Plant­ing roots

Cook Daily is a restau­rant in Lon­don’s Shoreditch that’s de­fy­ing the hip­ster stereo­types and be­com­ing the un­of­fi­cial head­quar­ters for a new tribe of proud ve­gan. Clare Con­si­dine meets chef King Cook to find out how

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page -

Ve­gan food gets street cred

It’s mid­day on Mon­day in a vogueish corner of East Lon­don. Shoreditch’s Box­park – a com­plex of ship­ping con­tain­ers hous­ing small shops and res­tau­rants – is rapidly fill­ing up with a hun­gry crowd. Their op­tions are a show-and-tell of 2017’s most pho­to­genic food, all pulled pork and bub­ble waf­fles. But there’s one queue triple the size of any other. And it’s for … pause for ef­fect … ve­gan food.

The restau­rant in ques­tion, Cook Daily, mea­sures two by three me­tres and its crowd is one of many faces. “What I wanted to do was cre­ate a vibe,” ex­plains its owner, 34-yearold lo­cal boy King Cook. “A Lon­don eat­ing cul­ture that just so hap­pens to be ve­gan.” Ram­bunc­tious teens sit along­side a cou­ple of Hindu fam­i­lies, speed-shov­el­ling of­fice work­ers and cre­atives with ironic fa­cial hair. They all eat from re­cy­clable bowls at long shared ta­bles. T-shirts line the walls – black and em­bla­zoned in drip­ping red graffiti script, declar­ing “Ve­gan. No blood. No bones.”

A sur­vey re­leased by the Ve­gan So­ci­ety in 2016 found a 350% rise in the num­ber of ve­g­ans in the UK over the past 10 years; and 42% of th­ese are aged be­tween 15 and 34. In 2016, Sham­bala was the first UK mu­sic fes­ti­val to go meat and fish-free; Pret A Manger re­cently opened its sec­ond veg­e­tar­ian branch in the cap­i­tal; and this March BBC iPlayer show­cased Si­mon Am­stell’s Car­nage, a pro-ve­gan fea­ture-length com­edy.

Ve­gan­ism 2.0 is of­fi­cially boom­ing. Cook Daily is nei­ther a bean­both­er­ing hippy joint nor a Gwyneth Pal­trow juice den: it’s the un­of­fi­cial head­quar­ters for a new tribe of proud ve­gan.

King opened Cook Daily in 2015 with­out a web­site or con­tact num­ber, let alone a PR plan. But what he did have was the fevered back­ing of the UK mu­sic scene. King’s heav­ily scrolled Twit­ter feed is chock-full of love from the likes of Emeli Sandé, Pro­fes­sor Green and JME, chief ral­lier of the Boy Bet­ter Know grime crew, the brother of Mer­cury-win­ner Skepta, the poster boy for the #Grime4Cor­byn cam­paign. He em­bod­ies a new trend for aware­ness amongst mil­len­ni­als – a pride in be­ing armed with in­for­ma­tion and mak­ing con­sid­ered choices.

For JME, who King de­scribes as a for­mer three Mc­Don­ald’s-a-day man, his thirst for knowl­edge took him down an in­ter­net worm­hole that led to ve­gan­ism. To his 763k fol­low­ers on Twit­ter he calls Cook Daily “my 2nd home”.

“All it takes is JME to tweet and say ‘I’m at Cook Daily’ and I’ve got 50 young boys in here,” says King. This in­tro­duces the life­style choice that he’s cham­pi­oning to a whole new de­mo­graphic. “They think ve­gan means white, mid­dle class,” he ex­plains, “but I hope I chal­lenge that. It’s just about mak­ing them know: bruv, I wasn’t born ve­gan, I don’t re­ally know any­one that was born ve­gan. We’re in the same boat.”

At Cook Daily, 16 honed dishes of­fer the fa­mil­iar­ity of com­fort food while ap­peal­ing to Lon­don’s mul­ti­cul­tural fid­getism. You’ll find the Hard Bowl, a bright moun­tain of Caribbean tex­tures and flavours – yams and dumplings, Scotch bon­net and thyme; the mar­i­juana-in­spired High Grade, all smoky and sweet veg­eta­bles topped with a hemp seed crum­ble. Or the house pad Thai, a nod to King’s Lao

roots, boast­ing his clever re­cre­ation of fish sauce us­ing soys and sea­weed.

A bowl at Cook Daily costs £8.50. “It’s too ex­pen­sive, but I’m still here,” laughs lo­cal cus­tomer Danny, as he waits for his black bean sauce bowl. A Pub­lic Health Eng­land 2016 re­port found that only 8% of chil­dren aged 11 to 18 are cur­rently get­ting their five-aday. In­tro­duc­ing young Lon­don­ers to plant-based food that isn’t per­ceived as “wor­thy” is an im­por­tant first step in what King de­scribes as “break­ing the cy­cle”. Danny tells me: “The food’s proper tasty and I don’t feel like I’m miss­ing the meat.” King says he gives kids that go to the chicken shop an al­ter­na­tive. “They’re not gonna go to a juice bar in Not­ting Hill! But they will come here, re­alise that no-one’s look­ing at them weird and learn that ve­gan food can be fun.”

Ear­lier this year, Cook Daily took over a sec­ond unit in Shoreditch’s Box­park and opened a new spot in Croy­don, of­fer­ing an op­tion in a less gen­tri­fied part of the city. To­mor­row he’ll be bring­ing ve­gan food to Boy Bet­ter Know’s hoards of fans for a pop-up at their Mil­len­nium Dome takeover. “Kids with track­suits are eat­ing Cook Daily rather than McDon­alds,” he beams. “What more could I want?”

High Grade sauteed veg­eta­bles Serves 2

1 tbsp olive oil

¼ white onion, sliced

1 gar­lic clove, sliced

25mm fresh ginger, bashed

500g mixed veg (such as pep­pers, okra, car­rots, mangetout, baby corn, broc­coli) 2 tbsp cooked chick­peas

2 tbsp tamari

4 tbsp High Grade sauce (see be­low) 240ml veg­etable stock

1½ tbsp nu­tri­tional yeast

A dash of sesame oil

For the High Grade sauce

2 tbsp olive oil

1 small white onion, diced

2 gar­lic cloves, minced

2 shal­lots, diced

1 tbsp tomato puree

450g plum toma­toes

120ml cider vine­gar

80ml rice vine­gar

60ml maple syrup

3 tbsp ve­gan Worces­ter­shire sauce 150g raw co­conut su­gar or maple syrup 2 tsp smoked pa­prika (pi­men­tón)

2 tsp pa­prika

2 tbsp sesame oil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground black pep­per

¼ tsp cayenne pep­per

2 tbsp hemp oil (sold on Ocado)

1 First, make the sauce. Fry the onion in the oil over a medium heat un­til soft­ened: about 4-5 min­utes. Add the gar­lic and shal­lots and cook un­til fra­grant – 1–2 min­utes.

2 Add the re­main­ing in­gre­di­ents, ex­cept the hemp oil. Stir to com­bine. Bring to a gen­tle boil, then re­duce to a sim­mer un­til slightly thick­ened– about 15-20 min­utes – stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally.

3 Blitz the sauce un­til smooth, then add the hemp oil. Set aside to cool.

4 Mean­while, fry the onion, gar­lic and ginger for 1-2 min­utes. Add the veg and chick­peas. Toss for 2-3 min­utes, then add the tamari and 4 tbsp High Grade sauce. Mix well. Add the stock. Cook for a fur­ther 1-2 min­utes on a high heat. Add the yeast and a lit­tle sesame oil.

5 Serve over brown rice and gar­nish with co­rian­der and hemp hearts, if you can find them.

In­tro­duc­ing young Lon­don­ers to plant-based food that isn’t ‘wor­thy’ is a big first step in what King calls ‘break­ing the cy­cle’

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