Sel Berdie, BSKT and Cocowhip
I think the coast is definitely close to being the frontrunner in the health-food space ...
Selasi (Sel) Berdie is changing how we all eat and live, one cup of CocoWhip at a time. Sel was born and Melbourne, his parents are from Ghana and he moved to the Gold Coast when he was 18 years old to pursue a career in football. He played two seasons with the Gold Coast Titans, completed a degree in exercise science and sports marketing, and co-founded popular health-food establishment BSKT … all by the time he hit the age of 30. Since then, the BSKT name has gone well beyond the popular Nobby Beach cafe, with BSKT Wholefoods and vegan soft-serve Cocowhip taking the health-food world by storm. We caught up with Sel for a chat about conscious eating and reverse engineering ice-cream.
We’ll take things back a little bit. How did the BSKT concept first come to life?
For me, I was heavily involved in health and nutrition. I had about 5–6 years with Body Science working with high-end athletes. At that stage (2012), on the Gold Coast in particular, I was having to really look for certain types of foods when I went out, like vegetarian or paleo – and it was near impossible to find somewhere that covered everything for everything. If you had a gluten issue, if you were vegan, or if you were paleo, it was really hard to find a place that covered it all. I thought, if I’m picky like this, then there must be a whole lot of people that would be looking for something similar. We (including business partner Danny Bogatie and others) put the concept on paper at the time, and it went from there and we opened in mid-2013.
Your background is heavy in the science side of things for athletes and footballers – how did you go about developing a concept and products to suit the ‘everyday’ person?
Yeah, athletes think of things differently and sports is their only focus. Though, everyday person is not that far removed from it – the average person tries to exercise daily and want to look after themselves and feel good. So, although an athlete has the luxury of training twice a day, those same principles of being conscious of what you eat and getting in exercise. The process was very much about covering all aspects of what would make the everyday person feel better essentially.
So, BSKT Wholefoods and Cocowhip are now international businesses. Did you ever expect the brands to gain such a reach in such a short time?
Yes and no. I guess when we first started BSKT cafe, it kicked on really well, and I realised that we had something good. We didn’t go out and franchise with a whole bunch of restaurants, instead we went out and created a whole lot of products under the brand that was built by this restaurant. I didn’t expect the products to go where they did, which is really cool to see.
What initially sparked the idea to create Cocowhip?
It was in that period where acai bowls had become really popular around Australia. At the time, we were really busy at BSKT and the process of making acai just wasn’t quick enough – from getting freezing blocks, blending, topping etc. My business partner Danny was always into soft serves, but being against the dairy component of frozen yoghurt, we looked at coconut. We realised how versatile coconut products were and that we could, in theory, substitute what was in frozen yoghurt and traditional soft serves and make it healthy. We reversed engineered it – we pulled all the unhealthy ingredients out of sot serves and started putting all the healthy ingredients into it and eventually it came to life.
Where do you think your entrepreneurial spirit came from?
My Dad – he has owned his own business for a fair period of time. He went through uni, did a PHD in engineering and eventually got into a position where he could start it. From whenever I could, I was always saving a dollar toward starting a business. What that business was going to be, I wasn’t sure, time was going to tell.
What’s your take on the coast’s health-food and dining scene over the past few years?
The growth has been massive. About a year before we opened BSKT, there was really nothing around. To the point where I was thinking that I should go back to Melbourne to look at doing something down there. I thought the concept might have been a bit too foreign. I was back in Melbourne recently, and I can see that we are now at the point where in terms of health food movement, the Gold Coast as a whole is doing really, really good things. I think the coast is definitely close to being the frontrunner in the health-food space, especially compared to Melbourne and Sydney. There a huge, huge amount going on, from Greenhouse to Nude Sisters and Blendlove – so I think the coast is in a pretty good condition!
Let’s get deep – what inspires you?
Anything creative. And anyone giving something a good go – from music to sports, anything.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve even been given?
You learn more from your losses than you do from your wins. Always give 100 per cent, and if things don’t work out, then only positive things can come from it.
What venues and places are you loving on the Gold Coast at the moment?
The hidden little pocket of West Burleigh (Tallebugera Creek Road) is great, not many people know about it. There are places like Wazen, Parlour and Plantation that are doing great things in that area. I’m vegetarian, so i’ll frequent places like Greenhouse – they are doing great things. There’s a lot of smaller establishments like Kiss the Berry in Burleigh doing amazing things as well, and up north there’s places like Caffe Republic where the food is really, really great.