The day I met Annabel Karmel…

Some of you might have seen that I had an incredibly exciting week last week. I got the once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet (and dine with!) my professional idol, Annabel Karmel. Many Australian Mums out there would be familiar with AK, who is best known for her books on feeding children, and her frozen food range in Coles.

Well, there’s actually lots more to her… Wrap your head around these stats- she’s written 40 books and is the UK’s leading parenting author. She’s sold millions of her books, with her first achieving huge success- it’s the second best-selling hardback, non-fiction book EVER! Annabel also writes for newspapers and magazines and has starred in her own TV series. She even has an MBE from the Queen for her work in childhood nutrition, and she sits on the board of many charities in the UK. So, I think you can start to understand the ‘legend’ status…

Anyway, I’m sure you’re wondering how a dietitian from little old Perth got to meet one of the world’s most celebrated feeding experts? Well, it all started on Instagram.

Last week Annabel posted on Instagram about her upcoming flying visit to Australia. She had two stops in three days- Sydney and Perth. All you Perthites would know that Perth NEVER makes it to the top two stops for people coming to Australia. So, I commented on behalf of our beautiful city to say how special we felt to have her here for the day. And would you believe it, she commented back to me!

As it turns out, Annabel runs her own Instagram account and she saw my comment herself. I know in the past I’ve felt completely chuffed to get a ‘like’ from Annabel Karmel on my page, and even then I assumed it was from one of her social media experts- not the woman herself! So when I got an email from her, asking if we might catch up over dinner, I almost fainted.

As a huge foodie (as all us dietitians tend to be), I pored over the menus of many a fine Perth establishment, to choose a restaurant with the right mix of WA produce, reputation and views. I picked The Reveley, at Elizabeth Quay, after an excellent write up in The West Australian newspaper a couple of weeks ago.

So what happened in the lead up?

The day of the dinner was a huge day at work for me, and I was a little frazzled by the time I dashed to the shops to get my nails done (I needed something special for this special dinner!) My chauffeur (also known as my husband) drove me into the city to pick Annabel up and he dropped us down at Lizzie Quay.

What was Annabel like in person?

Just lovely. Honestly, I was worried that there might be tricky silences at times, but she was chatty and bubbly and genuinely interested in me and my business. I absolutely enjoyed our dinner and the time just flew past.

What did I wear? (obviously hugely important)

A long sleeved navy dress with stockings, tan ankle boots and my lucky pineapple necklace. I did mean to wear my gorgeous faux fur collar, but I completely forgot it as I rushed out the door.

What was The Reveley like?

Rubbish! The service was even worse than standard Perth service (for those of you interstate, Perth is definitely not known for quality restaurant service- even when you’re paying top dollar). The WA yabby tortellini was overcooked and chewy, the Dorper lamb was rubbery and the house bread was just blah. The views, however, were stunning and the cocktails were quite nice. Overall though, I was pretty disappointed. Luckily the conversation more than made up for it.

What was I impressed by? Annabel’s absolute commitment to providing nutritious and tasty food for kids. She tastes and re-tastes all of the food she puts her name to and she is so confident in the final product she sells. I gave some feedback about the beef rissoles, which a couple of parents had raised with me, and she completely agreed that they weren’t as they should be. She’s working really hard with her suppliers to pare back the range to only those she is supremely confident in.

What did she think of the ideas suggested by my friends and clients? She seemed to be legitimately impressed by the healthy party food suggestion, as well as the child-friendly sausage suggestion. So big thanks to everyone who shared their great ideas with me!

What did I learn from Annabel?

Loads actually. I learnt about her life, and the time and energy it took to get her first book published. She taught me about doing my business Instagram page better and really encouraged me to get out there and collaborate with others. She casually mentioned things that I might only dream about like “Oh you should get in touch with Pinky McKay (legendary sleeping and breastfeeding expert), she’s lovely”. Having said that, maybe I will reach out, because I also never expected to find myself sitting across the table from Annabel Karmel.

What did I teach Annabel?

Believe it or not, I think I did get a chance to teach the expert something little (all those years of hard work and study paying off!). I talked to her about the Satter Division of Responsibility and the importance of not trying to ‘get’ your child to eat. I talked about how this was so important to reduce fussy behaviour, but also to promote healthy growth (including appropriate weight gain) based on children’s internal cues.

What did Annabel and I agree on?

A frustration about the scaremongering from some health professionals who (without any good evidence) encourage parents to restrict their child’s intake of certain ingredients, without a diagnosed allergy (gluten, nuts and dairy to name a few common culprits).

Highlight of the night? Annabel signing my book with a personalised message (see below).

Did I embarrass myself?

Almost. I’m somewhat on the sensitive side, having been known to cry at something as banal as pet food commercials. When Annabel told me about the events that lead to her publishing her first book, including the tragic death of her first daughter, it was all I could do to not burst into sobs at the table. It was such a sad story, but I managed to keep it to tears that only needed a slight dabbing with a napkin.

Where to from here?

I’m going to write a blog article for her Australian website, and work with some of my clients who can do some taste-testing for her frozen food range. I am STOKED!

How did it end?

Well, in typical Perth fashion, we had to wait ages for a taxi/uber before I dropped her back at her hotel (my chauffeur had retired for the night). I gave her a little WA-themed gift including some Margaret River olive oil, Vic Park chocolate and some Leeming Postcode Honey (google it if you’ve never heard of it). She gave me a copy of her soon-to-be released 25th Anniversary Edition of her best-seller “Baby and Toddler Meal Planner”.

All in all, it was a night I’ll never forget, and an experience that has inspired me to take my business to the next level.

So, who knows what’s next for Dr Kyla Smith… Stay tuned!

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