Interview: Wholefood Heaven

Posted · 2nd April 2015
Wholefood Heaven
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Wholefood Heaven

David and Charlotte Bailey from vegetarian street food business, Wholefood Heaven, have made a career out of their two passions in life, food and travel. Since 2009, Charlotte and her husband have been bringing high quality meat-free food to the masses from their beautifully converted Citroen H van. She spoke to us about their recipe for success.

How did your career lead you to become a street food business owner?

My husband, David, and I set up Wholefood Heaven together and we both have very different stories. David is a classically trained chef and has worked for over 20 years across the UK and internationally in restaurants as diverse as The Ritz, Wiltons and Vong. Eight years ago, he became the head chef of the UK’s first gourmet raw vegan restaurant, SAF, so he is more than qualified in the world of vegetarian cuisine! As a lifelong vegetarian and with a strong interest in alternative medicine and experimenting with plant based food, I trained as a homeopath and worked for a leading natural health company, whilst also writing about food! We were keen to create a way of life where we could indulge in our passion for food and travel, so made the decision to quit our jobs. The rest is history!

This month’s Ultimate Guide to Street Food is all about British cuisine – how does British cuisine inspire you?

Our menu is hugely inspired by British cuisine. When we’re out at markets and festivals we serve our unique Buddha Bowls, which are noodle pots filled with delicious British vegetables, sourced from suppliers local to the area we’re trading in that day. The Buddha Bowls might sound like they are wholly inspired by the Far East, but there is always a British twist in there somewhere! Our signature Buddha Bowl contains massaman curry with locally grown new potatoes and we like to offer our own take on some of the classics, like fish and chips for example, where we substitute the fish for tofu or halloumi.

Do you think British food is as big an inspiration to street food as other world cuisines?

There are a lot of people doing really great things with British food and British ingredients so I’d say it is as big an inspiration in this country, probably because there are lots of old favourites and fantastic produce to use. For us personally, we generally just combine our favourite elements from around the world, but our Buddha Bowl certainly wouldn’t be the same without the Lancashire kale! We also love to use seasonal and local vegetables and experiment with new ways of cooking with them.

the fresh vegan kitchen

What kind of challenges and opportunities has selling veggie street food provided?

No matter what the product, selling street food is a great way to start your own business without too many overheads or commitments. Vegetarian street food has become hugely popular and is continuing to grow in popularity and we’ve found that being a specialist in vegetarian street food has worked really well for us.

What street food cuisine do you think is going to be BIG this year?

_People are doing really cool things with fermentation – things like “stinky tofu” are starting to become more popular at up-and-coming food festivals! Korean street food has also been popular for a while, but it seems to be gathering more and more momentum. We also think there are some fantastic new street vendors. We love Oli Baba’s, who you can find at lots of Kerb events.

What’s next for Wholefood Heaven?

We’re so thrilled to have just released our first recipe book, The Fresh Vegan Kitchen, published by Pavilion. We’re doing some talks and demonstrations based around that and we’re also excited to be planning a regular supper club starting in May and hopefully some retreats for later in the year. Keep checking our website for more details on this.

Finally, what are your tips for people looking to recreate vegetarian street food at home?

Just enjoy cooking and be experimental! Street food is all about trying out new combinations you might not think of otherwise. Putting grilled halloumi on top of our Massaman curry came about as an accident. It shouldn’t work but really does!

If you fancy trying your hand at one of Wholefood Heaven’s recipes, then check out their Fattoush and Falafel salad dish.

Wholefood Heaven can be found at Whitecross Street market most weeks and will be visiting a host of festivals this year. For the latest news, check them out on Twitter @veggie_heaven
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