Get to Know: Iona
by Emily Harris
We caught up with our lovely Iona, who is part of our Food Development Team, to find out a bit about how she became a vegan chef in London, the ins and outs of a day in the life at allplants, and what vegetable she’d be if hard pressed. Iona is going to be sharing some of her top cooking tips with us, so keep an eye out for some vegan cheffy secrets coming soon.
Tell us about your cooking background
I’ve loved cooking for as long as I can remember. My mum was more than happy for me to take over the kitchen (making lots of mess as I went!) and I think I made Christmas dinner from the age of 12. I decided to pursue a career in photography, partly because I wasn’t sure where I’d fit in the culinary world as someone who was raised vegan and didn’t want to cook meat every day.
I eventually decided to start a monthly supper club called The Women's Circle Supper Club where I would serve cocktails, canapés and a three-course vegan or vegetarian meal. I love every aspect of planning these events down to the table settings, food shopping and the pressure of pulling off the event itself (single-handedly – but I must shout out my sister for helping with the mountain of dishes afterwards).
After working as a private chef and saving up funds, I enrolled at Leiths School of Food & Wine and studied the Foundation Certificate for three months, covering all of the basics. I thoroughly enjoyed studying there as the facilities were fantastic, the guest lecturers were really inspiring and my teachers were very supportive. I still can’t believe I managed to secure my dream job at allplants only a couple of months after graduating.
What brought you to allplants?
I really wanted to work for a forward-thinking company with great ethics that was consciously making a positive impact on the planet. I think allplants is great because it’s for everyone, as ultimately it’s delicious food that happens to be vegan.
Talk me through a day in your life at allplants
Every day is different here but I’ll take you through a typical day:
It starts at 9am and the first thing is going to the fridge in our production kitchen to see what leftover food we have, which I can then turn into lunch for the team by 10.30am. I love to get creative and as a business, we’re passionate about food waste so try to use up as much as possible. After that, we’ll typically have a tasting of the dishes we’re working on (lately this has felt like Christmas every day as we’re developing a nut loaf and roast potatoes!). The rest of the day is focused on food research, or training the chefs to cook the new dishes.
Can you give us a sneak-peek into anything you’re working on at allplants at the moment?
We’re working on a really tasty, healthy dish which is going to be perfect for January after we’ve all overindulged at Christmas. Expect it to be green, delicious and full of nutrients.
What’s your vision for the future of food and plant-based living?
I think that more people will realise that it’s not a compromise to eat plant-based and that it can be delicious, healthier for you and better for the planet. The industry is unrecognisable now in comparison to a decade ago which makes me very excited about the changes to come in the future.
10 Quickfire Questions
- Go-to comfort recipe?
Wild mushroom tagliatelle with lots of truffle oil.
- Favourite allplants meal and why?
I think it has to be our new Spicy Szechuan Noodles as I love a chilli kick.
- Most well-read recipe book?
Plants Taste Better by Richard Buckley is probably my favourite and I love the photography in the book.
- Best meal of the day?
All the meals. I literally don’t forget to eat and I don’t understand people that do.
- If you were a vegetable, which vegetable would you be?
I did a Buzzfeed quiz to find out. Turns out I’m a potato because I’m trustworthy and people can always rely upon me to be there when you need them. It also said potatoes are comforting, kind and make everything just a little bit better.
- Favourite cooking show?
Anything Nigella. She really is the best.
- If you could cook anywhere in the world right now, where would that be?
I’ve never been to India so that has got to be top of my list. I’d also be very happy going back to Little Corn Island (which is a Caribbean paradise off the coast of Nicaragua).
- Favourite allplants extra?
- Top three ingredients that you love cooking with?
Miso for umami goodness, chilli for heat, and garlic because I simply couldn’t live without it.
- One utensil you just couldn’t live without when cooking?
A sharp knife.
Thank you, Iona! We can’t wait for some of your plant-based recipes to start appearing on PLANTED. If you have any questions for Iona, or any of our other lovely development chefs, leave a comment below.
By Emily Harris
Emily is our Social and Content Assistant who you’ll find at an art gallery, snapping away on her camera, or updating her Instagram with a gin in hand (so millennial).