Roots To Work: The plant-based chef
Freelance vegan chef, writer, teacher and food activist, Sareta Puri chats with Sarah Williams about how her connection to food as a child and the shift to a plant-based diet that inspired her career.
Where did it all begin for you?
I grew up in Edinburgh and my love of food came from my dad, who was a chef. He worked long hours but in the precious time we did spend with him, there was usually a connection through food. He was keen for me to help and learn from him. He made sure he was teaching me not just cookery skills, but the business of food. Dad was a first-generation migrant from India. He was very open about the adversities he’d faced getting a job that was more than a pot washer and not being stereotyped as only being able to make ‘curry’.
What’s been most valuable in helping establish your career as a chef?
I never meant to go into food, however that all changed when I became vegan. I was so committed to making the world a fairer place for animals and fighting for the voiceless that I had a complete career change. I’d been working in youth and education, but also had recently started running supper clubs and writing about food. That gave me the impetus and I realised that I had plenty of transferable skills to take into a new career.
It took me time to realise there are now many pathways into the industry. You don’t have to be a classically-trained chef, or have worked in the industry for 15 years to be good at what you do.
What’s the dream?
I always had a dream of having a space that could create change and support people. This led me to connecting with Sarah from Made in Hackney, the plant-based cookery school I teach at, where everything we do is about connecting people with healthy, affordable food that’s good for people and planet. I’m building all these pieces together so that, at some point in the future, I can use all of my experience to create something that centres around food, veganism, community and wellbeing.
Do you feel political about food?
Absolutely, food is what makes us who we are and one of my drivers is using food as a means for change. I believe there should be healthy, nutritious, and affordable food for everyone. A central part of that is teaching people about food - how to source it and how to cook it, the impact it can have on your health and wellbeing. If there were more balanced, plant-based options available in schools and workplaces across London, there would be health benefits.
Finally what London food secrets would it be selfish not to share?
There are so many places in London to enjoy good food. One of my favourites is Deserted Cactus in Peckham, where you can get food that’s homemade with love, such an important part of the Peckham food scene right now. I also love Supernature x SITE on Hackney Road for brunch, and Chuku’s in Tottenham, which is a really vibrant Nigerian tapas place that’s just so good for a fun night out. For really classic, high quality Indian food, you have to try Babur in Honor Oak.
Sareta is also a member of the team at ethical lifestyle magazine BRIGHT Zine. Find her on Instagram at @saretapuri and www.saretapuri.com
Join us and Sareta at our upcoming London Food Link Gathering, where we'll hear about her #RootstoWork and from other people bringing good food to London!