What was your initial inspiration in becoming a chef?
Like most chefs I think I was really captured by a love of cooking and the buzz of being in a busy restaurant kitchen. I was already working in restaurants to pay my way through university and when I graduated I was already hooked and it was all I wanted to do.
What kind of food culture were you surrounded by growing up?
My parents always made sure we ate well and tried different foods. We had mostly homemade meals and never really had fast food or sugary snacks, so we had a really healthy varied diet. My parents weren’t vegetarian and I didn’t go vegetarian until I was older so that side only came later.
Is it difficult specialising as a vegetarian chef?
It was hard at first because I really wanted to learn to be as good as possible and there were just fewer places I could go to do that. So I started out in restaurants that served meat and fish and later I was able to specialise more and progress more on my own once I had a really good grounding in cooking and techniques.
What made you want to write cookbooks?
I always loved cookbooks, I have a ridiculous cookbook collection on display in our dining room and I love looking through them. I wanted to try creating something of my own so I made a digital cookbook including video and lots of images and it was really popular so I have since done a few more. My next big project is trying to create a proper printed book which has always been one of my ambitions.
When did you become vegetarian and why?
I went vegetarian when I was at university and studying for my philosophy degree. I hadn't felt comfortable with some issues around eating meat for a while and so I decided to just it out for a while and it really seemed to stick and work well for me.
Do you try and convert others into a meat-free diet?
No, not at all. I think everyone should make their own decisions and I wouldn't feel comfortable trying to persuade anyone to change their diet, and I wouldn’t want anyone doing that to me. I do try and promote and showcase high-quality vegetarian cooking though and I’m trying to raise the level that vegetarian food can aspire to.
Do you think Manchester does a good job at catering to vegetarian diets?
Yeah it’s great for vegetarians and vegans. In particular you have Simon Rimmer’s vegetarian restaurant, Greens in Didsbury which is great and somewhere I have fond memories of working when I first moved back to Manchester. Then for more casual, cafe food there’s [the co-operative] Eighth Day Cafe near the city centre. And Unicorn Grocery in Chorlton is a fantastic resource.
Do you celebrate National Vegetarian Week?
I don’t have anything planned this year but in previous years I have been involved in a few things, sometimes doing cooking demonstrations or judging competitions.
Do you think vegetarian food gets a poor reputation?
I think it used to have a poor reputation but that has improved now. People used to associate it with boring food, but I hope that is less true now as people have just been more exposed to good, interesting vegetarian cooking, and now that there are more and more people doing exciting things with it.
What are your go-to ingredients for cooking at home?
I always have salt, tamari, kombu seaweed, tofu, a well-stocked spice cupboard, strong bread flour, nice olive oil, varying fresh vegetables, chillies, lemons, frozen berries – they are pretty essential to me. But it really depends on what I want to cook. I’ll go to a shop most days to pick something up for that night.
Do you have any chefs you admire or draw inspiration from?
Yes, in particular Grant Achatz from Chicago is a big inspiration and totally changed the way I look at food. His food looked so different and artistic which really reframed what was possible with food for me.
Do you have any tips for people who want to change to a meat-free diet?
Cook for yourself from fresh ingredients as much as possible is the main thing. And try to make sure your diet stays varied, don't rely too much on carbohydrates like bread and potato as it can be easy to end up eating loads of them.
What kind of protein do you like to use in place of meat and what else can people use instead of tofu?
I don’t think of it as using something in the place of meat, but it is important to me to include protein in dishes. I often use tofu as it is a fantastic and versatile ingredient with a rich history and tradition. A skilled cook can really do some fantastic things with tofu. But I will also use cheeses: halloumi is always a great option. And of course pulses are a good source of protein too.
Food and drink news
Food and drink news
1/31 Wine prices could increase because of Brexit
Wine lovers across the UK might soon have to shell out close to a quarter more for their favourite tipple after Brexit, as a weaker pound and sluggish economy takes its toll, a new study shows
2/31 Chocolate may be good for the heart
A new study, published in the British Medical Journal: Heart, found that moderate chocolate intake can be positively associated with lessening the risk of the heart arrhythmia condition Atrial Fibrillation
3/31 Brits throw away 1.4 million bananas each year
British families are throwing away 1.4 million bananas that are perfectly good to eat every day at cost of £80m a year, new figures have shown
4/31 Rosemary sales spike over exam time
There has been a surge a surge in sales of the herb rosemary after a recent study found it helps improve memory. According to high street health food chain Holland & Barrett, sales of the herb have increased by 187 per cent compared to the same time last year
5/31 Gluten-free diets 'not recommended' for people without coeliac disease
Avoiding wheat, barley and rye in the belief that a gluten-free diet brings health benefits may do more harm than good, according to a team of US nutrition and medicine experts
6/31 Starbucks launches two new coffee-based drinks
Starbucks is launching two new coffee-based drinks in the UK, as it strives to tap into consumers’ growing appetite for healthy beverages. The Cold Brew Vanilla sweet cream and the Cappuccino Freddo, will both be available in stores throughout the UK from the start of May
7/31 Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Tiffin is making a permanent comeback after 80 years
The Cadbury Dairy Milk Tiffin, first produced in 1937, is making a permanent comeback to the UK. The raisin and biscuit-filled chocolate bar is being launched after a successful trial last summer saw 3 million chocolate treats – at the cost of £1.49 for each 95g bar- purchased by nostalgic customers
8/31 Pizza restaurant makes ‘world’s cheesiest’
'Scottie's Pizza Parlor' in Portland Oregon has created the world’s cheesiest pizza using a total of 101 different cheese varieties.
Facebook/Scottie's Pizza Parlor
9/31 A pizza joint in Portland Oregon has created the world’s cheesiest pizza using a total of 101 different cheese varieties. Why not eating before a workout could be better for your health
A study published in the American Journal of Physiology by researchers at the University of Bath found you might be likely to burn more fat if you have not eaten first
10/31 New York restaurant named best in the world
A New York restaurant where an average meal for two will cost $700 has been named the best in the world. Eleven Madison Park won the accolade for the first time after debuting on the list at number 50 in 2010. The restaurant was praised for a fun sense of fine-dining, “blurring the line between the kitchen and the dining room”
11/31 Why you crave bad food when you’re tired
Researchers at Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University in Chicago recently presented their results of a study looking into the effects of sleep deprivation upon high-calorific food consumption. Researchers found that those who were sleep-deprived had “specifically enhanced” brain activity to the food smells compared to when they had a good night’s sleep
12/31 Drinking wine engages more of your brain than solving maths problems
Drinking wine is the ideal workout for your brain, engaging more parts of our grey matter than any other human behaviour, according to a leading neuroscientist. Dr Gordon Shepherd, from the Yale School of Medicine, said sniffing and analysing a wine before drinking it requires “exquisite control of one of the biggest muscles in the body”
13/31 British dessert eating surges after people ditch healthy eating in February
: In heartening news for anyone feeling guilty about quitting their New Year diet, it seems lots of us have given in to our sweet tooths once again. New data from nationwide food-delivery service Deliveroo reveals there was a surge in Brits ordering desserts in February compared to the first month of 2017
14/31 US congress debates definition of milk alternatives
A new bill has been created that seeks to ban dairy alternatives from using the term ‘milk’. Titled the DAIRY PRIDE Act, the name is a tenuous acronym for ‘defending against imitations and replacements of yogurt, milk, and cheese to promote regular intake of dairy every day’. It argues that the dairy industry is struggling as a result of all the dairy-free alternatives on the market and the public are being duped too
15/31 Cadbury’s launches two new chocolate bars
UK confectionary giant Cadbury has launched two new chocolate bars, hoping to lure those with a sweet tooth and perhaps help combat some of the challenges it faces from rising commodity prices and a post-Brexit slump in the value of the pound.The company’s new products will be peanut butter and mint flavoured. They will be available in most major super markets as 120g bars, priced at £1.49, according to the company
16/31 You can now get a job as a professional chocolate eater
The company responsible for some of your favourite chocolate brands – think Cadbury, Milks, Prince and Oreo – have officially announced an opening to join their team as a professional chocolate taster. The successful candidate will help them to test, perfect and launch new products all over the world.
17/31 MSG additive used in Chinese food is actually good for you, scientist claims
For years, we’ve been told MSG (the sodium salt of glutamic acid) - often associated with cheap Chinese takeaways - is awful for our health and to be avoided at all costs. But one scientist argues it should be used as a “supersalt” and encourages adding it to food.
18/31 Lettuce prices are rising
Not only are lettuces becoming an increasingly rare commodity in supermarkets, but prices for the leafy vegetables seem to be rising too. According to the weekly report from the Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, a pair of Little Gem lettuces had an average market price of £0.86 in the week that ended on Friday, up from an average of £0.56 in the previous week – that’s an almost 54 per cent increase.
19/31 Food School
Kids celebrate Food School graduation with James Martin – a campaign launched by Asda to educate young people on where food comes from. New research has revealed that children across the UK just aren’t stepping up to the plate when it comes to simple facts about the food they eat – with almost half of children under eight not knowing that eggs come from chickens
20/31 ‘Do-It-Yourself’ restaurant
To encourage more people to cook and eat together, IKEA has launched The Dining Club in Shoreditch – a fully immersive ‘Do-It-Yourself’ restaurant . Members of the public can book to host a brunch, lunch or dinner party for up to 20 friends and family. Supported by their very own sous chef and maître de, the host and their guests will orchestrate an intimate dining experience where cooking together is celebrated and eating together is inspirational
Mikael Buck / IKEA
21/31 Ping Pong menu with a twist
Gatwick Airport has teamed up with London dim sum restaurant Ping Pong to create a limited edition menu with a distinctly British twist; including a Full English Bao and Beef Wellington Puff, to celebrate the launch of the airport’s new route to Hong Kong
22/31 Zizzi unveil the Ma’amgharita
Unique pizza art has been created by Zizzi in celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday. The pizza features the queen in an iconic pose illustrated with fresh and tasty Italian ingredients on a backdrop of the Union Jack
23/31 Blue potatoes make a comeback
Blue potatoes, once a staple part of British potato crops, are back on the menu thanks to a Cambridge scientist turned-organic farmer and Farmdrop, an online marketplace that lets people buy direct from local farms. Cambridge PhD graduate-turned farmer, Adrian Izzard has used traditional growing techniques at Wild Country Organics to produce the colourful spuds, packed with healthy cell-protecting anthocyanin, which had previously disappeared from UK plates when post-war farmers were pushed towards higher-yielding varieties
24/31 France plans to usurp Scotland as the home of the world's best whisky
France is planning to usurp Scotland’s reputation as the home of the world’s best whisky, fired by a growing national obsession with the drink. According to a study by retail consultants Bonial, the French drink more whisky than any other country – an average of 2.15 litres a year, compared to 1.8 litres in second-placed Uruguay and the US in third on 1.4 litres
Bloomberg via Getty Images
25/31 The price of an avocado is set to rise
Britain’s avocado lovers are facing a significant increase in the cost of their favourite salad food because the so-called superfood is becoming too popular. High demand from health-conscious consumers has led Peru to triple its avocado exports since 2010, with exports to the UK up 58% over the past year
26/31 Eating cereal may not be the healthiest way to start the day
The old saying goes that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so many of us do as we are told and grab a bowl of cereal before we head out the door. But an expert has warned that while many cereals boxes claim their contents are the perfect start to the day, many are packed full of sugar and carbohydrates with little nutritional value. Even some seemingly-health muesli cereals have a lot of added sugar in the form of honey, malt, molasses, dried fruit or “even fruit juice”
27/31 Crisps made with real ingredients
Michelin starred chef, Simon Rogan in action cooking a menu inspired by the provenance ingredients in the new Chef’s Signature range from Kettle Chips. Kettle Chips, the nation’s favourite premium crisp brand, has launched the new range of crisps with exciting new seasonings, made with the highest quality food ingredients rather than chemicals or artificial flavours
28/31 Japanese whisky crisis
Suntory’s chief blender Mr. Fukuyo San blends component whiskies to create Suntory Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve, a blend of young and old single malts. Japan’s warm climate and varied seasons makes it perfect environment to age and blend whiskies, creating subtle, refined and complex expressions.The recent trend for Japanese whisky has put the spirit on the verge of a global shortage
29/31 Non-alcoholic cocktails are seriously chic
We are living through a new era of creative, non-alcoholic drinks that go way beyond a coke or sweet mocktail. The world is becoming more health conscious. There's the war on sugar, and teetotalism is on the rise, with more than one in five not drinking at all (especially young adults), according to The National Statistics for Adult Drinking Habits. This abstinence is even more pronounced in London, with almost one in three turning away from alcohol. An increasing number of mixologists are applying their talents to the creation of non-alcoholic drinks that taste as good as their boozy alternatives
30/31 'Heat map' shows which areas of Britain enjoy the spiciest curries
After Bradford was named the Curry Capital of Britain for the fifth year running, a map has been released showing which regions of Britain enjoy a spicy curry and which prefer the milder variants. According to the map developed by Hari Ghotra, Kent, Essex, West Yorkshire and Lancashire are the heat-handling kings of Britain, while Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales all prefer milder curries. The data was collected by monitoring the location of social media posts that mentioned names of curries. These were then given a spice rating and were then collated to give each area a score out of 1000
31/31 Guinness to become vegan-friendly
Guinness is set to become vegan friendly for the first time in its 256-year history, as the company announced its plan to stop using fish bladders in its filters
Would you ever compromise aesthetics for taste?
I definitely think food should look good too but flavour is the most important thing. I always try to make something delicious first then figure out how I want to present it afterwards. With some effort I think you can make any delicious food look beautiful too.
Would you ever think to transition into veganism in the future?
I’m not currently planning to, but I have certainly noticed a big rise in the number of requests I get for vegan meals and it is a movement that has grown hugely over the past five years.
Do you use organic produce on your menu and do you think it makes a difference?
I use it where it makes sense or is possible but I’m not strict about it. The most important thing to me is to use the best products possible, and that is not always the same as organic. However all the tofu and eggs I use are organic and the eggs I use are too, because I understand free-range organic eggs to be the most ethical option with the best treatment of the animals.
What do you consider unhealthy vegetarianism?
It would be possible to be vegetarian but just live off chips, cheese and bread, so it is important to make sure you are getting a varied diet. Being vegetarian on its own isn’t necessarily a healthy lifestyle unless you make good food decisions too. I also think sometimes people think if they get vegan cakes etc they are somehow healthier so it’s fine to have them more often, which is not true at all. They might be made with different fats and sugars but vegan cakes and desserts are still full of fats and sugar so like anything they should only be part of a varied and balanced diet.
What kind of attitude, if any, do you find people to have towards you being a vegetarian chef?
I always get a really positive reaction from both chefs and the public. People seem interested and usually people can see from the food that I’m really passionate about what I do and a lot of work goes into it to make it as good as possible.
What was your motivation behind your The Walled Gardens Supper Club?
I wanted somewhere to serve my food in a tasting-menu format (I do 13 courses a night) that was intimate and where I had no real restraints on the creative possibilities for the meal. I serve dishes with elements set on fire; I have things hung from the ceiling, dry ice, things served suspended in glass straws. The only limit to what I can do here is if I think something is delicious enough and I can pull it off to a really high quality night after night.
What advice can you offer to aspiring vegetarian chefs?
Get into the best restaurant kitchen that will have you and work hard. It’ll take a few years to really start to make progress but you have to lay the groundwork by learning as much as you can in a real professional kitchen environment. It will pay off hugely in the future if you can stick it out and pay your dues in busy kitchens for a few years.Reuse content