Ed’s vegan journey

No one in Ed’s family was actually in the hospitality business when he was growing up but Ed’s mum’s a very good cook, and he would always make cakes with her in the kitchen, which is probably where Ed’s passion for food comes from.

Ed’s dad took him to a little restaurant where they lived and told Ed that he could wash dishes, and earn his own money. That was around the age of 14.

When Ed was 16, he trained as a as a chef at Thanet College in Broadstairs, Kent, UK, cooking seafood and meats and using lots of salt and butter and all of the ways that the majority of chefs on the planet are trained. He prided himself on being a “nose-to-tail” chef, cooking the finest meats and not wasting any of the animal parts.

Ed studied at Thanet College for three years, working at another restaurant (where he met his wife, Natasha) and then from there went into Michelin-starred fine dining kitchens, which he liked because of the discipline and preciseness of everything.

Ed realized he could travel with this trade so he moved, traveled around Australia working at the best kitchens he could, lived there for a year, and New Zealand for a year, and then moved back to the UK for five and a half years.

Before moving to Canada, Ed was the head chef of a small boutique restaurant with rooms attached – Berwick Lodge in Bristol. There was a beautiful vegetable garden and Ed could go out in the morning and harvest fresh vegetables and fruits, and use them on the menu that same day. The passion for vegetables grew from there.

Ed eventually found himself in Whistler, BC, Canada, working in a farm-to-table restaurant in the village, Alta Bistro, where he worked as the sous chef. The head chef gave Ed a lot of control in the menu design. Ed’s interest and passion for the vegan food had begun to grow through his wife, Natasha.

Raw blueberry cheesecake was Ed’s first vegan dessert to go on Alta Bistro’s menu, and it sold so well. Dessert sales increased because a lot of people avoid dairy: they might not be vegan, but they might be avoiding certain things in their diet.

Ed realized that if he could increase sales, then it would be easier to get more options on the menu. He used to hate going out for dinner or lunch somewhere and they would have to take components away to make it vegan, making it an incomplete dish. Ed was understood that making vegetarian options vegan means there’s no substituting: it is great for vegetarians and vegans, and substituting nuts for sunflower seeds, can also cater for more dietary requirements. He likes bringing everyone together so they all feel included and they don’t feel like they have an insufficient dish.

Dairy provides creaminess and the richness, but the proteins coat your taste buds. With cashews or other nuts, you get a delicious, silky smooth consistency, but you get all the other flavours. Ed really wanted to dive into this more and explore fine dining plant-based restaurants. After eating at Matthew Kenney’s restaurant Plant Food + Wine in Venice, L.A., Ed was blown away by the level of gastronomy vegan cuisine was capable of.

It’s been an exciting journey of new foods and flavours ever since, at home and at work. There is so much to learn about harnessing plants to their full culinary potential: dehydrating, fermenting, pickling, blending, and so much more.

After watching documentaries like Cowspiracy and What the Health, Ed made the connection between diet and heart health, as well as the environmental strain our traditional animal-based diet is having on land and water resources. Having a heart condition, it was incredible for Ed to come off all medication within three months of going plant-based, after thinking he would be taking pills for the rest of his life. That was four years ago and he has not looked back since.

To hear more about Ed’s vegan story, listen to his interview with Nicolette Richer on the Eat Real to Heal podcast