Veganuary on the rise
Meat free Veganuary is growing in popularity. The health benefits are a tonic for post-Christmas guilt, and the environmental impacts from land hungry and carbon intensive livestock farming are another incentive. I’ve taken on the challenge this year. Many Cambridge eateries include a vegan option on their menus. Indeed, in May 2018, the British Restaurant Awards voted Stem + Glory vegan café the best restaurant in Cambridge.
Doppleganger Burger pops up
Tapping into this growing excitement for plant-based food, Alfy Fowler set up Doppleganger Burger in September 2017. Such is his passion he soon secured investment to set up his own restaurant on Regent Street. Doppleganger Burger restaurant opens on Tuesday 22nd January. Having used scuseme for the fit out, I have been following the building project closely. Alfy talked to me about his journey to becoming a vegan restaurateur.
Alfy is passionate about food, diet and cooking. He has taken jobs in kitchens since he was a teenager, and even as a product design student at St Martins he continued this part-time work. A job in a wedding catering company opened a fortuitous opportunity because it was linked to the pub that got the first Michelin-star in London. There Alfy became friends with one of the chefs before working with him as a waiter. For the next three years he experienced the cutting edge of fine dining and acquired in-depth knowledge about food and cooking. Alfy said, “I loved it. It was the best on the job training you could get.”
At the start of 2017 Alfy became vegan, initially for a month. He explains, “The driving force behind my decision was not about following a trend but primarily out of cooking curiosity. Veganism is a whole different way of cooking and I wanted the challenge of producing plant-based dishes, testing purer tastes and flavours.” Consequently the positive health and environmental benefits of a vegan diet were enough to make him switch to veganism permanently.
Plant based burgers – a world of possibilities
Alfy struggled to find a good vegan burger so he decided to make his own. Having hit upon a delicious recipe Alfy shared his pleasure through a pop-up, to gauge interest. He sold his burgers from a pop-up events in CB1 over four consecutively weekends. All the food sold out. “After that I ran an event in London and a few more in Cambridge. September 2017 saw the launch of Doppleganger Burger, it was simple as that.”
Four months later, in true entrepreneurial spirit, and ignoring the advice of his parents, Alfy gave up his job to follow his dream. On the 4th January 2018 Doppleganger Burger opened at Trinity Street. “I paid my rent with my last pay cheque and was left with £400 in my account. My parents bought me a deep-fat fryer for Christmas; I then had to sell a lot of burgers.” And he did. Then by the end of February he recruited Ed Hodgson, a knowledgeable vegan foodie, with experience at The Gog Farm Shop, Culinaris and Calverley’s Brewery. The world of possibilities around a plant-based diet inspires his two additional non-vegan chefs.
Vegan food – changing perceptions
Curious about the ethos behind Dopleganger, Alfy tells me: “The driver for the business is a greater impact in every bite, changing perceptions of vegan food and getting more people to increase their consumption of vegan food without preaching about it. For someone who has twelve burgers a year and goes to say GBK, Honest, and Steak & Honour, if I could just take two or three of those burgers, then I’m making an impact.”
Alfy admits he is unconventional in his method, but it works. He says, “The Flavour Thesaurus by Collins was an inspiration. It works like a colour wheel and influences my flavour combinations. I cook from design theory. I like processes and techniques and think about all the elements in the burger and how they fit.” In the early days Alfy would invite people to try new burgers to help him decide what to add to the menu, and this is a practice he continues.
Go-ahead for Cambridge opening
Alfy uses social media to develop his wide fan base. In October 2018, after just over a year in business, Doppleganger caught the attention of an investment firm who saw its potential. Several months later Alfy has an investor and his own restaurant.
The Regent Street restaurant will open seven days a week and provide an exciting and vibrant place to eat interesting food. “A lot of food writers refer to junk vegan food,” Alfy tells me, “but what we cook isn’t junk. It’s fresh and as healthy as it comes. We cook good quality fast food where everything is air-fried (using fast hot air circulating around the food) which is better for you.”
After two months of working with our scuseme builders, Alfy has a restaurant of his own design. With open prep kitchen, a fast ordering system and space to work, it is on trend. He can now put into practice many of the important lessons he has learnt over the years. Using a skilled team and treating them well are priorities as restaurants demand long, hard hours. Alfy believes Doppleganger will be a fun place to work.
A dedicated vegan outlet
Alfy has strong feelings about having a dedicated vegan outlet. “For anyone with a preference for meat-free burgers it’s refreshing to have a choice on a menu. Food that you cook in a non-vegan kitchen can be a worry for people who are serious about veganism: Doppleganger provides this safe-cooking environment.”
Although Alfy has only been a Cambridge resident for the last three years, he says of the city “I’ve had amazing support from Cambridge, but I have plans to expand to other cities. This is essential to spread the message about how good our food is. But Cambridge will always be my number one”
A little more information
Doppleganger Burger opens on Regent Street on the Tuesday 22nd January 2019. View the opening hours, make a booking, place an order or view the exciting menu here. In addition to delicious vegan burgers the restaurant will serve a selection of beers and wines from Cambridge Wine Merchants and Calverley’s Brewery.
Dawn Giesler, is the founder of scuseme Cambridge, an online marketplace that helps your family run smoothly. She has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and offers advise based on her own experiences. For more information visit scuseme