The Chef's Manifesto - May 2019

As part of the Bristol food connections week I was invited to attend the Chefs Manifesto at Poco’s in Stokes Croft. It was fantastic to sit in For those who are unfamiliar with the movment the chefs Manifesto is a based on 8 thematic areas


  1.          Ingredients grown with respect for the earth and its oceans

  2.          Protection of biodiversity and improved animal welfare

  3.          Investment in livelihoods

  4.          Reduce waste and value natural resources

  5.          Celebration of local, seasonal food

  6.          A focus on plant-based ingredients

  7.          Education on food safety, healthy diets and nutritious cooking

  8.         Nutritious food that is accessible and affordable for all


The Vegetable Diva was largely created by my own ethics and nutritional beliefs and it was encouraging to meet a group of like-minded souls.

We were very keen to be a part of this manifesto, so I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss how we fit into this framework?


Ingredients grown with respect for the earth and its oceans

Protection of biodiversity and improved animal welfare

We aim to harvest the majority of our ingredients from our plot ‘The Diva No Dig Plot’ We use no dig farming methods to encourage micro bio diversity in the soil and don’t use any chemicals, pesticides or herbicides. No we are not certified organic simply because we do not want the agrivation of the paperwork and being charged huge amounts of money to have our soil tested, we would rather invest the money in good quality mulch and seeds, but I can assure you that we farm according to organic principles.we have planted mixed hedgerows to encourage wildlife and birds and Black Mountain Hill sheep mow our grass. We have planted 100’s of trees in our 2 acre orchard which contain hives to pollenate our orchard. This prevents soil erosion and flooding in the local area, it is a mixed orchard so several types of British apples are kept in production as a result of this and you enjoy the taste in our wonderful apple juice which is on tap in our deli.

Elderflowers ready for making cordial at the Vegetable Diva
Vegetables growing in the plot
Meet our resident carbon free lawn mowers
Our 'No Dig Diva Plot'.
Charlie Armour our dedicated manager and horticulturalist.
Les Davies, orchard manager and Mendip Tree Warden.

Investment in livelihoods

We employ local workers and invest in our staff by sending them on training courses so that their skills are kept up to date. We provide sociable working hours rare in the catering industry. and gender equality in the work place. we have women and men in senior roles and there is no gender pay differences. We have supported small holders by providing grazing land and employed local labour on our no dig diva plot.

Reduce waste and value natural resources

Our deli is zero waste, its great it is a constant creative challenge,  our menu changes to accommodate fluctuations in the seasons and we are flexible and cook with what is in natural abundance and in season. We are a package free take away and use lids on storage tubs to avoid cling film, we wash all our cloths, no disposables.

Our polytunnel is not heated to reduce energy and the deli has been insulated and has no air-conditioning just ceiling fans which circulate heat and cool down. Our energy suppliers are bulb who use 100% renewable sources of energy. We don’t use palm oil in any of our products or stock processed products with these ingredients.

We are a vegetarian café so 100% plant friendly and we use lesser known vegetables in our dishes to ensure the public are exposed to a wide variety of vegetables.

Nutritious food that is accessible and affordable for all

Despite the fact that our food is made with love and care and is bespokely made, we still ensure that our prices are kept at a point which makes our food accessible for all. Our mission is to normalise the healthy eating movement and ensure that it was accessible to all members of the public regardless of social economic class. A nutritious meal can be obtained at our cafe for £6.00.

Field to Tiffin; Produce ripe for picking.
From Field to Tiffin; Some of the fruits of our labour from the field.
From Field to Tiffin; Preparing the seasonal greens for take away.
From field to tiffin
From Field to Tiffin; Kandala curry served with yoghur rice and seasonal greens.
From Field to Tiffin; Packaging our food in a non disposable tin.
Facilitating fruit sales to raise money at the local primary school.

Education on food safety, healthy diets and nutritious cooking.

Prior to opening The Vegetable Diva, I have instigated and run several community public health programmes a couple of examples include;

Farmlink education

I set up the community teaching kitchen for Farm-link Education and taught groups of 15 children from schools in North Somerset how to cook and prepare nutritious meals from scratch. I ensured they were quick and economical to prepare and also gave lessons on the benefits of macro and micro nutrients, seasonal produce and the benefits of eating a balance diets and how they could make this achievable.

Cook and Eat Lunch Club

To combat malnutrition and isolation in the elderly community leaving in sheltered accommodation I set up and ran the ‘Cook and Eat Lunch Club’ rather than simply provide a meal we cooked together, tasks were differentiated so that it was all inclusive and it gave an opportunity for the community to get together, eat nutritious food and increase their confidence.

I feel we have it covered, but there is always room for improvement and learning and collaborating from other people experience and ideas. We will continue to strive to maintain our pledge to this manifesto and encourage and support other businesses who choose to follow suit.

Getting hands on and preparing the food for the joint meal later
Farmlink Education Teaching Kitchen; Enjoying an amazing spread
Farmlink Education Teaching Kitchen; Enjoying an amazing spread
Farmlink Education Teaching Kitchen; Children learning cooking skills in the teaching kitchen which I set up.
Creating the kitchen with Natascha Clutterbuck's artwork.
Facilitating fruit sales to raise money at the local primary school.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

The Vegetable Diva - Packaging Free and Proud! - April 2019

Credit: Krutik Parikh

Plastic packaging Asda

CreditCredit: Fred Dufour/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Vegetable Diva opened its doors on March 13th. For myself it felt like a retrospective of a life’s work. Something which I have been building up to albeit unknowingly for the last 40 years ( I have been cooking and experimenting in the kitchen since I was 6).


For me cooking is very much a combination of conscious creative expression, each dish should be beautifully presented taste divine and respect the producers and suppliers who have made it possible and finally certainly  but not least that its transportation to the public should have minimal impact on the environment.


As a company we took the plunge to offer grab & go, take-away (what ever you like to call it without packaging. We wanted to provide a service which encourages people to think and hopefully change their habits. The response so far has been interesting, many people have left and then returned with a box to carry their goods which have has been encouraging and heart warming to see, some were frustrated by our napkin less cafe, overall the response has been positive and supportive.


This move has resulted in me thinking more and more about the impact which convenience has on the environment and is it really saving time and making us more productive? As a nation the UK is  currently responsible for off loading its plastic waste to other parts of the world. China has put its foot down and has placed a ban on this, however the problem has now been offloaded to Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand. Since the ban came into force, waste being exported to Malaysia more than trebled. This ranking comes from a report published in the journal Science in 2015. When are landfills are full we are now taking our rubbish and destroying the environment of other countries but keeping the blue flag flying on our beaches, how can this be considered fair?


We at the vegetable diva have dipped our toe in the water to encourage the public to dive in and take the plunge by supporting us we hope that the corporate world will see the demand and follow suit. I feel that  it is only when  our ruling authorities and a national government makes conscious decisions which support the environment  by investing money in an infrastructure which actively supports the environment and the health of the nation that we will see a noticeable change.


In the meantime at the Vegetable Diva we will continue with our mantra “ Package Free and Proud “ and hope you will sing along with us or support the movement by bringing in your containers/tiffins/plates well anything really.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

― Mahatma Gandhi