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Community Spotlight – Kerran Kaur, Chef & Recipe Developer

By Frankie Fitch-Bunce

Kerran Kaur, or ‘Cook with Keke’ is a chef from London and has worked in restaurants for five years. Currently head chef at plant based cafe The Fields Beneath, Kerran also runs a private consultancy that helps restaurants and cafes reach their plant-based potential. With a focus on local, sustainable produce, Kerran creates recipes that taste great, nourish the body and respect historical context. Kerran works with companies to understand where food comes from, taking inspiration from the many cultures in and around London.

Frankie: What’s your biggest career win?

Kerran: There’s so many things. The biggest win was becoming the head chef at the Fields Beneath, where I am now. I started off as a part time baker under the teaching of the head chef. Now I’m the head chef, which is really amazing.

Frankie: Are you plant based? Was it a challenge to develop the recipes for the menu?

Kerran: I am plant-based, but it was a challenge because I haven’t always been. Before working at this place, I was regularly eating meat and fish. And then I was slowly phasing them out of my diet. When I came to work here, I had to relearn everything. I had loads of staples especially with cake baking, but then I just had to unlearn everything and start finding out new things. It makes you a bit more in tune with the ingredients that you’re using, because you have to understand chemical compositions more. You have to understand reactions and what things do under certain heats and conditions. You really have to get your thinking cap on and you have to experiment. So it was quite cool in a way, but a little bit frustrating because it’s like ‘Oh, this isn’t working again, I’ve tried it 50 times!’. 

Frankie: Do you think having that kind of pressure to learn new things in your work has helped you with your own plant based diet and the things you can eat outside of work?

Kerran: Yeah, absolutely. Being Indian, I’ve grown up eating vegetarian / vegan food my whole life, and it’s been very normal. As it’s becoming more popular within a Western diet, trying to customise food to a Western palate, especially when we’re looking at modern European being so popular and pastry and stuff coming from France, it’s difficult- this hasn’t been something they’ve ever had to come up with. So everywhere you go, it’s going to be very, very different. And my standard when I’m out of the creating realm and I want to relax, it is a bit higher because there just really needs to be more options. 

You can be in this amazing place, you can have all these options but having a little bit more isn’t going to take anything away from your menu. It can only add to your menu. I think just putting the right kind of foods that work within that cuisine or that type of thing. It would be really cool if places thought about this and the changing dynamic of people, you know? That’s what I was trying to create with the plant based consultancy.

Frankie: Is there a difference between plant based and vegan, or do you think they’re interchangeable? 

Kerran: I wouldn’t say I’m an expert, so don’t take my word for it. But there’s a lot more activism that comes with veganism. It’s more of a political movement, I guess. ‘Plant-based’ to me denotes something a bit more whole food inclined, whereas ‘vegan’ has become popular within a mainstream environment because of fast food and stuff. When I think of plant-based, I think of something a bit more natural, more whole food. Working with all of our different heritages and cultures and looking at the foods that we would traditionally have eaten that didn’t contain meat or dairy, that feels a bit more like plant-based- to me anyway. 

When I do supper clubs, I like to talk about the heritage of food, the evolution of certain dishes and how they have come to be. A lot of the time we find the heritage of a lot of these things is very, very different. With invasion, these kinds of issues that have happened, like colonialism- it’s changed food, it’s become something very, very different. With everything that comes from anywhere that’s not Europe or the America’s, anything that feels like it’s got roots within all of our cultures, we get a version of it now. Connection is always lost in order for something to be commodified […] It’s looking at eating more in-tune with ourselves, and with the environment and with the production that we can actually get from the earth. We’ve forgotten all of these things. There’s loads of great restaurants out there, like eating seasonal and stopping waste and things like this. These are all things that we should be doing. Eating out shouldn’t have this huge destructive trail, it should really be about eating intuitively, eating locally- all these things can be included under the plant-based/vegan bracket. 

Frankie: What do you think is the best way for people to find that balance?

Kerran: I think it’s just baby steps, little snippets of education and including things rather than taking so much away. I always say to people if you want to eat more plant-based food, just eat more. Have lots more plants on your plant. Slowly, all the things you’re worried about or you don’t want to eat, you will eat less because you’ll be eating more of other things. If you just start little habits, like going to a local farmers market, little things you can do habitually and very easily without strain or pressure […] If you are transitioning, or you even just want to think about it, I would just add lots more things to your diet. Add lots more things that you haven’t added before, or just having one more vegetarian or vegan meal a week. This is how all new habits are formed. 

You don’t need to put so much pressure on yourself. Everyone always tells you that you need to put yourself under a label, you’re a vegan, you’re a vegetarian, you’re a meat eater. Can’t we just… be? If you eat a lot of veggie meals one week, that’s ok. If you eat more meat than the week before, that’s ok as well. It’s a journey, and if we constantly have this idea of what we’re supposed to be and the label we’re supposed to have … I just don’t think it’s true, especially with food.

Frankie: Can you identify a career challenge that you’ve faced?

Kerran: My boss will really laugh at this, but it was when we decided to do festivals. It was the first festival we’d ever done, and it was an absolutely massive opportunity for us. We didn’t want to say no because we saw the financial potential. We were just going to keep it simple and then as the weeks went on we were adding loads more ideas. We wanted one dish that was going to be so simple, but one dish for 5,000 people. I was in the kitchen for one whole week before making hash browns. I had to order 200 kilos of potatoes and I was pretty much doing it on my own. I had staff here and there coming in that I’d basically begged to help me out- we filled chest freezers full. We took so much stuff with us and the vans we hired weren’t strong enough to take all the weight so halfway there we had to take all the stuff off and when we got to the festival our power capacity was too much and things kept cutting out. We couldn’t even serve half the stuff. I think I slept 6 hours across that whole 3 days. I just thought- why have I done this to myself? I never want to do this ever again! You really have to think these things through. 

Frankie: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your career, what would it be?

Kerran: Just go for it! All the things that you think you don’t have enough experience with, or you might not have done before- just go for it. Constantly ask for mentorship from people in the process, but don’t hold yourself back because you don’t feel like you have enough experience. 

Frankie: The future of hospitality is…

Kerran: Plant-Based! I think it’s plant based and it is going to be far more regional, and it looks the way that we look a little bit more.


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