M: What’s your name and what do you do?
My name is Ben Asamani, I am a trained chef, I am a vegan and I believe very strongly that vegan food is good for everyone, good for the environment and basically good for everything! I have this vegan restaurant, 222, here on North End Road.
M: So when did you decide to be a vegan?
A long time ago, when I was about 16
M: what made you become a vegan?
It just happened that I felt like not eating meat anymore, at that time I don’t know what I was doing, I don’t know what I was thinking but later I realised that there are people who don’t eat meat, so that made me feel like I’m not the only one on this planet!
M: Did you notice a difference in yourself?
Yeah, I call it a healthy lifestyle, and for me not only do I not eating meat, there’s a lot of things I don’t feel which is right, I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink coffee and I studied all of this and I know its not good for me.
I think people to need to be educated, the more we get people educated the more people understand and know the importance of eating right.
M: So what came first, training to be a chef or wanting to start a business, did you train with the thought of a business
When I became vegan, I fell in love with cooking. That’s why I trained to become a chef and then I realised that for me to educate people and push what I came to know, I think that it’s better to have my own place to do that. I aimed for that and thankfully I was able to fulfil it.
M: Tell me about a bit about yourself, did you grow up in Ghana?
Yes, I grew up in Ghana. I’ve been in the UK now for 35 years, so it’s a long time but for me everywhere is the same for me, if I’m here I want to eat good food and If I’m in Ghana I want to eat good food!
I feel wherever I go there are people I want to tell – look do you know the benefits of eating well? I make a little impact on peoples lives and people come here for the food and they say thank you Ben and that makes me feel good (laughs)
M: What does the word community mean to you?
Well we all live in a community and Fulham is my community because I spent most of my time at work here, so my aim is to see how best I can help people in this community and beyond. But this is where I am and this is what I want to do, in fact some customers come from Chelsea and they come and eat and they say “very good food but why do you have it here, you could move to Chelsea and make a lot of money?” But then I said look my food is for everyone, for the poor, for the middle class and the rich.
So that again means something to me, to help people in the community.
It should be accessible for everyone, fortunately for rich people they get access to a lot of different types of foods, it’s expensive for people who don’t have money to eat healthy food nowadays.
I make my food reasonable for the poor to be able to afford.
M: From your experience, what do you think makes a community work for the people?
I believe if you want to achieve something in the community, the first thing is the people need to be in good health then they will be able to do everything and anything!
If your are in good health and you want to study you can go and study, if you have good health you can go to work, you can do everything…so it links to everything.
It’s good when the community feels like they have something to contribute towards so that we have a healthy community and then before we realise it we have a healthy country.
(Ben for Prime Minister! Laughs)
M: Have you seen anything in other communities around the world that inspired you?
I went to Japan, I liked the environment, it was very clean, and people are very respectful and polite. I like it in a community where there is respect and people don’t just dump things in front of their house or in the street, I live it when people take pride in where they live.
M: What else inspires you?
Obviously we are born in this world, we grow and we die, but it’s always good to live and enjoy life. Most people die prematurely and its because of the lifestyle that they are living…and again, somebody has to help the community to educate people and pass on that knowledge. So whenever I talk about healthy lifestyle during my cooking classes and people get it, it makes me feel good.
M: Have you had any challenges in our life, and how did you overcome it?
I know we are living in a world today that people don’t want to believe in anything and they want to do what they think is right. I’m a Christian, I believe that Christianity helps you to see things different, so whenever I’m faced with challenges or something that I don’t respect, I say okay, there is a limit of what I can do, but then I turn to my faith to find peace.
M: Life is …
Life is worth living and that is what I would say to everyone.
Take a second and ask what is life and the answer will come to you, and then you will realise how important it is for you to live that life… and living a life means you go away from things that are not good for you.
M: My greatest lesson …
We all make mistakes but then we realise so we don’t go back and do the same.
M: I like ….
When I share what I think is right to others and they accept it, believe it and they thank me for it, it makes me feel good.
M: Is there anything you don’t like?
I don’t like when I am walking behind someone who is smoking.
Motto for life:
When you want to do something and you think about it, and you know it’s a good thing to do, you might find some discouragement coming when you want to do it…my advice is don’t let anything discourage you, just focus on that which you are convinced to do.
I can easily tell you when I first started this restaurant here on North End Road I feel a bit discouraged but something told me I am not that person that let things discourage me. I used to run a restaurant in Piccadilly, Soho and then I came to North End road but I said I’m going to make it and that gave me the strength to make it and today I am happy that I did the challenge.
You can visit 222 Vegan Restaurant at 222 North End Road W14 for a relaxing & delicious lunchtime buffet or dinner!