King Cook interview: The plant-based Shoreditch chef loved by celebrities gives Veganuary tips
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In 2009, after experiencing professional burn out, the 40-year-old returned to his Buddhist roots, gave up meat and started meditating.
The father-of-four spoke to LondonWorld about his cooking style and shared some advice on how newcomers can approach veganism.
The first Cook Daily branch opened in Shoreditch’s Boxpark and Cook knew how to appeal to his crowd.
“Opening Cook Daily was a breath of fresh air for me as I felt I could be myself,” Cook explained.
“I didn’t want to wear chef whites, I didn’t want to have classical music playing, it was straight up London music by London based people.
“I didn’t want to have a fixed menu or even a written menu, it was just graffiti on the walls, I just wanted to have good food and create a new vibe.
“Luckily that took off so well and I’ve just connected with the people from that.”
Along with a tribe of millennials, his east London eatery attracted a number of celebrities, including Doctor Who star Ncuti Gatwa, artist Yinka Ilori and radio DJ Dev Griffin.
“The concept of Cook Daily was international vegan food, even though my background and heritage is from Laos and southeast Asia, that’s what influences my food at Cook Daily,” he said.
“We also had dishes like chicken and mushroom pie at the first Cook Daily, we had dishes like the “hard bowl” which was African/-Caribbean inspired which had ingredients like scotch bonnets, okra and akki.
“It was freshly cooked food made to order, like on the streets of Bangkok.
“If you wanted something spicy we had it, if you wanted something soup based we had it.
“I knew my crowd at that time, which was Shoreditch and I knew that they could handle spicy food.”
Cook opened a further three branches of his business, including one in the less gentrified Croydon and set up stalls in market halls in Oxford and Victoria St, which have since closed down.
Tips for Veganuary
This month, a number of people are taking part in Veganuary, an annual challenge run by a UK non-profit organisation that encourages people to follow a vegan lifestyle for the month of January.
For Londoners wanting to take part in Veganuary, Cook recommends choosing the route you want to go down.
“If you want to go down the hard core route choose Whole Foods,”said Cook.
“If you want to just try Veganuary, you can hit the plant based menus at Burger King and McDonald’s.
“You can go to Sainsbury’s and get vegan nuggets, cheese and butter.
“It’s so easy to be vegan right now.”
Cook has raised his four children vegan and says they haven’t missed out on anything, “from sausage rolls, to pie and mash to vegan burgers,” they can enjoy it all.
Vegan Cooking Tips
For people adapting to a vegan lifestyle, King Cook recommends dried superfoods, such as hemp seeds and turmeric, and plenty of herbs and spices.
“Every vegan should have herbs and spices in their cupboards because that’s what a lot of meat is seasoned with,” the chef said.
“If you’re into French and European cooking, get some vegan butter, so you can use that classical style to base your dishes.
“Keep dried superfoods in your cupboard, if you want to make a smoothie, make sure you have hemp seeds and turmeric.
“Keep lots of fresh foods and vegetables in your fridge.”
Cook opened a new Cook Daily pop up on Hanbury Street in Spitalfields in July 2023 but has a vision to expand his brand across the UK.
“My vision is to have Cook Daily everywhere, I’ve been based mainly in east London so far but I would love to have a Cook Daily in Brighton, Manchester, Bristol and even abroad,” he added.