Aaron Calder Vegan, sat in the Roundhill, Fiveways area of Brighton.

Aaron Calder

We had the pleasure of meeting Aaron Calder from Brighton. Having embraced a vegetarian lifestyle since the age of 11, Aaron later transitioned to veganism after a significant health scare, and he hasn’t looked back for 7 years on his vegan journey. Aaron has become a prominent online resource for vegan recipes, videos, and advice, making a positive impact in the vegan community. Explore his various social media channels for a deeper dive into his expertise and insights.

Tell us about yourself?

I turned vegetarian at age 11 after seeing a cow being stunned for slaughter on TV and then asked my mum more about where food came from.

From that moment I decided I no longer wanted to eat meat.

I was lucky as my mum would cook me healthy veggie meals alongside the rest of the family’s meals.

Aaron sitting in a restaurant with a green sign behind him. He is wearing a black T Shirt

In my late twenties I became addicted to alcohol and damaged my liver.

After a long stay in hospital and a very grim outlook for my future I decided to sort out my diet. I’d seen a couple of health related documentaries on Netflix which were based on a plant-based diet. I thought I’d try it for two weeks to see if I felt any better and the results were mind-blowing. I’d gone from sleeping most of the day to spending two hours in the gym every day.

It’s now been over 7 years and I’d never go back. It’s been a slow journey but I’ve enjoyed every part and learnt so much.

Who do you admire?

I really admire anyone who takes responsibility for their health. All the information is out there but so many continue to have a poor diet or lifestyle, even when the damage they’re doing is obvious.

It takes a lot for someone to turn their life around be it quitting alcohol, smoking or changing their diets and lifestyles.

Positives and negatives of being vegan?

The positives are I’ve never felt better and each time I eat I know I’m doing something good for my health, the planet and not contributing to animals suffering.

Eating out can sometimes be a challenge and I get a lot of negative comments on my diet, even though it’s clearly working for me.

Even though I’ve gained a load of muscle people will still question where I get my protein from.

a vegan burger with a knife going through it on a big white plate. A vegan burger in a Brighton restaurant

What do you think of the vegan food scene in Brighton and Hove?

Living in Brighton as a vegan is just incredible. There is so much choice in terms of vegan restaurants in Brighton, and it’s still the vegan capital in my eyes. Even non-vegan restaurants have a great selection on their menus.

We are spoiled for choice in Brighton with so many great restaurants and most offer vegan options.

What do you look for when choosing a place to eat out?

They must have at least a few good options for me and you can tell when they’ve really thought about the menu.

I hate going for a roast and it’s the same cost as meat based roast, minus the Yorkshires, stuffing, cauliflower cheese etc. A great example is my local pub that has a separate vegan menu and the options are seriously good.

vegan roast, full of colour, Yorkshire pudding

They even have 3 different desserts with custard or ice cream. I’ve noticed a few Brighton pubs now offer a full vegan roast alongside the meat options.

I was invited to a pub recently and the roast option was cauliflower steak. To me not even the chef creating the menu would be happy being served that. It’s really poor and we decided to go elsewhere.

What advice would you give to restaurant owners, to enhance the experience for vegans?

A separate menu is a bonus and makes it easier to order. You don’t need to have a load of options but at least 3 or 4.

A menu at the Circle Kitchen, at The Ladies Mile Pub

Some restaurants have amazing starters and mains but not one dessert. This would put some people off going.

Little extras like mayo or dairy-free cheese can make the dining experience much more enjoyable.

A steak restaurant I visited before Christmas with friends asked if I wanted vegan cheese on my chips and in my burger. It was unexpected and guaranteed I would go back. When I posted my burger and chips on my platforms they commented that they’re looking to do more vegan options.

I love their commitment to improving the menu.

Which are your top 3 restaurants in Brighton right now and why?

Bonsai Plant Kitchen.
Ever since this restaurant opened, myself and everyone I know who’s been have loved it. The food at Bonsai Plant Kitchen is exceptional, the staff super friendly and the menu is like nothing I’ve experienced before. We went recently with some non-vegan friends and they thought it was real meat and fish.

Every dish is packed with unique flavours and beautifully presented.

Bonsai Plant Kitchen

Oowee Vegan
This is my go to place for incredible junk food. They have so many different options and it’s all based on mock meat versions.

This is another great place to take someone who thinks vegan food is dull and boring.

Circle Kitchen (Ladies Mile Pub)

This is my local Brighton pub and it has a separate vegan menu with a great selection of mains, sides and desserts.

Ladies Mile Pub. Circle Kitchen has a vegan menu.

The Ladies Mile Pub in Patcham – Offering a great vegan menu by The Circle Kitchen

I tend to go for the burger and chips and they do a gorgeous sticky toffee pudding with custard.

If a local pub can go to all this effort then other restaurants and pubs can do it too.

Why do you blog and what is the day job for Aaron Calder?

I originally started my blog to show friends and family what I ate as veganism wasn’t mainstream 7 years ago.

A lot of them didn’t understand that I still ate pizza, pasta, burgers etc but vegan versions.

It was easier to post a picture and show the ingredients than try to explain it to them. After my following grew I started developing recipes and in 2020 I opened up about my alcoholism and health battles. As someone who has overcome alcohol abuse and has improved their health through diet and lifestyle I feel a duty to share my food and lifestyle tips.

I receive many emails asking for advice from people with cirrhosis or health issues I’ve had. It’s a great feeling knowing that I’m helping people get healthy and that I’m also not harming animals.

I work for a charity called Animal Aid based in Tonbridge. Strangely I wrote to them for advice when I went veggie age 11 and Tonbridge is also where I grew up. The team does an amazing job fighting against animal abuse.

Favourite vegan recipes?

I make a quick and easy spaghetti carbonara which is really rich and creamy. It’s ready in 20 minutes but tastes like you’ve spent all day making it. I also make a chocolate cheesecake using creamed cashew nuts and dark chocolate. Everyone comments on how good it is and they can’t believe it’s dairy-free.

Both recipes can be found on my Youtube channel.

Are there foods which you miss or crave?

To be honest there is almost a vegan version of all of the things I used to eat.

Every week there is a new product and tastes, textures are continuously improving with time. There are some amazing vegan chocolates but I’d love to see a vegan box of Milk Tray.

If you could give advice to new vegans, what would it be?

Veganism is a journey, you don’t have to change your diet overnight.

I started off eating beans and salads which were pretty boring but you’ll soon learn how to make all your favourite meals.

If you make a mistake don’t give up, just learn from it, nobody’s perfect. I accidentally ate a pesto meal and it wasn’t until afterwards I noticed it wasn’t dairy-free.

You will also need to eat a balanced diet, lots of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole foods. I do love a burger but most of my meals are healthy and I eat a variety of different foods to get all my nutrients.

Social media is great to find recipes and keep on top of all the new products. There are so many reasons to go vegan whether it’s for health, animals or the environment. If you feel like giving up then remember why you decided to try it in the first place.

After two weeks I never looked back and the benefits outweigh the odd bad meal at a restaurant.

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