For the latest in our People Behind the Food series, we had a chat with chef and food entrepreneur Lauren Lovatt. Lauren is one of the co-founders Plant Hub, a plant-based cookery school and event space in Hackney and Feed Your Mind Candy, which focuses on inspiring better mental health through food. She tells us about her reasons for choosing a plant-based diet and lifestyle and what inspires her.
I've always had a passion for plants. As a child I loved vegetables - always asking for roast dinners just with veggies and gravy. I really have cooked for as long as I can remember and I was lucky my mum always gave me freedom to get involved in the kitchen. Growing up, my relationship with food became more complicated. After I lost someone I loved very much, I went through all sorts of mental health issues. After a few very dark years, I found a way to get better through reigniting a passion for food. This was no easy thing but the enjoyment for actually making and creating never left me and by introducing a new toolbox of plant-based ingredients a new relationship blossomed. Discovering a new style of cooking that was focussed more on seasons and different techniques gave me a new focus. At that time I was studying fashion design and marketing at university. So, to bring this new passion to life, for my final year I wrote a book - about rebranding mental health with a trend towards wellness. This project sparked an idea - one that was about making healthy living cool in a way it had not been before. Many years down the line, we are living in a time when wellness is a hot topic - and all these years I’ve been finding ways to share this passion. I’ve been head chef at a vegan restaurant, been teaching chefs about plant-based cuisine, recipe developing and hosting my own pop up nights. Plant based food is a crucial part of my life because I know what an impact it can have. Not just personally but hearing stories from customers, clients and students... We can see eating well and really connecting with food do so much good. I’m now about to open a Plant Based Culinary Academy - @planthubuk launching in January with the inspiring David Bez. This project is about bringing creativity to the culinary world and empowering students with skills and ideas enjoy more plant based food! In the mean-time, I’m very excited to be launching my passion project: ‘Feed your Mind Candy’ - a series of supper clubs all about inspiring better mental health through food in a quirky and collaborative way with local brand sponsors, music and a brain powered menu. First of these are happening on the 15th and 16th November at Love Shack in East London.
Firstly, they are delicious – there’s nothing better than eating seasonal ingredients that are available on our doorsteps. It makes sense with what we need at times of the year and support our minds, bodies and souls. Looking at the bigger picture we know a plant-based lifestyle has a massively lower impact on the planet than any other. We don’t need to go into details but it’s now well publicised that there’s going to be a significant impact if we don’t try and do something. Eating more plants is so beneficial on every level. Fibre is something most people don’t get enough of and by just increasing the diversity of veggies we eat we can highly impact our wellbeing as they give us a wider range of nutrients. It’s all about education. If we can show the nation easy and tasty ways to enjoy plants it becomes much more simple to implement changes into life. That is exactly why we are opening The Plant Academy - to empower people with skills and share our passion for plants.
That’s a tough one! I think for me not a day goes by without cacao. I love how it instantly brings a moment of joy. I always have either home-made or a good brand of raw cacao to hand! It’s a cliché but kale is one of my favourite things especially when its soft and in season - massage with a good oil and sea salt or turn into crisps. The humble avocado has to be in this list. Making chocolate mousse, on top of good gluten free bread or even on top of soups and curries... You won’t go wrong and that perfect balance of good fats is a winner for your mind.
I go through such waves of inspiration. I’m currently into Mexican food. I think growing up in England we weren’t really exposed to that culture. In the last few years going over to LA and New York their food is heavily influenced by Mexico. So dishes like tostadas, tamales and tacos really excite me. In New York there’s a place called Atla which does cool Mexican dishes led by female chef Daniela Soto-Innes. This is the style of food that I love. I avoid heavily processed food and always make a point of looking for good quality ingredients. So, my favourite creations recently are about including my favourite ingredients in more multicultural dishes. Hemp tacos and chard tamales - are top of the list right now - always vegan and gluten free of course!
I have so many in the UK! For something special I love Acorn in Bath, Scully’s & Cub in London and The Ethicurian in Bristol. For more casual inspiration I adore Wild Food Cafe in London - who always present exciting dishes. I must mention Pride Kitchen. David Bez, who I’m co-founding The Plant Hub with, founded Pride which was originally in Covent Garden making organic and creative vegetable forward dishes. He has always produced the most nourishing bowls of balanced goodness. I’m excited that his food will be served in the Hub!