Cook Daily is the east London vegan eatery loved by JME, Emeli Sandé, and Professor Green. We asked Chef King Senathit about his famous clientele, and why veganism is really for everyone.
Who comes to Cook Daily that you recognise?
All of BBK – Jammer, Skepta, JME obviously – JME’s one of my biggest supporters. Professor Green – oh my god he’s so on it. He comes a lot. Emeli Sandé, a lot of people from the grime scene. Just the UK lot really.
What does everyone order?
My signature dish is the High Grade. That’s the bestseller. I’ve just released a sauce with the High Grade sauce, which is a table sauce and a marinade that we sell in the shop, but the High Grade is the biggest seller. Professor Green loves that but because they’re regulars, Professor Green, JME and [Slaves’] Laurie Vincent, they always switch it up so they have everything. But the High Grade is our bestseller and it’s based on marijuana – that’s the twist of it really. It’s basically a sweet and sour smoky BBQ dish with hemp seeds and hemp oil.
Why do JME, Pro Green and the others keep coming back to you?
It’s trust. I think in London especially with our scene, the London scene, you need someone you can trust and people trust me, and trust my establishment. I’ve got Cook Daily and across the road I’ve got Home – Home is vegan Thai food and Cook Daily is vegan, international. I’ve created a dish having everyone in mind, so for example like the High Grade, that’s like stoner’s food – when people are hungry they need that fix.
I’ve also got the Hard Bowl, that’s one of our bestsellers too. That’s just myself introducing hard food to the western audience rather than it being just a Caribbean/African thing. Skepta’s favourite is the Hard Bowl. It’s a Caribbean, Jamaican/African dish, with yams and plantains and ackee, all of these are foreign ingredients to some people but all of a sudden now people come to Cook Daily for the Hard Bowl because of the spiciness of it. That’s what keeps on bringing people back, the energy and the vibe: we are who we are and we’re doing it for all of us rather than us just being a kind of high-end juice bar that you feel uncomfortable coming in.
You’ll come in, you’ll hear us thumping UK artists who we support, who happen to be our friends – for example when Giggs’ album dropped, ‘Landlord’ was on repeat. When Skepta’s album dropped, that album was on repeat, so we’re very proud to be a part of London and we wanna be a part of London and slowly we’re establishing that.
This is where people can hang out and just vibe. It’s an eatery at the end of the day, that’s what I always wanted to do, an eatery not a sit-down restaurant where you have to wait and people take your order and you ask for the bill. You come, you order the food, we shout your number, you come, you pay, you sit in the Boxpark complex or you take it away, whatever.
It’s a London vibe, that’s what we’ve created here we’ve created a new eating culture that was missing… it just happens to be vegan and we’re very proud of that. And especially with big support like JME and Professor Green, getting on the healthy journey. That’s it really.
What would you say to people who are skeptical about veganism?
Just come down, man, see what we’re doing, have an open mind. We’re breaking away from the stereotypical hippie stodgy lasagnes and soggy pastas, it’s really good food by chefs and that’s the most important thing. We’re running things. All of my cooks are chefs from a professional background, and it’s a family-run thing – my brother runs the kitchen so it’s food done very well. People say we do the best Pad Thai in London – it just happens that we use vegan prawns.
We have vegan chicken and vegan prawns made from soya protein and wheat protein and that’s just a bridge for people to cross when they feel that they need meat in their life. You can come to Cook Daily and have a High Grade with vegan chicken – it happens to be more healthy for you with no cruelty involved, and it tastes banging.
I’ll be honest with you: we feed a lot of meat-eaters. They come because they see the social media whatever, they come and they return and when they return the most amazing thing is they return with their friends, their family and sometimes even their grandmas. They’re like “I’m gonna bring my mum she’ll love this, she’s not a vegan but she’ll love it.” I’ve got like an old Jamaican mum giving me the thumbs up, that’s warming to me. Certified, you know? From the elders.
We’re very professional because of my background, how I’ve come from such a mad place, the fine-dining heavy meat industry. I just turned vegan two years ago, vegetarian six years ago, so I can connect with people. People return because of that connection, they can connect to me.
On my social media I post my past, me handling big fishes and duck and game and beef, lobsters – whatever – and now I’m handling bananas and broccoli. So they know they can make that connection because I’m from a place where they’re from rather than me being some alien person to them.