Richard gave up a lucrative business to pursue a vegan lifestyle and create his new venture, School Night Vegan.
My vegan journey began (rather ironically) with me starting an ice cream company named Blu Top. It was 2015 and I’d not long returned from living in San Francisco, where I had fallen in love with the burgeoning west coast street food scene. I began experimenting with recipes and before long I had bought a tiny blue van and was rolling up to weekend markets with my homemade tubs of ice cream.
The business took off and within a year I upgraded from making ice cream in the kitchen of my shared flat (sorry housemates!) to a full industrial unit. It was here that I was introduced to some of the most influential vegans of my life.
My new premises were too large for just one business so I shared the space with a number of other street food companies, including a vegan Vietnamese duo named “Eat Chay”. We had countless open-minded conversations about the perks of being vegan and the undeniable issues surrounding the dairy industry. I toyed with the idea for a few years, but in November 2017 I decided to make the switch to being completely vegan.
I traded for one more year before deciding that, in good conscience, I couldn’t continue to run Blu Top. After closing my business, I moved away from the hustle and bustle of London to the south coast, where I found I had much more time to cook for myself and my husband.
As a lifelong foodie, I was terrified that the switch to being vegan would mean that I had to stop cooking and baking all the delicious meals I had come to love. However, with the help of a handful of vegan cookbooks (mostly just Lauren Toyota’s Vegan Comfort Food Classics) I realised that the opposite was true: not only could I still cook all my favourite dishes, but I found the process much more rewarding. I had to retrain my brain to cook without animal products, which meant learning much more about the roles of ingredients and how they affect the final dish.
School Night Vegan
I loved this learning curve so much that I decided to write down my recipes, take pictures of my food and send them to my friends and family. My husband suggested that I start a blog and dusted off his old DSLR camera for me to use. Learning to style and photograph food was a whole learning curve of its own, but I grabbed the bull by the horns, watched a lot of instruction videos on YouTube and launched School Night Vegan in November 2018.
The blog began mostly as a way for me to keep track of my own recipes (which I’m terrible at writing down), but I gained a really supportive bunch of followers really quickly. School Night Vegan is just under a year old now and has become my full-time job. I’m lucky to have over 35,000 really engaged followers on Instagram, including my original vegan food hero Lauren Toyota (if you don’t already watch her YouTube channel Hot For Food you’re missing out!).
My most successful recipe by far has been my super stretchy vegan mozzarella, which melts, browns and stretches just like the real deal. It took over 25 attempts to get it right, but it’s a perfect example of why I love working with vegan ingredients – it really is just like science class, except you get to eat your experiments at the end.
I’m currently working on developing an e-book dedicated solely to vegan dessert recipes, which I hope will convince even more people that you can enjoy every part of every meal without ever using a single animal product. I imagine there are thousands of people who love food and feel like going vegan will involve sacrifice, much like I used to believe. If my recipes convince just a handful of people to start their own vegan journey, then I’ll be very happy!
Find Richard’s recipes online by visiting schoolnightvegan.com