The path appears as we start walking it, said Rumi, and few are a greater example of this than trained sports science therapist and holistic chef Gianna Thiess. Arriving in Berlin many years ago, she was ashamed to talk about her line of work, surrounded by artists and designers who all seemed to have way more creative and exciting things going on. Sparked by her passion for healthy, vegetarian cooking, she started offering regular pop-up dinners, for a minimal fee, at a small Neukölln café. Today, she’s hosting workshops at spectacular locations such as Hotel de Rome while gearing up for her first countryside retreat at a remote farmhouse in France. No longer embarrassed to spill the beans about her projects, we visited Gianna to get the latest scoop over a beautiful and nourishing spring lunch.
Gianna wearing our Ade Velkon Rib Knit Dress in Petrol
A: We’re so inspired by you and how you’ve managed to create your own niche and career around the things you’re passionate about. This last year seems to have been especially transformative and fruitful.
Yes, things shifted in a way where I finally felt like what I was doing was really ‘me’. Even though I’ve always been freelancing, I was still working for someone else. Last year I stepped into feeling completely independent in the way that I work.
It’s nevertheless been a long path to independence, starting several years ago with my pop-ups at Café Futuro.
A: Yes, I remember attending one of those and being baffled by how little you charged for such a rich meal.
G: Yes, I was really modest about my work. I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing yet, and I was hesitant talking about it.
Through word of mouth and a bit of online promotion, the ball started rolling and I got offered more catering jobs. But I still struggled to connect my interests and work in sports with my passion for food. Instead, I saw them all as separate entities and had the feeling of being ‘all over the place’.
Gianna wearing our Ade Velkon Panel Dress in Moss
As I kept promoting all of these separate events, I got requests that combined my various disciplines. In that sense, it was partially these requests that opened me to the merger of my (seemingly) separate offers.
Moving from having two separate websites—Eat & Treat, for my food related work and another site for my sports related work, I merged the two under one platform, and I’m soon launching a new site for all of my services, with a common philosophy tying everything together.
This process of gaining clarity suddenly made me very comfortable speaking about what I do with other people. With a philosophy based on values that are important to me, and a common thread tying everything together, I started taking pride in my work in a new way. As soon as I began speaking clearly and confidently about it, the universe reacted by reflecting back what I was putting out there.
Gianna wearing our Ade Velkon Rib Knit Dress in Petrol
A: Was there a specific turning point that made you see all of this, or did it come from a series of events?
G: There was certainly a series of things leading up to it, but I had a profound spiritual experience in early summer last year, during a deep meditation, that had a huge impact. At the time I had already been working on myself a lot, and I had just gone through some very large personal changes.
A process of finding myself and letting go of old habits, had made me see just how strong I was. I felt this unexplainable power within, and I realized that if I just listened to that, had faith and followed through, I could always trust in the way that I work and how I deal with people.
A: Can you tell us more about the specific experience?
G: Sure! Through therapy I’ve become much more mindful—I’ve learned to listen, examine and accept my feelings. As soon as you start becoming aware of your emotional state, this awareness flows into your daily life as well. When tuned in, you realize sooner what is good for you and what isn’t, where you feel good and like ‘yourself’ and where you don’t. This allowed me to be really open.
During this deep meditative state, I had a visualization that has become recurring for me: Melting into the ground and my surroundings, I became this really grounded woman, overseeing things. It was such a comfortable sensation that left me feeling incredibly connected.
After this vision, I found myself propelled forward, in a straight line, and things started happening quickly. I’d stop occasionally along the way and ask myself where this pace was coming from, but because it felt so good, and so right, I kept going with it.
For the first time ever, I allowed myself to be a bit selfish—in a good way. I was doing things that were right for me, without always taking responsibility for other people’s feelings.
Gianna Wearing our Maria Morgana Thalia Robe in Raw Silk Natural
A: That doesn’t sound selfish! We, especially women, have such a tendency to apologize and feel guilty for prioritizing ourselves. There’s so much healing to be done here!
You seem to have a thing for teaching at unusual and spectacular venues, from atop paddle boards at Badeschiff to inside the studio of Berlin based artist Olivia Steele, and recently at the stunning Hotel de Rome. How did these places come to you, and what’s next?
G: It’s been a case of one event or connection leading to the next: The pop up dinners directly led me to Badeschiff. A friend recommended me as a caterer for Olivia Steele, who happened to mention in passing that she was looking for someone to teach Pilates in her atelier.
The Steele-gig demanded that I teach in English, which pushed me to learning the lingo in a new language—again opening me up to a broader audience.
Hotel de Rome had successfully offered yoga classes on their rooftop during summer, and were looking for a similar thing for inside during winter. A common acquaintance recommended me, and they contacted me with an offer to give regular classes.
Then CeeCee Berlin (the newsletter) joined my class there, and wrote about it, which had quite a big impact as well.
Starting this May, I’ll be teaching regularly at the beautiful Café Arabica, as part of their urban retreats, involving healthy foods and educational talks in addition to classes.
I’m also very excited to premier my day-retreats in Alasce, France on the 19th of May. I have a small garden project running there in the backyard of an old farmhouse, where I’m growing my own veggies and fruits that will also be used during the retreats. The retreat days will start with a cleansing juice to activate the metabolism, followed by a workshop and meditation, and ending in a family style lunch in the garden.
A: We’ve talked a lot about the past and how you got to where you are now. What are the things that feel really good and that you’d like to explore further in the years to come?
G: Over the last year, I also realized how desperately I need to spend time outside and in nature. For a long time I was so involved in the city life of Berlin that I didn’t recognize this need. With my family living in the Black Forest, surrounded by beautiful landscapes, I saw this as my escape a few times a year, but with family around I ended up spending less time outside than I wanted.
While I do have my little getaways within the city, I see that the more I work, the more I need the time to recharge my batteries. I also see that the more time I spend outside, the harder it gets to come back to big-city-life. So many aspects of city life, that I’d become blind to, suddenly felt confronting and draining.
Right now, I’m focusing on established a lifestyle where I divide my time between the German-French border and Berlin.
When I first visited Berlin in 2007, I saw the city as so inspiring and creative, and had the feeling that if I moved here, I could do whatever I wanted to do. I’m happy I followed that gut feeling and relocated in 2011. I still love it here, but nowadays I feel like I can use the city in micro-doses, to harvest this unique energy, and then retreat to nature where I feel nourished and at ease.
At the farmhouse, in the middle of nowhere, I wake up with the sun, to the sound of the birds and start my day in the garden. Even when I do home-office there, I’m so much more productive.
I believe the future holds more, multiple-day retreats on the countryside, as well as an extension of my workshop offers here in Berlin, providing the right yin-yang balance between urban life and nature.