Putting vegan food on the table

Vaibhav Nagori, one of the promoters of GREENR chain of cafes, is instrumental in making veganism sexy in the capital  

Vaibhav Nagori, 34, has travelled to all the continents but for Antarctica. At a young age, he experienced how people across the globe organise their lives, differently yet with underlying commonality.

That he is a vegetarian—belongs to a Jain family—added another dimension to his travels. There are countries where vegetarian food is at best an oddity. Vaibhav doesn’t agree. He could always find tasty and vegetarian food—both at the same time—in all cultures, even in countries like Iran and Taiwan, to mention two.

All over the world, veganism is catching the imagination of people, whether it’s Baltic countries or Latin America. People are changing their lifestyle, habits, eating healthy, and are acutely aware of the consequences of their actions on the environment, and trying to lead a life “closer to nature” as Vaibhav puts it. He recounts the eating practice in his own family, where they like to consume seasonal, fresh food and are “conscious of our eating habits.”

Vaibhav is an entrepreneur who wears many hats. Three years ago, he walked into GREENR—a vegan restaurant that had recently started operations in Shahpur Jat. He liked the food and got along well with the two founders: Mohit Yadav and Nitin Dixit and fell in love with the concept. He joined hands with them; it was an “intuitive” decision, which makes perfect business sense, he feels now in retrospect. Vaibhav became the principal partner and in the last three years, three branches have come up —Vasant Vihar, Gurugram, and the most recent one opened last week in Greater Kailash-I.

GREENR has added a cool quotient to veganism—which is seen as a way of life, recognised as a form of a belief system in many parts of the world. The idea is to minimise harm to all animals by way of abstention from animal products—meat, fish, dairy, eggs, honey, gelatin, lanolin, wool, fur, silk, suede, and even leather. And taste and health can be bedfellows. “People think vegetarian food is not rich in protein,” explains Vaibhav. It’s not true, and reasserts, “Gut health is our focus.”

Vaibhav with his partners Mohit Yadav and Nitin Dixit

GREENR has a café ambience, an organic space created with care, sophisticated yet cosy, well lit, glasses and mirrors reflecting images, artwork, graffiti and books. A comforting setting that grows on you and makes you want to spend time there with friends or alone.

To me, it looked like a manifestation of a food laboratory churning out culinary innovations that will make us aware of what we eat and conscious of its larger ramifications on other life forms and the planet at large. In a way, it will change the way people perceive veganism in Delhi, as something radical or activist, and appreciate its nuances as a way of life, internalising it. It’s like setting a new normal in this world that seems to be in constant flux.

His wife Rajvi is an entrepreneur and the two are proud parents of a newborn child whom Vaibhav describes as “my boy-wonder, my wingman for life!” A curious and considerate man, fairly worldly-wise with a friendly disposition, he’s a doer, without overdoing the doer part. He hangs out, has a personal rapport with many of the regulars; his co-workers are friends.

He calls GREENR a collaborative space where people are welcome to contribute their bit, Even as a young lady—she’s not a staffer—was putting up posters of a drink recently introduced: Heypache—a mildly fermented pineapple probiotic drink, Mexican in origin and an immunity booster.

The menu is a delight to read: Austin Smoked Jackfruit, Himalayan Tofu Amaranth, and Tuscan Shroom Balls, to name a few. Then there’s a host of fermented vegetables to choose from. ‘Gut Shot’ got my attention—is Sauerkraut brine water that’s loaded with enzymes and good bacteria. And what makes their cake special is the use of plant milk—coconut and almond.

GREENR is very popular with expats, diplomats and visiting foreign dignitaries. Vaibhav forbids mentioning names, but a visiting head of government of a leading European country had booked the whole outlet in Vasant Vihar.

It’s a place where people trade ideas over a sumptuous, yet healthy, vegetarian meal and drinks. They host art popups, exhibitions, talks and discussions, book launches, even the screening of films. This place is fast becoming a sort of cultural melting pot. It’s not even six in the evening, and it’s fairly busy at the Greater Kailash outlet.

Ironically, it was Ray Kroc, the travelling salesman who made McDonald’s what it is, who said, ‘When you’re green, you’re growing. When you’re ripe, you rot.’     

(Cover: Vaibhav Nagori, one of the promoters of GREENR chain of cafes)

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