‘Becoming a vegan saved me’: Boss of restaurant
PUBLISHED: 06:00 07 November 2019 | UPDATED: 16:35 07 November 2019
The 29-year-old boss of a Norwich vegan restaurant has claimed eating a plant-based diet “saved him” after his life began spiralling out of control.
Loui Blake, who runs Erpingham House, in Tombland - as well as a football academy and another restaurant about to launch in Brighton - turned to a natural diet combined with mindfulness techniques six years ago after suffering crippling feelings of anxiety.
The entrepreneur who grew up in Norfolk was running a nightclub in London and despite being hugely successful, hated his life and turned to alcohol.
He said: "I suffered self-doubt, anxiety, whatever I did, I didn't feel I had achieved anything, it was what next? Nothing was ever enough.
"When I was younger and working in nightclubs, it was a materialistic world, I was finding happiness in external things, seeing celebrity clients and I eventually couldn't even get out of bed, it was so hedonistic in London. I was drinking just to get through the day, I was working at the best club in London, I was paid well but it was like a playground, a poison. I was drinking heavily every day."
Despite not having any vegan friends, nor knowing much about it, Loui started eating more fruit and vegetables and said he started feeling so much better.
"I started to think about the impact of eating meat on animals and what sort of world did I want to live in? I no longer wanted to contribute to that, I looked at everything I did, but it started with not wanting a toxic body.
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"I did it for a month and realised I was a vegan. Then I started looking at the triggers which made me feel bad; I was creating situations in my head that never happened, rather than living in the present.
"I tried to project more positively and this meant changing my environment and the people I spent time with. I started making sure I had a morning routine, I do yoga, or meditation, I write down 10 things I feel grateful for and revisit those goals, I try to give myself time, not leave the house in a rush, try to have mindfulness which resolves anxiety. I now love work, feel excited about going to work whereas a lot of people hate their jobs.
"Six years ago, if you'd told me I would be a vegan, I would have laughed in your face. Adopting this lifestyle saved me, but everyone thought I had lost the plot. Since then veganism has grown exponentially and my life has totally changed, I feel healthier, more mindful and more motivated than ever.
"I'm not saying everyone should be vegan, it's not helpful to be labelled in such a way, but I do think everyone can benefit from more natural foods and a better understanding of their impact on the world around them.
"In the same day I can be on top of the world or what feels like beneath the surface, we need more transparency and vulnerability. You never know who you're helping by sharing."
Loui started Erpingham House, promoting sustainable, health-conscious food and drinks, helped with Nicole Pugh of Berry's & Grey who designed the interiors and head chef Meg Greenacre creating the menus.
Although you won't find meat on the menu there are 'Mexican bean burgers' and the 'Moving Mountains cheeseburger' and desserts including sticky ginger butternut squash sponge to salted caramel cheesecake. He juggles this business with Future Football Elite, a coaching academy he set up with footballer Declan Rudd. And he's just launching a new vegan restaurant like Erpingham House in Brighton.
Loui has also just started the 'Bro Society' with friend Remi Coghiel, a group of like-minded men who meet at Erpingham House every other Wednesday and would like to do more of this kind of work as he believes talking about problems and worries, especially among other business owners, can be incredibly empowering.
"When you have a business, you are responsible, I am responsible for about 60 staff over three businesses, it weighs on your mind," he added.
"There is a pressure on us to succeed and follow a conventional path, but I left school with no A'levels. There is no help for start ups. Business rates can be crippling, and we spend money sourcing sustainable materials, which naturally costs more, but there is no help from Norwich City Council for being a green business."
Loui also speaks at various events spreading the vegan word. "My mission is to inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs to create and grow plant-based businesses. I have the same anxiety, uncertainty and concern as anyone so let's share more," he said.