Established in 2016 in south west London, En Root was founded with a primal focus on delivering fresh seasonal vegetables, wholesome pulses and aromatic Gujarati spices. Health conscious owner, Nish Modasia, wanted to establish a business with well-being at its core and set about creating a vegan, Indian inspired menu that provided plenty of ‘nutritional joys’ to busy commuters.
After making a name for himself in the Herne Hill area, as well as touring the UK in the En Root food truck, Nish took the decision in 2019 to expand operations and set up a permanent home in Clapham’s Ascot Parade.
Nish takes a few minutes during his busy afternoon to sit down and discuss his journey from road to restaurant and how particularly the younger generation are paving the way when it comes to consumer understanding of wholesome, nutritious food that feeds both the brain and body.
Hi Nish, thanks for chatting to us! What inspired you to take the leap and set up your own business?
We started the business in 2016 at a pop up in Herne Hill. I had a passion for food; I’d spent a lot of time in the kitchen as a kid and had noticed a distinct lack of healthy food for people on the go. ‘Nutritious Joys’ is a favourite slogan at En Root and it really pins down our philosophy to deliver wholesome, nutritious meals and make eating healthily less of a chore. We found that many people were trying to eat good meals but often didn’t have the time or resources, so we set about creating Indian inspired vegan cuisine and a cultural melting pot for people from all communities.
We set up the food truck in 2017 and have pitched up at festivals all over the UK, from Boomtown to niche, boutique events.
Your passion for En Root really shines through and can be seen in the quality of the food you have on offer. What’s been the best thing about running the business so far?
I love seeing people’s reactions to the flavours in a dish and the intrigue and appreciation they have for the food – it really keeps you going, especially in the food game when things can be up and down. Being in the street food scene means we have the perfect opportunity to test new menu items and ideas out on customers. Markets are the best place to launch any new concept because you can receive feedback straight away.
On the other hand, what challenges have you had to overcome within the business?
It was a challenge sorting out our first premises whilst juggling things like employment on the street food side. I also think that veganism has taken off at such a rate that the healthy side of it has been distorted. We’ve witnessed more and more people on a vegan diet that aren’t eating healthily. At the end of the day, I don’t care so much if people become full time vegans – what I actually want is for people to become more plant based and reject the foods high in processed ingredients that are doing their bodies damage.
Older generations can be a bit of a challenge at times. We get so many kids come up to us with so much knowledge of what’s in our food and asking for certain dishes, but their parents go off and buy chips for them thinking they know what’s best. We draw so much inspiration from children and so it’s nice when the parents have a good understanding of nutrition. It all comes down to educating consumers on what they should be putting into their bodies to maximise their health and we hope to address that by showcasing just how tasty healthy food can be.
It’s fantastic to hear that so many youngsters are engaged with eating nutritious food that is more economically friendly. Do you think the younger generation coming through are viewing catering as a good career option?
We’ve been really surprised by the amount of youngsters getting in touch and enquiring about jobs. I love the next generation – they’re so open and I think because they’ve grown up during the eruption of street food and the rise of veganism, they view the catering profession with an aspect of coolness. We get a lot of youngsters doing temporary work during the summer and I think that even if they just do six months in the industry, they gain a wealth of knowledge and hands on experience that perhaps they wouldn’t get in another role. There’s a big change going on in the UK with regards to what food we consume and the younger generation play a big part in that.
In an age when the environment is so high on people’s agendas, do you have any sustainability practices?
We’ve been using biodegradable products from Biopak since the beginning. Our company values are built upon the fact that everything should come from the root, nothing should be processed and environmental issues should come first, so sustainability was high on our agenda from the very beginning.
Have you got any advice you’d like to share with food enthusiasts thinking of setting up in the industry?
Make sure you really know what you want to specialise in and make it personal to you. This industry is all about individualism and giving birth to new culinary concepts, so don’t replicate something that’s already on the market. Test your menu on friends and family and ensure you’re completely satisfied with it before it goes out to a customer base.
Finally, what’s the best event you’ve ever catered at?
I really enjoyed We Out Here festival – it was a new family festival and we were next to the main stage, so it was non-stop all weekend. People were really switched on with regards to what they eat and were really overwhelmed by the alternative food we were serving. It was a great event!