally?
The truest things I learn are first taught to me by observing nature and listening deeply to what (and who) is around me. My parents have always encouraged me to let myself revel in the fun, delicious, exciting, beautiful and good stuff when it happens – it’s self-perpetuating.
Your skin is always glowing! Can you share your daily self-care ritual that keeps you looking and feeling good?
Skin health has always been a priority for me. I don’t feel like myself with too much makeup on, but it’s also important to me to feel physically confident, and good beauty products help facilitate that. I hate when people suggest that skin care is frivolous and women can simply opt-out of the beauty industry and be perceived the same way in the society that we currently live in.
I really love New Zealand based brand, Emma Lewisham. It’s science-led, natural, sustainable, female-founded, really, really good. Skincare, sunscreen – after that, I have to start my day with a walk outside or I descend into chaos.
You’re a great cook and we always feel so inspired watching your videos where you are preparing a meal. At what age did you find the passion for cooking?
All of my fondest memories are underpinned by food. As an only child, I think my parents always gave me the tools to learn to enjoy my own company and independence, so I’ve been cooking for as long as I can remember. I used to watch The Food Network instead of Sunday morning cartoons; the Mickey Mouse Cookbook was one of my greatest treasures. Similarly, as an introvert, cooking has always been my greatest quiet comfort, and through that, an important point of connectivity to others. It’s definitely my love language.
Any favourite podcasts or music playlists you can share with us?
I am a terrible DJ, and as someone with a loose grasp on Google Maps, who doesn’t drive often or own a car (Land Rover, call me), I famously offer nothing* on a road trip (*snacks and good chat). I usually just let the Spotify algorithm do its thing or put Fleetwood Mac on repeat.
For podcasts, I love Elizabeth Day’s How to Fail - she is a truly insightful interviewer who so easily fans the already blazing flame of her guests. I also love The World’s First Podcast with Erin and Sara Foster, Shameless, Sentimental Garbage, and Off Menu with Ed Gamble and James Acaster.
How would you describe your style in 3 words?
This is so hard! Considered, effortless, feminine?
What are your favourite UNIK pieces?
I feel very myself in every UNIK piece that I own. I think that’s often overlooked when we perceive people with good style: it’s good because they look and feel like themselves and it emanates. I feel most myself in the boiler suit. It feels effortless (because it is) and put-together at the same time. And I’m never not getting stopped on the street when I’m wearing it.
What is your favourite spots on the NB for coffee, cocktails or a bite out?
Classic Coffee in Avalon and Sammy’s in Careel Bay for morning coffee, Randy’s for afternoon drinks, Bistro Boulevard for dinner. Graze N Cakes has the best cronuts, which I think of and indulge in often.
We asked Courtney to share one of her favourite recipes with us. We can't wait to try this!
Slow cooked tuna with red onion, white beans, and aioli
The aromatics involved here can absolutely change based on what you’ve got and what you want the oil to end up like. For me, that’s going to always include onions and garlic, but if you’re sensitive to either or just don’t have any, you can leave them out and just go herby, or citrusy/spicy, etc. I don’t include anything I can’t strain out of the oil, so that I can use it for things like aioli (see below).
Depending on how efficient your stove is, you might want to do this on the lowest possible flame you’ve got (my stove is…not strong, so I can do a very light medium-low). The key being to have almost no visible bubbles happening in the oil, just a very hot, steady heat.
FOR THE TUNA
1 1/2 pounds/680 grams tuna or swordfish, preferably about 1 ½ – 2 inches thick
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
2 cups/400 grams olive oil, possibly more if you need to submerge
1 large red onion, sliced into 1” wedges (unpeeled)
a few sprigs of thyme, marjoram, rosemary, or oregano, if you like
a few dried chilies, maybe
1 15 oz. can white beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 cups parsley, torn into large spriggy pieces
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, halved for squeezing over
Aioli (see recipe below) or mayonnaise spruced up with some finely grated garlic, optional
1. Season the fish with salt and pepper and place in a medium pot. For this, I like the sort of curved edge dutch oven style, but generally you want something that will fit the fish. If doing two fillets, that might mean something wider than taller. If one, you can probably get away with something taller as long as the fish doesn’t feel crowded in there.
2. Cover with olive oil and add the onion, garlic, lemon, herbs, chili, whatever you like. The oil should come up almost over the top of the tuna (depending on the thickness of it, you may need more oil).
3. Turn the heat to low/medium-low and keep an eye on it, making sure the oil doesn’t get too hot too fast. Keep it at a gentle, steady, hot heat, without seeing more than the occasional bubble from the oil. Cook the fish until it’s firm and has turned white and opaque, 12–20 minutes. For me, it’s better to under cook this fish than overcook it.
4. Remove from heat and let cool in the oil (this is the oil I’ll make an aioli with, and also the oil I’ll store the tuna in when I put it in the fridge). You can eat the tuna warm, room temp or cold. Your choice!
5. Transfer the tuna to a large serving platter or shallow bowl and spoon some of the cooking oil over. Transfer all but ¼ cup of oil to a glass jar or other container for later use.
6. Add beans to the oil in the pot and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until they’re warmed through and sizzling at the edges, 10–15 minutes. Taste one! Cook longer if needed to taste as good as possible.
7. To serve, toss celery and parsley together in a medium bowl and season with lemon, salt and pepper. Spoon a little aioli or mayonnaise onto the bottom of a plate or bowl and top with those warmed beans. Using a spoon or fork, break off large pieces of fish and place on top of the beans, followed by the parsley salad.
DO AHEAD: This tuna keeps about a week in the fridge, submerged in as much olive oil as you can spare. Use that oil for your next batch. The aioli will keep in the fridge for about a week. I use it on lots of things, including toast with tomatoes, smeared onto hard boiled eggs, and as something to dip cold roasted chicken into as a snack while I think about what to make for dinner.
FOR THE AIOLI (optional)
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon /5 grams mustard (dijon, whole grain, etc)
1/2 cup/100 grams olive oil from the tuna
1/2 cup/100 grams neutral oil, such as canola
1 lemon, halved
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
1. Combine the olive oil from the tuna and the canola oil in a measuring cup.
2. Whisk egg yolk and mustard in a small bowl and season with salt. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the oil, drop by drop at first, then a little more steadily, until aioli is starting to thicken. Eventually it’ll be thick like mayonnaise, that’s when you want to add a little squeeze of lemon to thin it out. This will allow you to continue adding the oil without the aioli breaking on you.
3. Once all the oil is added, season aioli with salt, cracked pepper and more lemon juice, if you’d like. It can also be thinned with more lemon or water if you prefer this as more of a saucy dressing.
To get into the mood - you can watch Courtney's video here