Where do you live?
Border of East London and Essex. I’m a flexi-Londoner 🙂
Since late last year I’ve been vegetarian apart from when I’m cooking in my restaurant. I’m back to eating meat and fish twice a week again now though. I also have one vegan day each week.
What was your motivation to start eating less meat?
When I was living away from home at university, I started to become quite conscious about the amount of low grade and reconstituted meat I was exposed to. It really began to frustrate me how meat was in everything and people, myself included, were happy to just consume it even if it didn’t taste good or add anything to the dish. And so much of it was poor quality. In typical university fashion, I never got into a proper routine though.
When I started working, I was getting ill too regularly and feeling sluggish consistently during the middle of the week, so started to look closely at what I was eating. Meat was one of the things I decided to cut down on. I was working in the field of Sustainability at the time, so understanding more and more about the impact of heavy meat diets on the environment gave me even greater appetite to reduce mine.
How many meat-free days do you have in a week?
5. That’s the aim. I often do whole weeks without it though.
What are the Benefits?
I am leaner. A few months after starting to reduce my meat consumption, I decided to do a triathlon. So as part of my training I just gave up meat for 6 months. I doubt that alone was the reason, as I was strict with a lot of other things at the time, but I felt lighter throughout that period and more consistently operating at my optimum level.
After days (typically weekends) when I have had meat, especially if it’s been in more than two meals, I often feel bloated, so then try to have a detox or vegan day quite close to that.
I run a Nigerian tapas restaurant, Chuku’s, and although we offer a lot of vegetarian and vegan dishes we also have meat and seafood on the menu. As the Head Chef I have to try my food, plus I enjoy what I cook, so I end up picking. I try to limit my chef snacks but it’s hard.
Have your family and friend been supportive?
Yes. My family have never been big meat eaters, especially not red meat. My mum would much rather have fish and I can’t recall her ever cooking beef or pork. The most difficult thing is keeping them updated on what I am and not eating.
Friends were more difficult to win round. When I cut meat out completely, I went tee total total too, so I often got the mickey taking out of me when we went for dinners. Nothing too serious. It’s typical when you change anything in your life though, it’s your responsibility to educate people on how they should act with you.
Egusi and eba – It’s a traditional Nigerian dish. Egusi is a stew made from ground melon seeds. Eba is made from ground cassava (gari) which is moulded into dumpling-esque balls, which we dip into the stew. The two combined are heavenly!
If you’re looking for it online most recipes will have meat, crayfish or stockfish in it. They’re not necessary though. I cook it without and it’s a wonderful vegan dish.
Favourite place to eat out?
I just love tapas. I love the sharing culture. I used to live in Spain and fell in love with it their. My favourite spot at the moment is Morito in Hackney.
The Groundnut Cookbook – it’s written by three British-born Africans – guys like me. They’re friends and they explore their heritages and upbringings through the food. For me it’s inspirational, as it’s something I would like to do with Nigerian food and culture. They also have this Puna Yam cake which sounds epic. I haven’t gotten round to making it yet but it’s on the list.
To find out more about Emeka and Chuku’s visit www.chukuslondon.co.uk