I was lucky enough to have the chance to ask the founder of THR1VE cafe Josh Sparks some questions about living paleo, nutrition, why he started THR1VE and his favourite recipe (an amazing one from Dan Churchhill aka The Healthy Cook).

If you’re a fashionista, you may know Josh’s name as previous CEO of sass & bide. I was more interested in his health and fitness enthusiast background though! Plus I love a good story of anyone who takes their real passion and transforms that into a successful, thriving business (pun intended).


THR1VE is my absolute favourite place to eat during the week in Sydney CBD. It is the closest thing to how I prepare food in my own kitchen … and I may have to admit they prepare it better! I don’t have to ask for anything to be modified off the menu and it’s so easy to make it fit within a meal plan. Plus it tastes delicious and their barista Jack makes a great coffee (bulletproof!).

I’ve shared a recipe on the THR1VE blog and posted about them previously and if you’re in Sydney or Canberra, I highly recommend you check them out.


ZOMT: When and why did you begin living the paleo way of life?
Josh Sparks: Through self experimentation over many years I incorporated several aspects of the lifestyle, but at that time I lacked the organisational and scientific framework of what later emerged as Paleo / Primal, it simply didn’t exist as a body of knowledge then.

For example, I began utilising diets with an emphasis high protein and good fats, and cyclic ultra low carb, after reading ‘The Anabolic Diet’ by DiPasquale in 1995. Books like this, and ‘Natural Hormone Enhancement’ by Rob Faigan in 2000, got the ‘what to do’ broadly correct, perhaps setting aside the emphasis on macro nutrients exclusively.

However what was lacking was the ‘why’. For me understanding why something works, the physiological basis for sustained success utilising any dietary protocol, makes all the difference.

So it was Robb Wolf’s ‘The Paleo Solution’ that brought all the elements together in a holistic sense, and made a true convert out of me. I read it in late 2010, and immediately all other dietary protocols I had experimented with to varying degrees of success appeared both less scientific, and more marketing conceit, in comparison. I read a book or two a week, so I should credit many other thinkers and writers since then with propelling the journey forward, but it was Robb who set the course and got me moving. I can’t give him enough credit.

To get right to it – I have embraced Paleo / Primal personally, and risked everything to build a business to promote it, for one simple reason – it works!

Z: What are your top five nutrition tips for optimal body composition?
JS: For customers new to Paleo / Primal, and sometimes a little skeptical, we typically suggest initially focusing on a 30 day ‘reset’ per Robb Wolf’s recommendation:

  1. Increase low GI and fibrous vegetables.
  2. Increase quality sources of protein.
  3. Increase ‘good’ fats, and consider added coconut oil or a purified subset, Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s), for enhanced body fat reduction.
  4. Eliminate grains, legumes and dairy. Dairy can be reintroduced if tolerated well, once body composition objectives are achieved.
  5. Eliminate processed carbohydrates of all kinds, reduce fruit intake and focus on vegetables, low GI starchy veggies such as sweet potato post workouts only.

At the end of 30 days, check how you look, feel and perform, monitor blood markers of health and disease, and then tweak the protocol according to your individual needs and objectives.

If you don’t see dramatic changes, assuming you are genuinely disciplined about it, I will be amazed.


Z: It’s so awesome to see real healthy whole food options popping up. How did the idea for THR1VE come about?
JS: ‘With one life to live, you deserve to THR1VE’

Corny to some perhaps, but I truly believe that! Yet I personally struggled to make it real, day in and day out, while balancing a busy and stressful work life and family responsibilities.

Many experts suggest that health and wellness is 80% diet and 20% exercise and recovery. For those of us who want to eat deliciously AND nutritiously every day, but have to eat in food courts every week due to convenience and time pressure, very rarely will you find a definitively healthy option. By that I mean, if eaten every single day the menu will help you look, feel and perform better, nourishing a life lived to the full.

On a individual level, we are inspired by customers overcoming challenges through changes to their diet, in reseting metabolism, improving body composition, and optimising immune function. And on a societal level, with 70% of Australians over weight, a staggering 30% obese, and type 2 diabetes our fastest growing disease – all supported by a taxpayer funded universal health care system – we also have a societal obligation to embrace the simplest and lowest cost solutions.

I want THR1VE to help empower our individual customers, taking control back from the pharmaceutical companies and government bureaucracy, that currently dominate our health care system.

Z: Did you face any challenges in getting it up and running?
JS: Absolutely! Beyond the expected start up challenges – accessing the right capital, finding the right people, engaging the right partners, and so on – the greatest challenge, and an ongoing one, is educating potential customers.

Though we are very lucky to have so many customers who came to us very knowledgeable about nutrition, and especially Paleo / Primal nutrition, the vast majority of the customers we want to help are either not aware of our features and benefits, or are the unknowing victim of the huge amount of corporate misinformation and bad journalism surrounding ancestral health, and often both.

So we have distilled our philosophy to ensure it is as accessible and familiar as possible. We describe our features as ‘high protein and low carb, always gluten free, and no added sugar’ and our benefits as ‘look, feel and perform your best’.

Educating our customers on what THR1VE is all about – and inspiring those sceptics that healthy food can indeed be delicious, convenient, served in minutes, and great value – will be a lifetime effort I think.

Z: How does your life compare now to your past as a high flyer in some big names in the corporate world?
JS: THR1VE is a dream come true, so it’s very difficult to compare it to anything I have done in the past!

I have been very lucky to work with so many talented, creative and entrepreneurial individuals – THR1VE wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for their influence and inspiration over the course of my career.


Z: Who or what inspires and motivates you?
JS: Customers, every day – the stories they tell, questions they ask, and transformations they share, are incredibly inspiring.

And of course our hero’s. The innovators, iconoclasts, geniuses and game changer’s like Robb Wolf, Mark Sisson, Tim Ferris, and Chris Kresser, among others. We stand on the shoulders of giants.

Z: What is your favourite meal at the moment?
JS :I’m a true omnivore, and I simply love fresh, healthy and delicious food – who doesn’t, right?

So I tend to tailor my menu of the moment around how I feel, any specific functional objectives such as recovery from exercise, and especially as I get older, the micro nutrients I need to support full throttle living.

Right now I am about to order lunch at THR1VE, and it will be grilled salmon for a good hit of protein and Omega 3 fats, on a base of sweet potato and cauliflower mash to support strength training and recovery, smashed avocado for vitamin E and more good fats, and chilli and almond broccoli because….well, broccoli is just so amazingly good for you.

Enough said!


Z: And finally, please share your signature yummy recipe!
JS: I need to credit Dan Churchill, the author of my current favourite cook book ‘The Healthy Cook’, and now a THR1VE brand ambassador – his “Butterflied Lamb in a Middle Eastern Rub” is one of my favourite recipes at the moment. You’ll find it on page 68 of his book “The Healthy Cook”, which is loaded with Paleo / Primal friendly (and delicious!) creations.

– Josh

Butterflied Lamb in a Middle Eastern Rub

From Dan Churchill, The Healthy Cook
1 leg of lamb, butterflied
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsps black peppercorns
1 tbsp corander seeds
2 tsp sumac
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Onion powder (optional)
Juice and zest of a whole lemon
1/3 cup olive oil
  1. In a small frypan, on high heat, dry roast the peppercorns, cumin and coriander seeds for 1 minute.
  2. Grind to a rough powder in a mortar and pestle. Add the sumac, lemon zest, salt, garlic and onion powder (if using) and stir through to combine.
  3. Add to a mixing bowl with the oil.
  4. Place the lamb, spread out, in a marinading tray and pour over the contents from the mixing bowl. Using your hands, spread the spices around both sides of the meat before covering with cling film and allowing to marinade in the fridge for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  5. Preheat BBQ to high heat.
  6. Remove the lamb from the fridge, squeeze the lemon juice over the top, sprinkle the skin with with a little more salt before placing flesh side down on the grill, cover and cook for 7 minutes.
  7. Turn meat over onto the skin side and again cover and cook for 10-12 minutes before finishing back on the flesh side for a further 2-3 minutes with the lid off.
  8. Remove from BBQ and cover with foil to rest for 7-10 minutes.
  9.  Slice and serve with a lovely cauliflower roasted salad.


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Shop 28, MLC Centre
19-29 Martin Place, Sydney

Canberra Centre (opposite Supabarn)
Bunda St, Canberra

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