Deri Reed, the ethical chef

May 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Deri Reed © gwionthorpe

A lot of you will probably already know about Mr. Deri Reed, or his alter ego the EthicalChef.  For those of you who haven’t heard of him, the chances are it won’t be long until you have.

Deri is essentially a vegetarian chef living in Cardiff, which isn’t that crazy or exciting perhaps, but this young man has literally burst on to the City’s food scene over the last year or so and really caught people’s attention and imagination.  For the past 8 months, he has been running his own stall at Riverside Market selling freshly made food using produce sourced from his fellow stallholders.  In March this year, he started a pop-up Supper Club in Riverside to get the community together for good food at a good price and to “show people that there are great alternatives out there that don’t need the use of meat”.

As a meat eater myself, there is no reason why I should particularly care about what Deri is doing, but it’s the way he has gone about doing it that I find really inspiring and motivating.  “I deliberately didn’t do things everyone tells you you must do, like business plans, I just went in with passion, drive and enthusiasm and got out there and did it.  You can’t just sit around and wait for things to happen.”  Passion and energy are words that are all too often used to describe people these days, but they really do just ooze out of this guy.  Anyone who has met him will know what I mean.  “What frustrated me about myself was the fact that I was saying ‘we should be doing this, we should be doing that’, so one day I woke up and said ‘just do it then you idiot’…so I started doing it”.  Simple as that!

Although still in his early twenties, Deri has already clocked up over ten years experience of working in kitchens.  When he arrived in Cardiff the plan was clear.  “The vision was a restaurant to showcase vegetarian food using Welsh produce” but he quickly realised that “the odds are against you, 50% of businesses fail in the first three years and 50% of those that survive fail in 5 years.  Plus, it’s not easy selling vegetables!”

Deri has many of the classic traits of an entrepreneur.  He is confident, driven, impatient, very serious about what he’s doing and great at selling his ideas (and vegetables!).  Like many entrepreneurs, however, Deri is already looking for his next challenge.  “I’m at a bit of a juncture.  Do I want to spend my whole life feeding people?  I don’t know if that’s my calling.  At the moment I’m wondering where I should go, what route I should take”.  The answer may well have arrived.  Deri has recently made contact with the good folk behind The People’s Supermarket (as seen on Channel 4) with the aim of setting up a similar venture right here in Cardiff.  “What TPS has done in London is astonishing, they’ve basically signed up 500 volunteers to run a supermarket in the centre of London. The project has been so successful it has inspired me to look into it a little more to try to make it happen in Cardiff”.   Different to his other projects, this is not a one-man show and the success of it relies on people like you and me, “It’s still very early days. I’m waiting until 100 people sign up to the mailing list before arranging the first meet up where we will just start to get to know each other and share what skills or contacts we have that might be able to help”.  If you’re interested, sign up here.

What I really like about Deri are his principles.  “I’ve always said that I won’t compromise on my values.  I’d rather not have the business to be honest”.  Similarly, “when you’ve got a good product, it’s the easiest thing to sell.  But if you haven’t, or you don’t believe in it, it is impossible to sell.  You have got to love it”.  That’s why I think Deri is so popular.  He clearly loves what he’s doing and believes in it 100%.  He is also very much a 21st Century businessman. Social media has been critical to his success and developing his brand and he clearly understands how to connect with people.  But Deri is very quick to point out that he is no superman.  “Running your own business can be lonely.  No one else is going through what you are so you can’t really explain how you’re feeling.  But, I am lucky to be around a lot of support networks – my parents are nearby, my brother is here (in Cardiff), and my friends and volunteers have kept me going”.

We are very lucky to have someone like Deri Reed in Cardiff.  He’s a do-er and is making exciting things happen.  There is a definite buzz surrounding his work.  He also cares about the important things in life – people, food, health and the environment.  If ever there was a good role model for our kids, this is the man.

EthicalChef © gwionthorpe

EthicalChef will be appearing at the Cardiff Vegetarian Festival on Sat 21st May and will be doing other events as part of National Vegetarian Week 23-29 May.  He is gathering interest for The People’s Supermarket in Cardiff and, if you’re interested, you can sign up here.

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