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Vegetarian Dining With Cashew Catering

TOAST goes veggie with creative plant-based caterers Cashew

As the popularity of plant-based dishes and diets continues to soar, TOAST chats to John Bayley, founder of vegan and veggie caterers Cashew to learn more about the delicious power of plants and to get his top tips on how to whip up tasty veggie food at home.



The days of feeling like a social pariah when announcing to the dinner table that you are in fact -shock, horror - a vegetarian are well and truly over, because these days plants are now the most fashionable thing on the menu. Incredibly, more than half a million people in the UK now describe themselves as vegan* and a third as flexitarian, meaning that they are proactively eating less meat. 

Vegan is definitely going to be the biggest food trend about to happen, in fact it’s happening right now and will only increase in the years to come, so that means we will see more plant based snacks, fast foods and meal offerings in ‘regular’ places – more inclusion, which is of course a great thing!” explains John Bayley, vegan and vegetarian catering specialist and founder of the entirely plant-based Cashew Catering.

“The horse meat scandal was a real turning point for people I think - I also think that peoples’ understanding of the meat and animal food industry is becoming much better, as is the connection between what we eat and the impact it has on the whole planet.”

John, who also describes himself as ‘a parent, lover of the great outdoors, music and good beer with a good friend or a new friend' has worked as a vegan, vegetarian and raw foods chef for over 12 years, and has already founded two catering companies; Nature’s Plate and more recently, Cashew Catering. He was awarded a full bursary to attend the exclusive vegan School of Natural Cookery in Colorado, and he has been a strict vegetarian for over 19 years.

I started ‘cooking when I was a young teenager - if I wanted to go out before my mum got home from work then I had to make my dinner myself. This was never more than opening a packet from the freezer and popping it in the oven - but it was a start!” he laughs.

“In my later teen years – my then girlfriend turned veggie and I became obsessed with learning about vegetarian nutrition and cooking balanced meals. Some of my family are quite naturally artistic and so I think that cookery quickly became my artistic outlet.” 

In 2002, John and a good friend decided to start up an organic vegan festival café, and so their mobile catering business ‘Nature’s Plate’ was born. John headed up the cooking side of things and ran kitchens at venues such as Glastonbury Festival and The Green Party Conference

“The most memorable eventI have catered was probably the first Glastonbury we did – it was epic, such a colourful environment, so many hardworking artists and ‘doers’ - alternative people that come together as a family and the impossible happen!”

As well as working in dozens of plant-powered hotspots worldwide, John was the ‘conceptual’ head chef at Aloka in Brighton, which received a Vegetarian Society Award in 2010. From 2010 to 2015 he became resident head chef at the much celebrated Tilton House in Firle, East Sussex, recognised as one of the UK’s leading holistic retreat centres and ranked in the top 10 world’s best yoga retreats by the Guardian in 2012. John is also a trained cookery leader and co-director of Community Chef – a not for profit social enterprise that has helped thousands of people to improve their cookery and nutrition skills.

Cashew Catering started after I decided to stop catering public events, as they can be very hit and miss. So now we do private events only, which takes a lot of the guess work out, as far as numbers of people and turnover go!” John explains.

Cashew Canapes

Cashew Temphtaco Bowl

Cashew

Cashew Catering Menu

Based in their very own purpose built kitchen space near Lewes in East Sussex, Cashew Catering provide vibrant vegan, vegetarian and raw food catering at its best; they specialise in vegan and vegetarian weddings, birthdays, bar/bat mitzvahs and a variety of corporate meals, meetings and concepts. From simple picnic salads to fiddly finger foods, relaxed lunches to formal dinners (or ‘plated posh stuff’ as they call it) Cashew have got it covered, as well as being incredibly well versed in pretty much every specific dietary need, from nut free (despite their name) to gluten free, low fat to lactose intolerant.

What makes us unique is our level of professional experience combined with our knowledge of plant based foods. I’m not sure of another company out there that offers both these things on the scale that we can...” John explains proudly.

“And the name came about because we had so many different recipes and uses for cashew nuts! Creams, ‘cheeses’, ice creams, cakes, milks, etc – it just made sense, plus it worked well with the important word - catering!” 

With imaginative, fresh and delicious dishes including roasted butternut, coconut and white miso soup served with shitake croutons and wasabi cream, aubergine and tempeh red roarin’ Thai style curry, and poached pears served with sloe gin jelly cubes, chocolate brownie chunks and honeyed Greek yoghurt.

Cashew’s menu is a tantalising array of exciting and imaginative dishes that celebrate all that is grown from the ground. “We try hard to make sure that all our food is balanced - from colours, textures, flavours and nutritional content. Most inspiration comes from my personal experience, and my imagination!” enthuses John.

“As long as I have been a caterer, I have always focused on plant based foods – so a 100% plant based menu was a must. In fact it was worked the other way around – how can we include dairy and egg in our plant based menus for vegetarians!”

With ingredients such as tahini and chipotle, paprika and sumac, John’s exotic flavours are a far cry from the descriptions of  ‘bland’ and ‘boring’ that dishes without meat are occasionally stereotyped as.

I always find that concept pretty strange…” ponders John“As a vegan the usual ‘but what do you eat?’ question is a bit bonkers – the list is huge! The quick question is what don’t I eat – that’s a very small list of ingredients!!”  

When it comes to what John thinks is key to Cashew’s most popular dishes, well, the answer is fairly obvious as it’s an ingredient loved by many, and most definitely by me. 

“If I had to choose one thing… I would say chocolate! We have so many amazing chocolate dishes – from gluten free to refined sugar free. There is a chocolate dish for everyone, and in general, it’s going to be awesome!”

Like Cashew’s chocolate strawberry fudge cake perhaps, or maybe their indulgent dark chocolate and raspberry tart served with strawberry puree and vanilla ice ‘cream’?

Cashew Rasberry And Chocolate

Cashew Dessert

Cashew Cake

But when the chocolate has all gone and the last seitan kebab has been devoured, John and his team pride themselves on not only recycling as much of their material waste as possible (glass, tin, plastics and card) but they also compost nearly all of their raw food waste, as they like to say – ‘reuse, recycle and rebirth’!

“Good business practices such as recycling, composting, fair and good pay, a friendly and safe working environment, minimum impact, etc, and inclusion – catering for people with allergies and intolerances ALL help make this work, and so does doing something a little different from the norm!” explains John

I’m a bit of an idealist – so I think that as a business we can operate using ideals, rather than profit to drive us forward.”

Here are some of John’s top tips for creating tasty meat-free dishes at home:

John’s Top Tips For Whipping Up Tasty Meat-Free Food At Home 

  • Cooking is all about balance: flavours, textures, colours etc. So ALWAYS think balance!

  • Don’t over complicate things (unless you really want to) - if you’ve got the freshest best quality tomato – you don’t need to do anything to it to make it awesome – it already is!  

  • Try something new - if you’ve got a plain old chickpea that needs a little help, try something new with it! For example, chickpeas can be made into bhajis, farrinatta, falafel, cakes, salads, chana masala, etc – so experiment with a new dish.

  • Get inspired - we are bombarded with cookery shows and magazine articles – it’s not hard to find things you haven’t tried and like the look of! Go to farmers’ markets and pick things in season, or go to an Asian supermarket and find a product you’ve never used before and give it a go!

  • Most of all - share your creations! It’s all well and good to make something yummy for yourself and have a well earned decent home cooked dinner (you’ve definitely earned it – I’m sure) but have that same meal in the company of good friends and family (maybe ask them to bring a dish and share the load), and see how much better that meal becomes – there’s nothing more rewarding (in my opinion) than the feeling of sharing something good with someone else! 


For a delicious veggie recipe from Cashew and plenty of other plant-based inspiration then head over to TheEdit for TOAST’s Inspire Me on eating your greens this Earth Day. 

For contact details and more information about Cashew then visit their page in TOAST’s Little Black Book. 

Vegans, much like vegetarians, don’t eat meat, fish or poultry but they also avoid all other animal products such as eggs, dairy and honey.

 
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