KIND CRUSTS: AN EASTERN JEWEL
“Eating is a thing in its own, it’s not about nourishing your body, eating is about being with family, eating is about sowing love, eating is about everything. "
Meet the power woman behind one of Glasgow’s favourite new Vegan cafe - Kind Crusts. Kathryn Veroni is not only a blooming business owner, vegan and supermum; she’s an all-round classic Glaswegian legend. We took some time to talk about her motivation behind the east end’s first full-vegan cafe, life as a vegan parent and her all-round passion for food.
(Talking about the lemon and poppyseed cakes that I’ve been eying up for a solid 6 minutes)
“We usually find ourselves taste testing quite a lot, this has to be taste tested but it’s the same recipe as last week — I know! These little guys look amazing and if I hadn’t just eaten a full pack of chocolate raisins I’d be having one.”
“Every single time I go to Asda I go straight to the free from aisle and either get the fudge stuff that they have or the chocolate raisins.
Also, you find that the - I say the cheaper option, but generally the supermarkets own products tend to be Vegan by default cos they don’t want to spend the money on dairy products, they’ve not so much had veganism on their heads it’s just turned out that way.”
(As I munch on my cheese and tomato croissant - definitely too impatient to let it cool and act like a functioning professional)
“All you can do, is just try and make the best impact that YOU can do.”
And make people aware of it?
“Yeah! I think my family’s fed up hearing about it. ‘Will you just let me eat a bit of cheese in peace.’ NO I’m gonna’ sit here and stare at you until you put that meal down.”
(It’s at this point that I realise this woman is not only the ball, but not afraid to speak her mind, is potentially my kindred food munching buddy and going to have me laughing through our entire interview)
So how long have you been vegan for?
“I’ve been vegan for around two and a half years. But the majority of my life has been vegetarianism. Yup ever since I was very young I recognised that the impact on the animal welfare just wasn’t what I wanted to support. Y’know my family are Italian and coming from an Italian family being vegetarian is very difficult because it’s not a recognised thing in a lot of places because meat is such a big thing in the Italian culture. Eating is a thing in its own, it’s not about nourishing your body, eating is about being with family, eating is about sowing love, eating is about everything. So for me to grow up as a vegetarian they just felt that I wanted to take that away. It was very difficult, I still had my family try to poison me with pieces of chicken that I wouldn’t notice and meat stocks.”
And so why veganism? Was it just the next natural step of when you became aware of the movement?
“Yes and no. Part of my degree was studying the history of gastronomy which is how man’s eating habits developed, so in line with that we also looked at the impact that our current eating habits have on the environment. Which highlighted to me the massive impact that farming processes are having on the environment today. And then looking at other aspects which are really hidden from the public view, such as egg farming, dairy farming. These things are deeply engrained in our society that we don’t even question it and even someone like me who was so aware of meat production and the impact of that. It hadn’t even dawned on me the practises behind egg farming and dairy farming.”
So has opening your own place always been on the cards?
“Uhh yes, opening my own place has always been on the cards I didn’t realise up until I became vegan, I always knew I would do something, wasn’t sure what. I’m very entrepreneurial so I’ve always had my own ventures - ever since making cookies during the summer holidays at school and selling them to my neighbours. I always knew I had that, again it might be the sorta’ culture thing being in an Italian family. Everybody is entrepreneurial, everyone has their own business. It’s sort of engrained in you to want to work hard for yourself. I do really appreciate the experience and my knowledge and skills I’ve gained by working with other companies it’s definitely impacted and created the knowledge I have now to be able to do something like this. And to be able to do it effectively alongside my degree, of course. I think it’s just been a really good balance between practical experience and academic knowledge.”
And do you feel that in terms of being a business owner that’s a whole other step up from being a manager or has it been an easy transition?
(Laughs) “I mean I’ve been faced with a lot more challenges at the moment, being largely pregnant probably didn’t make that easier on myself. I think that when you feel so passionate about something. Everything else becomes secondary. For me the aim or the objective that I have for here and future businesses stemming on from here, has got such a larger aim that y’know this is temporary. What I want to do has just got such a bigger lifespan and if I can cope through a nine month pregnancy then I’m pretty sure I can cope through anything.”
Was Kind Crusts always going to be a 100% vegan unit?
“Oh that was a difficult one, em my own morals said yes 100% vegan. Through the market research I carried out it did reveal that there is a large population of vegans and of people who want to have a healthier lifestyle throughout Glasgow. Particularly in Dennistoun and over the east end which was quite surprising to me. It wasn’t what I’d expected from carrying out my market research.
My main worry I had originally was how well was the business going to be received by non-vegans; because although we want to make Veganism accessible to vegans we also want to encourage non vegans to try our food. So I then kinda’ became stuck in this battle between what me personally thought was right and what the market was telling me. So we did start with a dairy cheese, and it took a long time and I sourced what I felt was the most ethically sourced cheese that could be from a really ethical supplier. But after a few days of working with it I just felt that me personally, I couldn’t do it, it was the smell of the dairy. Y’know trying to explain to vegans that were coming in, that y’know everything is vegan except from the cheese it really became quite a confusing message to our consumers which had to be eradicated immediately. So within the first week I just thought, ‘do you know what? If I’m going to do this, it had to be the way I’d envisaged’ which was 100% vegan. We all have really good knowledge of food which for me would be the unique selling point of us rather than pushing people and offering alternatives.
Strangely we have a lot of people coming in and not realising we’re vegan, which is great because it tells us that our menu isn’t specifically vegan and not stereotypically vegan. Because people come in and say well what do you eat, because I don’t like grains and I don’t like quinoa, and we go, ‘well we don’t have any quinoa on the menu so you’re alright there.’
We do a lot of different things with the food, we try to make it familiar to people who aren’t super familiar with the ingredients themselves. And we’ve been really well received. I mean if I can get my brother to eat a sandwich that’s vegan and he doesn’t realise it’s vegan - even after being in the shop – ‘when did you start using meat?’.”
You mentioned before about local school kids and obviously, you’re about to become a mum […]
“Oh I’m already a mum!”
“My daughter is 8 years old.”
And is she Vegan as well?
“She’s majority Vegan. She’s still quite stubborn because she was never brought up Vegan, she had already developed a taste for dairy products. Milks are fine, she loves the non-dairy milks I buy in for her. It’s mostly cheese for some reason, she just will not give up on that cheese. So I do again, slip in the non-dairy cheese to her but it’s more so when she’s out with my family because they don’t know what to feed her.”
Maybe when she gets older and has more access to the information out there, I mean it’s always tricky showing kids documentaries.
“Oh I’ve shown her documentaries. Part of me still feels quite guilty about this, but she had a school lunch and the school dinner lady said, ‘look we don’t have a vegetarian option for you, here’s some pork sausages’ and at the time she was only 6/7 and she ate them and we got really upset and said ‘look, I’m going to have to show you this otherwise you’re not going to understand.’ Because personally, I mean, children in Italy could quite happily skin and eat an animal at age 5. Y’know they see these things on a daily basis. For me if someone can see that and still want to do it - then ok. But the fact is that everything is hidden from us and we’re so oblivious to what actually goes on - so I showed her a very small clip of the PETA and Paul McCartney “If slaughterhouses had glass walls”. Quite brutal but after that, she just said I didn’t know that happened and quit. And since then she’ll tell her friends: ‘I’m not eating that, that’s got gelatine in it - do you know that’s cow bones and fish bones?!’.”
And that’s given her the facts to back up her opinion?
“Absolutely, I think that as a parent you shouldn’t hide things like this from your children. I believe that if you can feed it to them - they should know it.”
Would you say that education is the key point?
“Education is definitely the key point, I mean this was highlighted… you could go back 10 years to Jamie Oliver and I remember watching that and thinking ‘you go Jamie’ and was amazed. Genuinely love Jamie Oliver, love the food revolution that he tried to implement.
It’s sad to see that going back to when I was in high school 10/12/13/14 years ago. Not much has changed. I’m still amazed at that, like I said - my daughters in school, she had been offered free school lunches up until primary 4. Which I refused point blank, because even after I went into the kitchen at the school, spoke with the head cook there and I’m saying ‘Well what can you offer my daughter? She’s vegetarian, I want to see a real balanced meal.’ At her school in particular, a lot of the kids need to have halal, so you would expect that they have good vegetarian options - they claim that they have one vegetarian option a day, they do not have one vegetarian option a day because quite regularly my child will come home if I’ve had to give her money for a school lunch - and she’s had a plate of potatoes.”
That’s not nutritional, is it?
It’s not nutritional, I mean it’s carbohydrates, complex white carbohydrate. But I don’t like to raise my point too much because these schools are just like ‘There she is, snobby food mum again’ - and so she gets a packed lunch every day.
So it’s really one of the reasons why we launched the school pack lunch deal. We offer parents to pre-order these packed lunches up until the night before. SO it’s really good service, like me – I know, I’m a parent, that sometimes, especially if you’re working, you’re so busy and all you have to do is go to the fridge at night and go ‘oh my goodness I’ve not got anything in for lunch. What am I going to do?’
Our packed lunches, they are quite basic but can be crafted to each child’s individual need. So what we have is sandwiches, which again can be customised with extra toppings.
And how much is the kids packed lunch?
It starts at £2.40 which includes the sandwich, a little vegetable baton pot and that includes carrot, pepper and cucumber with a dip of the child's choice, a piece of fruit and a bottle of water. And then the child can upgrade to a coconut milk, or a healthy snack for an extra 0.80p.
That’s great! Really great.
It’s taken a long time to accept that society isn’t going to change overnight. I mean it’s affecting everyone, look at the climate changes! It’s happening already, look five years ago we were being told climate change is happening, and everyone is like ‘oh we might get hotter in Scotland’ - yeah actually we’re more likely to drown. All you can do is just be there to provide the support, be there, to supply the information and the food. I’ve learnt through trying to force my family members that the more you force someone the more they become hesitant to accept the information.
Just one more question - what’s your favourite thing to eat at Kind Crusts?
(gasps) Oh my goodness… everything! Em… I think it depends on what my cravings are at the moment. Generally around 1/2 o’clock I’ll get a real craving for sweet things, so I’ll pretty much go for anything that Robyn has baked because her baking is pretty amazing. I must admit the kind club is one of my favourites… that was a sandwich I’ve always loved making at home. Kathryn has added some really good ones to our winter menu too, but I think my favourite will have to be the kind club… because I can have it as a tripler and I don’t feel too guilty.
Visit Kathryn and her amazing staff at Kind Crusts on Garthland Drive for class A banter and Vegan food that is jam packed with flavour and passion.