Social worker Simone Hayward talks about the power of eating whole foods and her goals to teach school children how to be self-sufficient when it comes to cooking.

What does your business do?

Simone's Plant Based Kitchen cookery school teaches adults and children how to cook plant-based food on a budget. We do cheap and healthy dishes as well as more gourmet meals using plant-based vegan food.

We don't use any oil, no refined sugar and minimal processed food, and it's all about teaching people to have fun with veggies and other plant-based foods. We are based in Taranaki and I started the business four months ago.

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What was the motivation for starting it?

The motivation was my family was changing over to a plant-based diet and I was thinking about something I could do that incorporated my love for cooking and sharing our journey, as well as empowering people to make a positive change and learn new skills.

I wanted to raise awareness of the fact that lots of young people don't have the skills to cook and people don't know much about what you can do with veggies.

We know eating lots of meat and dairy and processed foods is not great for our health but it can be overwhelming changing your diet or introducing new foods or new ingredients to your family if you're not sure of how to actually prepare them.

Why do you focused on plant-based classes?

I have an autoimmune condition called sarcoidosis which was becoming a problem about two years ago, and my doctor said I needed to start treatment which was steroids.

After doing research I decided I didn't want to take steroids because of the side effects so I researched other ways to treat it and I came across the plant-based diet which there's lots of evidence that shows it can prevent and reverse the effects cause by inflammation.

It made sense if I cut out those inflammation-causing foods that it might help to reduce the disease, which it has.

How important is the food that we eat?

Food is medicine, it can heal, not only physically but emotionally and mentally. We tend to live to eat, rather than eating to live. The fresher the food the better it makes us feel.

You are told as soon as you build a house not to drain bacon fat or oil down the sink so then what are we doing to our bodies when we're eating it?

Who is the main group of people that comes to your cooking classes?

We get people who are interested in introducing new recipes to their families and people who are interested in not only changing their diets but changing their mindset around how they eat and where their food comes from.

The main group attending is women between 25 and 40. Each class is between two and three hours long and costs $45 per person, including all ingredients. There are around 12 people per class.

Simone Hayward teaches small classes how to cook plant-based food. Photo / Supplied
Simone Hayward teaches small classes how to cook plant-based food. Photo / Supplied

People have said they have found the classes to be inspirational and that they are getting information and knowledge about ingredients that they've heard of but never thought to use before or didn't know how to use it.

One of the main things people have been surprised at is how good the food tastes without using oil.

What are your long term plans?

Long term I would love to be able to teach this sort of programme in schools, to be able to teach younger people not only how to grow their own food but how to cook the food.

In Taranaki, we've got so much land and rich soil. Schools have a veggies patch but there's no one teaching our children how to be self-sufficient.

What advice do you give others thinking about starting their own firm?

When things are not going as well as you had hoped remember your motivators and passions, remember why you got into business in the first place.