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VetoMeato: The story behind the plant-based brand

Doing Veganuary or just planning to have more plant-based days in 2021? Here’s some motivation. Natalie Pace and Justin Bone, founders of VetoMeato in Cambridge, talk about their personal - and professional - passion for vegan dining

VetoMeato's menu has a global flavour (44065679)
VetoMeato's menu has a global flavour (44065679)

First things first: give us three good reasons to give plant-based dining a go?

Health: Lockdown plus Christmas usually means most healthy habits go by the wayside. Start 2021 fuelled by plants and get your mojo back

Planet: Turning your plates more plant-based counts. It will make a difference. FACT

Curiosity: Challenge how you think about food and how you cook. We guarantee you’ll come away with new ideas for dishes and pick up some tips that will stay with you forever.

When did you start eating - and cooking - vegan food? And what was your personal motivation?

Natalie: I grew up with a vegetarian mother so ate mostly meat-free for many years. I started looking at the benefits of a vegan diet about 7 or 8 years ago for health reasons but I found it difficult initially. There were very few products on the market at this point - especially good ones - and without the knowledge of alternative food sources and cooking hacks, I couldn’t sustain it. Gradually, it felt like the right decision to explore it but this time, I had more insight into vegetable-led cooking and there was a lot more information to help me along.

Following on from that: when did you decide to go pro with your plant-based cooking? Remind us how Vetomeato came to be.

Vetomeato came about through our own interest in lowering our carbon footprint and love of food! We wanted to bring plant-based fast food to the high street as there is no ‘chain’ for exclusively focused on people who eat plant-based or for vegans.

The concept had to be accessible and affordable with dishes priced correctly to reflect their true cost. The pricing is something we feel very passionately about. By utilising the ‘spare’ kitchen at Ta Bouche we were able to launch Vetmeato with virtually zero carbon footprint too.

You launched the business mid-pandemic. What’s been the impact?

Yes we did which looks like a brave - or mad! - thing to do but it actually felt like a natural time to launch. For one thing, we wanted to offer an alternative for people who were concerned about what was going on and make a statement about conscious consumption. The pandemic also highlighted the connections between human and planetary health so we were confident that people would respond to our approach.

Of course, it’s not been without challenges. The lockdowns have forced us to continuously adapt which has been testing. We are grateful to those who have continued to support us though, it means a huge amount. The hospitality industry has certainly had it tough. Equally though, it has shown an amazing amount of resilience and shown people the importance of good food in bringing people together. We have big plans for 2021 including venturing to London and ultimately want to see Veto as a key part of the high street in the UK and beyond.

VetoMeato's menu has a global flavour (44065688)
VetoMeato's menu has a global flavour (44065688)

Despite the trying times, Vetomeato has already found lots of fans. What’s the secret to its appeal, d’you think?

The feedback we have had is that people appreciate the variety of the seasonal and flexible menu. It was built around familiar dishes from around the world but with a twist and we aren’t led by one product.

People can come once a week or with a gang of friends or family and there are dishes that appeal to different appetites and taste-buds. Our branding is quite bold too. We are serious about good food and have a passionate message but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

There’a a global theme to the Vetomeato menu, alongside the plant-based ethos, isn’t there? Tell us about that.

What we love about the ethos of streetfood is that in the countries it is popular, it’s eaten by everyone, it’s part of the fabric of that culture. It’s affordable, accessible, communal and you don’t have to be a ‘pro’ chef, with recipes or dishes often passed down generations.

Our first experience of it was in Asia and it just changed the way we felt about food. The more we researched - and ate: that’s the best bit! - we became more aware of the number of classic street/fast food dishes served around the world that were meat free and we wanted to share them. Especially since lockdown, we like to think of our diners travelling through their taste buds!

If we’ve not dined with you before, which crowd-pleasers should we order?

Well that’s a toughie because it really depends on people’ appetites and feelings on the day. If you want something comforting and warming, definitely head for a curry. If you want a healthy treat that ticks the flavour box, then the Veto kebab should be your dish. And if you want the ultimate fast food experience, go all out and order the Veto burger and either fries or the MacNChe*se bites.

The vegan dining-out scene in Cambridge is booming! What’s driving that, would you say?

Yes, agreed. It’s brilliant to see and admirable that people are striking out and offering up new ways of eating plant-based food. It’s great for diners too to have such a breadth of options.

There is a real independent and creative spirit in Cambridge supported by a genuine movement towards sustainable living and concern for the environment. It’s a great city to be.

Any myths about plant-based dining to debunk?

Yes, many! I’ve heard quite a few but the common myths are that it lacks flavour, texture and is a faff to make. Not so, at all! A tray of roasted veg for example can open up loads of lunch and dinner possibilities; soups, stews, salads, the centre of a tart…. The main thing is to think about vegetables as the star of the show and apply the same level of care and attention to layering of flavour you would when you cook a piece of meat. The veg will be all the better for it!

And any handy hacks for plant-based first-timers?

Think about the dishes you love and think you will ‘miss’ eating. Then do a bit of research into vegan ways of making them and set aside a few hours to prep them and whack them in the freezer. These can be your standby dishes and you’ll feel confident knowing you have them banked.

Across Veganuary we’re running Q&As on Instagram to help answer any questions and offer advice, people can check out our ‘store-cupboard staples’ feature and follow one of our recipes we are sharing with Velvet! Finally, remember all small changes will add up, so enjoy the process.

Follow Velvet and VetoMeato on social for updates

For more on Veganuary, go to veganuary.com

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