Meet | Keeley Haworth, 'Plates' Dining Experience
Until recently, I didn't believe that something good for you could taste nice. You may say I have the palate of a five year old (and that would be a valid criticism). But with the rise of vegan and plant based lifestyles, the food and restaurant market are catering to diets that, ten years ago, were only eaten by a real minority. It's pretty much impossible to go to a coffee shop now and not see the words 'matcha', 'chia', 'turmeric'; previously unheard of ingredients are commonplace on the highstreet, and you can buy a quinoa based snack for your lunch in any supermarket. And while the demand for such food rose and rose, chefs figured out how to make the stuff taste good, not just make you feel good.
One such chef is Kirk Haworth, who with his sister Keeley, run Plates in London, a contemporary plant based dining experience. 'Plates is fully plant based, and we cook without refined sugars, dairy, meat & fish, focusing on vegetables & fruits and natural ingredients with high nutrition content. We are also all about the creative. We have a photographer in the Plates collective, as well as a brewer friend, and collaborate with artists to further inspire our work & entertain our guests.'
Plates didn't just come about due to a desire to be trendy, or to fit in with modern dietary requirements. Keeley tells me that Plates was actually the brainchild of a tricky part of her and her brothers lives. 'Kirk has been battling with Lymes Disease for 5 years - and 2 years ago had to halt his career working for some of the worlds biggest names, in order to try and get healthy again. The food we create follows Kirks diet, I like to call our journey ‘A chef’s journey to health’.
'Kirk dramatically changed his diet and subsequently the way he cooked, and this carved the foundation of Plates. Plates is us sharing with the world this incredibly delicious new way of eating and cooking naturally, that helps heal the body, and feed the soul. It’s built on everything we believe is best in food, but we’re currently brewing our own herby beers and have created a fantastic range of seasonal cocktails, too.'
Keeley and her brother Kirk have been in the restaurant business for as long as they can remember, their father is Nigel Haworth (Michelin starred chef and head chef at Northcote, Lancashire). Whilst they were kids, their father 'worked all the hours God sent', meaning they 'ran around [the restaurant] eating bread rolls, causing mayhem'.
'Kirk started working in the kitchen, pot washing, at 14 and then did an apprenticeship at 16 after leaving school. I worked front of house in the daytime on and off until I left for London at 22. Everything we’ve ever done as a family has always revolved around food. From holidaying (always built around going to visit chef friends and their restaurants), to day-to-day cooking at home, every night was important. We’ve always grown our own veggies, and foraged in the countryside too - food is completely our lives.' And why do they love it so much? ‘It’s absolute magic that we can literally create happiness, and share something now that’s so personal to us. My favourite feedback is when people often say they leave ‘feeling energised’, and I adore this. It means all the hard work is truly worth it.’
And whilst their father's love, and knowledge, of food certainly rubbed off on them, they wanted to create something entirely unique. ‘We are getting ready to start our new season #3A17hackney in Hackney Downs at Autumn Yard on Saturday 16th of September’, Keeley tells me. But this isn’t a restaurant you can just pop in to get a bit to eat any time you fancy, they’re based at this location 2-3 Saturday nights a month until the end of the year. To satisfy their restaurateur cravings in the down time, they also do private events, and in January are going to be involved in Lancashire’s ‘Obsession’ (a food festival that involves many Michelin starred chefs from the world over). ‘So there’s lots of menu development going on at the moment for Autumn. We’re just finalising the last details for the start of the new season, and developing our range of organic, vegan beers and cocktails made by our good friend and brewer, Jack Dobbie.’
If all this wasn’t enough, Keeley also runs a design and production studio called 'Studio La Plage’ with her husband. ’The studio is my 9-5, and Plates I do on the evenings and weekends whilst we build the brand. I like being busy!’
When I meet someone at the top of their game professionally, I always like to ask them what is, and what isn't, the future of that industry. And it's no surprise that Keeley believes the future of cookery 'is plant based'. She says that 'people are becoming much more health conscious & over the next few years we will see an even bigger shift in people's eating habits. Vegetables will definitely take centre stage rather than meat (which is already starting to happen) and meat will become secondary. This would be an amazing win for the environment too, and our health. I’m not against meat, nor am I personally Vegan - but I believe in a better shift in the balance, weighted to fruits and vegetables.’
‘Since Kirk changed his diet to fully Vegan and plant based he has found it to help him dramatically manage his symptoms, of which we are so grateful. I think the more aware everyone continues to become personally, this will have a knock on effect on chefs of the future, and the food they create.’
And what isn’t the future of cookery? The exact opposite.
‘I certainly think the future is not processed fast food, people are now reading into everything they are putting into their bodies, which wasn’t a thing 5 - 10 years ago. I also believe the restaurant industry will change massively over the next few years giving chefs and front of house staff a better way of life with less working hours, encouraging a wider awareness around health and well being.’
And, as always, we're obsessed with the social media aspect of every project. Plates's Instagram page @Plates_London has a comforting, home cooking aesthetic; natural colours and wholesome ingredients by the plenty. But it also all looks gorgeously visually pleasing, with plating you wouldn't be surprised to find in a Michelin star establishment. 'Instagram is such a good fit for our brand. We love anything visual. We get a lot of interaction on Instagram, and are starting to meet some cool, like minded people through it too. They’ll message us and then come to an event.' But their social media doesn't just stop there, 'We are trying to focus on Facebook and Twitter next, they're super useful for us to get the word out to the masses.'
- What's a piece of advice you want to give to your younger self?
Always keep the belief, focus, and passion. And most importantly don't give up!
- 3 things you need to be able to work?
My amazing team mates, my iPhone, and a note pad and pen for random ideas, creating and planning.
- What are you obsessed with?
Foreign food supermarkets. I find them mesmerising! I can literally lose hours just reading packets and admiring the weird and wonderful products with fun designs & cool branding.
- What’s the best way to find out more about Plates?
Website for Tickets: Plates-london.com
Plates serve 4 courses of contemporary plant based food (creative vegan cooking) 2-3 Saturdays a month. Tickets are available through the Plates website, with limited availability.
For every ticket sold £1 goes to Lyme Aid UK, of which Kirk is an ambassador. Plates have raised over £40,000 in the last 18 months for Lyme Disease related charities.
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