The weekly „Sexy Salad“ on Wednesday is about to change! From now on, the wonderful Kremena is cooking for us her amazing food. Everything is vegan and made with much passion and love. In this interview you can get to know her a little bit more and maybe get some inspiration as well.
Tell us who you are and what you are passionate about at the moment
I am passionate about vegan food and cooking, and I want to encourage people to eat more consciously. That means thinking about where their food comes from, thoughtfully putting ingredients together and empowering them to make sustainable and delicious food choices.
You’re living the vegan life – how long have you been vegan and why did you choose to become vegan?
I’ve been vegan for more than seven years. My partner’s brother had recently become vegan and shared his motivations, and we thought it made sense, so agreed to gave it a try. We started with one week a month vegan, then two weeks and over six months we phased out animal products altogether. I used to make more exceptions, which I haven’t felt the need to do in recent years.
The environmental footprint of animal product consumption particularly resonated with me at the beginning, but the longer I live a vegan lifestyle, the more important other motivations have become. Animal rights violations, public health problems caused by an over-consumption of animal products, large-scale disease epidemics such as bird flu caused by factory farming, and social questions regarding feeding an ever-growing population are all strong reasons for my choice.
You are involved with the startup Veganaut. What is the Veganaut and why are you working for it?
Veganaut is mostly a project of my partner and his brother. It’s a community-driven vegan guide, showing people where vegan food is available – to eat out or to purchase ingredients for cooking at home. It’s open source and open content, meaning anyone can contribute, and the idea is to make it as easy as possible for people to find and enjoy vegan food.
Besides Veganaut, the three of us have been working in various areas of vegan gastronomy and activism over the last several years. Another of our active projects is called Projekt Habakuk, a vegan pop-up gastronomy venture where we organize regular public events featuring delicious and often surprising vegan cuisine. Currently we are at the Heitere Fahne once a month, come check us out!
A lot of people think living vegan means starving… Why do you think that happens?
Over the years of being vegan, I’ve realized that food is quite a complicated and emotional topic. People have strong ideas of what they can eat, what is healthy, and what tastes good, dictated by their upbringing, their culture and what is socially accepted in society. It’s natural, then, when these views are challenged, that they cannot imagine how a big change is possible. It seems that eating vegan would mean starving, or drastically reducing the available food choices. But there’s actually a whole world of incredible abundance out there in the plant-based kitchen, and it’s a matter of shifting your perspective and feeling empowered to start exploring and playing with it.
That is one of the main reasons I do what I do – I want to show people in a friendly, positive way, that making a seemingly big lifestyle change is indeed possible. I want to open their perspective on what food is, and to motivate them to do what they feel is right, whether it’s an abrupt one-day-to-the-next challenge, or tiny steps over a longer period.
You have a master in computer science and worked in software engineering for quite a while. You then became a vegn cook and worked 12 hour shifts in the kitchen! How was that change for you?
Gastronomy in general is a very tough business, and the work is hard. It was obviously a big change for me, going from a pretty comfortable IT job with a good salary and working conditions to an industry defined by minimum wages and big work loads. The first few months were hard and it took time to adjust, but if you are motivated, you get used to it. I learned a lot, but my experience also showed me that I don’t necessarily want to have my own traditional restaurant. It’s not out of the question, but I am happy to cook in other settings where the pressure is less and not as constant, and where I have the space to work on other aspects of vegan gastronomy which motivate me.
The Sexy Salad catering here is a good example of this choice – I really enjoy cooking on a small scale, creating and sharing the story behind the food, and having time to work on the novel recipe development system which forms the theoretical part of my small business. It’s something new that I am just beginning to develop, which will likely involve some of my computer science background, so it’s a nice way to tie back in all I’ve learned during my studies and IT experience. Stay tuned for more info!
Do you think the vegan movement will grow in Bern or Switzerland in general as fast as in Berlin for example?
I think it has grown a lot over the last several years and will definitely continue to do so. Berlin is special and the path that Bern or Switzerland in general takes may not be exactly the same, but the potential is there. Around five years ago when we started Projekt Habakuk, the vegan pop-up gastronomy project I mentioned earlier, we often had to explain to people what vegan means, it was such a novel, niche thing. Vegan products were only available in more expensive specialty stores, you had to really go out and hunt for them. Now I am quite amazed: coming back from Berlin after being away for two years and seeing the changes here is inspiring. These days you can buy almost anything in the Migros or Coop, and I don’t even remember the last time I had to explain to someone what vegan means because everyone knows it now. The ecological footprint of our lifestyles, health and nutrition, animal rights… all those things are becoming more and more part of our everyday consciousness.
So, you can say that you can get all the nutrition that you need from a plant based diet?
Many credible organizations worldwide have published reports indicating that a plant-based diet is suitable for all stages of life, including pregnancy, childhood or periods of very active sports practice. In fact, based on scientific research, some medical practitioners are recommending a balanced, plant-based diet including lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, as one of the best options for long-term health. Dr Greger from nutritionfacts.org has a wealth of information along these lines. Vegetarians and vegans need to supplement Vitamin B12, but besides that, with a little awareness, it is quite easy to meet nutritional requirements and live healthy and happy!
Come and try Kremenas food! It is super delicious and will make you feel good and healthy afterwards! Every wednesday on 12:15 pm!