A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely folk over at vegan and vegetarian pop up cafe and community outreach company ‘Cowherds’. Suitably named after Salford’s Reverend Cowherd of the ironically named Beefsteak Chapel, where the first ideas of vegetarianism were formed in Britain.
Cowherds live and breathe unprocessed plant based nutrition.
I stumbled across Cowherds when looking around Manchester for some healthy juices; juicing and the raw food movement may have taken off in London but it’s only just hitting the North, with Cowherds paving the way for healthy fast food in the heart of the city centre.
Owner Paula got into this style of eating after being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at the early age of 21. She ended up taking steroids for her illness but Paula just couldn’t accept that this was her life. It’s here she started educating herself on health where she decided to become a vegetarian. She went on to train as a chef before taking a raw food course with Kate Magic in Brighton. This led her to gain experience in Vegetarian bistro 1847 and feeding the masses at festivals like Buddha Field. Paula says that she knew she was going to do something that had a purpose and it’s here she combined her love for healthy eating and helping people, getting a job at Unlimited Potential (a social enterprise that specialises in social innovation for happiness) in Salford. During her time here she got a place on the social school for Entrepreneurs that had just come to Salford and this is where her business was given the kickstart it needed.
Cowherds started with a pop up in Trafford where people weren’t really interested in vegetarian food, however, Paula says that for her it’s all about building relationships; ‘once people get to know you, they trust you and you can say ‘just try this’’. From here they went on to pilot a healthy take-away whilst running cooking courses for Salford residents and feeding the families of poorer communities with healthy fast food to go. From August 2015 they will be running these healthy mobile takeaways on a more regular basis targeting different estates in and around Salford & Manchester, once they have people engaged they will be running healthy cooking courses to teach them on the theory of juicing and providing them with the skills they need to prepare healthy, nutrient rich meals.
It’s rare to find a company these days with such community spirit and a real passion for helping people but Cowherds have just that. To them the outreach work is just as important as the business itself.
I was able to ask Paula a few questions on everything from her personal diet to the positives and negatives of running a business in the heart of Manchester.
MBFD: So Paula, what are the benefits of juicing?
Paula: Acid and Alkali. Our diets today are overly processed with way too much sugar making our bodies acidic. When our bodies are acidic they will tell us something is wrong; we will get a little rash or something and it’s basically our bodies telling us that we need to cleanse.
When eating a raw diet the enzymes are preserved; most people don’t have the time to eat this way so that’s why they juice; you’re basically getting direct nutrition into your diet. There’s a lot of bad press around juicing but that’s more fruit based juicing – you should aim to have 4-5 veggies to 1-2 fruits. The nutrients are going directly to your cells, feeding and nourishing them. They say that your body is designed to heal itself but we don’t give it chance so a way of doing it is to cleanse; let your body heal itself and don’t feed it with crap. We also run a juice cleanse where people do various amounts of time. I was someone who always had to have iron tablets but since juicing I don’t need them anymore. It’s just good for everything, your skin and your hair, I used to have spray tans as well but I don’t anymore as I get an actual glow.
P.s – You will soon be able to order the juices on the website
MBFD: So do you eat exclusively this way?
Paula: I would say I eat about 60/40 raw and cooked, I might have raw all day and then a cooked meal at night. I also still have the odd drink as I don’t want to be one of those boring people who never goes out.
MBFD: How long did it take from initial conception to launch?
Paula: I’d probably say about 4 years, I knew what I wanted to do but had to get the skills and inspiration to do it. We always see this as the outreach which has allowed us to be more flexible. So I’d say 4 years getting experience.
MBFD: So what are the best and most challenging parts of running a street food business?
Paula: The challenges are… the space is limited, well this is actually bigger than my kitchen at home (laughs) it’s sort of space and time and getting used to your surroundings and I suppose it is quite radical, I mean in our minds it’s not but to other people it is, so it’s overcoming that. I think it’s about you as people and people buy into that. We practice what we preach and it’s not us capitalising on the latest trend, we live it ourselves. You do get down days and think I’ve put all this prep in and it’s quiet today but the next day it will be packed, we are a new business and it’s kind of thinking out of the box. We work the runs like the colour run where we have a captive audience.
MBFD: So who else do you work with?
Paula: Well, I work with my partner who does the juicing, he was a personal trainer before. We went on the Jason Vale course and just thought it would compliment what we did but it turned out to be life changing. Jon was really inspired so started doing the juice detoxes and he is so busy, he does about 100 juices a day for the packages. The great thing is we do it a lot cheaper in Salford and it makes it more affordable. I think because it’s Jon and he is doing it people think, oh well if Jons doing it I’ll do it.
Then there are a few volunteers, Marianne who has very similar values to me, Mark who was from social enterprise again and then there’s Jason. How we employ people is as a volunteer first and then say do you want to come start working and build it up like that, there are a lot of people who aren’t confident in interviews so this is a great way of seeing how they work.
MBFD: What advice do you have for other inspiring food entrepreneurs?
Paula: Just do it – do something every day that scares you as that’s how you learn, people don’t know that I’m scared, it’s only how you view yourself not how other people view you. The only person stopping you is you. Whats the worse that could happen?
MBFD: A bit more about you personally – what’s a typical days diet?
Breakfast – Chia Pudding or Juice
Lunch – Salad
Evening – Stir Fry or a curry
Every now and again I have a small treat but when you are juicing you don’t really crave it.
I used to get ill all the time but now I don’t as I have a lot of ginger. They say ginger is everyone’s favourite ‘anti’ as it’s antiviral, antiseptic, antihistamine and anti-inflammatory; if you have any aches and pains, an easy juice to do is an apple and a big wedge of ginger. We don’t use it enough in it’s raw form.
MBFD: Whats a top tip to making raw food taste great?
Paula: What they say to have in a meal is sweet, sour, spice and salty. If you think your meal is missing something you can try the different elements.
MBFD: So what is the long term dream?
We would like to have a proper venue and have a set menu; have a limited company but having a charity arm as well. Eventually I would like to have a farm, I love animals and would like to have a sanctuary and then the charity arm of it.
MBFD: Where can we find you?
Paula: Greengate Square – Monday to Friday 8am-2pm & Saturday 9am-2pm
MBFD: Any last words?
Just come and try use – it’s hard to eat healthy when you are busy.
So make sure you check Cowherds out on their social media below. As you can probably tell they are just so passionate, generous and warm hearted you just know they are going to be successful.
If you live in Salford or Manchester and haven’t yet paid them a visit then what are you waiting for… The King juice is my personal favourite and the Yin Yang balls are to die for (am I selling it here?!)