Ask the Expert: Chef/Entrepreneur, Lauren Lovatt (Part 2 of 2)
Welcome to part two of Ask the Expert with Lauren Lovatt, a plant-based chef and entrepreneur. She’s the founder of Plant Academy in London and opened the food element of the hotel HOY in Paris.
Missed part one of this interview? Click here to learn how Lauren became a chef and what inspires her in the kitchen.
©Sophia van den Hoek
You previously mentioned the impact food has had on your mental
health and life experiences. Can you speak to that more?
I knew that food would help me get better. I was finishing my degree, and I learned a reasonable amount about nutrition, so I researched what kind of food would support your mental health because I had no idea that food could even moderately impact your mental health. As I learned more, it was about how to stay in balance or how to give your brain nourishment that it needs, so if you’re in a more difficult time, you have that base, that foundation of support. I ended up writing a book about rebranding mental health with a trend toward well-being, and how to make healthy living cool before that was the thing. Writing this book opened up different options, and I decided to re-train as a chef.
Becoming a chef was, in itself, incredibly impactful for how I balance and understood the relationship between mental health and food. But once I fully dedicated myself to a plant-based diet, a whole new world of flavors and ideas and ways of cooking opened up, which led me to be involved in opening a vegan restaurant in the countryside of England. And this whole business became my life in three years. I went from not knowing what I was going to do with myself to having a new business and way of life. It really did turn everything around for me.
We often just attach “plant-based” to having a better physique and the environmental impact. It's rarely talked about as a place of mental health, of expressing yourself creatively in the kitchen in order to find focus and balance.
That's what it's all about. I run supper clubs that discuss the link between mental health and food and the ingredients we use. We use things like anti-inflammatory antioxidants, whole grains, delicious vegetables — things that give us balance. But at the end of the day, it is about bringing people together and celebrating our communities through cooking and being creative, which is so good for your mental health.
©Sophia van den Hoek
We love that. There’s both a physicality to the connection between mind and food, but there’s also something meditative and spiritual to the rituals around it. Thinking of our readers and the obstacles and questions they may have, how can you get the benefits of the plant-based diet when you're traveling? How do you ensure that you're maintaining a plant-based and vegan diet while staying active and mobile?
I think in England we’re very, very lucky that on the whole, 9 times out of 10 you can find something, but it is still difficult, especially when you go to the further flung corners. It is all about being quite prepared — I do a lot of research about where I'm going, or I pack little snacks and treats, but I can't even tell you how long I've been saying “there needs to be something savory, or more veggie-something to have” because I get that it's not that exciting. Everything has fruits, nuts, or seeds, but it doesn't quite hit the spot. That's why I think something like ZENB, especially the Veggie Sticks when you're on the road, they are really handy. And I'm not just saying that. It’s exactly what you need, especially when you don't always want something sweet.
We’re really proud to hear that, thank you, Lauren. And what about food prep when you’re back at home? Sometimes we don’t have the time for preparing a meal. If you're looking for functional, efficient, and fast; not creative, what is your approach to just everyday cooking at home?
©Sophia van den Hoek
It happens a lot when I'm home for holidays with my family. Just opening the fridge and seeing what's in there. We want to eat soon, what have we got? I'll always look for some good vegetables, whatever's in the fridge, and then whatever I create will be around that. Tonight for example, I know that we have quite a few leftovers. We have Brussels sprouts, we have root vegetables, and we have cauliflower hiding somewhere so it's going to be a big cauliflower curry.
And it's all about just having that little toolbox. Always knowing you have a nice sauce in the cupboard or knowing everything needs a nice crunch so you've got something to sprinkle on top like nuts, or seeds, or granola.
Before we wrap up, we wanted to ask you, as a leader in the field of plant-based food sustainability: what’s coming next? What are going to be the emerging trends, whether it's in zero food waste or the plant-based area?
With the plant-based movement, especially this year, we have so many people now that are really dedicated to this kind of movement. And I think it is about going back-to-basics and focusing on things like whole vegetables. I think people are curious to know how to cook quickly. They are actually quite curious to know how to do things for themselves. Those are the trends I’ve observed, but I think we need to go way more creative with them. I live right by a place called Silo London and Silo’s is this incredible zero-waste restaurant bringing so much creativity to light the realms of waste.
This has been amazing Lauren, thank you. Where can readers reach you or find out more about your work?
You can find me on Instagram at @Lauren_Lovatt and we're about to open a new studio in East London in the spring. You can find out more on our website: plantacademylondon.com.
Also check out @HOYParis if you ever find yourself in Paris to get a taste of what we’ve been up to.
©Sophia van den Hoek
Interested in learning how you can grow your sustainability and limit your food waste? Read our article on 5 Helpful Tips for Cutting Down Food Waste and join the ZENB community on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
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