Spurti Ravi is the founder of R&D consulting firm Ssprout, which focuses on plant-based food and beverage development. Her pet initiative, The Supper Pop Up, sees her philosophy come to life through beautifully crafted health and wellness based dining experiences. Here, she talks about her journey, sharing insights into nurturing your body and soul:
Arriving at her personal wellness philosophy
As I started practicing yoga about five years ago, I consciously allocated time to introspect more frequently and understand myself in ways I had not before. I realised that most things I did either made my body happy (the food that I cooked; the time spent on exercising; choosing to spend time outdoors) or made my spirit happy (socialising with dear ones; choosing a job I truly connected with; indulging in a rich hot chocolate at Jacques Torres). This helped me arrive at my personal philosophy of - ‘Nourish your body, Nourish your soul’.
When I am at cross roads while making decisions, big or small, I ask myself if what I am about to do either nourishes my body or my soul and if the answer to both is no, the next step is simple. This has helped me focus on doing what is in my best interest and saying no to almost everything else. I must mention that I am surprised at my personal transformation over the years and the sense of balance and peace I feel today.
The Supper Pop Up
While living in the US, it was extremely easy to eat clean and delicious food while socialising and dining out. However, after I moved back to my hometown, Bangalore, two years ago, I struggled to pick options while dining out. My requests for chefs at restaurants weren’t well received and sometimes blatantly ignored. (I do think they should be more accommodating and creative). Supper Pop Up (S.P.U.) came to life as a solution to this problem.
S.P.U. is a not-for-profit passion project that I started last year with a mission to bring creative and inspired dining experiences, under the health and wellness umbrella. I like to focus on the little details from carefully choosing ingredients, to menu design, selecting the right aromatics and visuals in our decor to complement the courses, and crafting flavours through which my guests can take home a piece of their experience. I want my guests to leave the pop-up with a more open mind and a little inspiration to play with their recipes at home. Eating clean, plant based or vegan does not imply eating boring, uninspired food.
We’ve had eight pop ups so far that span across different wellness themes and cuisines. My favourite menu was from October last year where we not only challenged ourselves to create a monochromatic 9 course menu with dishes that ranged from white to black, but also made it 100% plant-based. I was elated to see this idea, that I had three years ago, come to life. I’m not great at planning too far ahead so we’ll have to see what I come up with for my next pop-ups. The ideas are endless.
Tips to convert a personal hobby into a professional calling
As I look back, I’ve fortunately ended up in a profession that was and continues to be of personal interest to me, and the little side projects I kick-off fall right in line with it. Today, we live in a world where there are many opportunities, depending on your area of interest, and what you make of it is totally up to you.
A couple of questions to ask yourself are:
- Will I enjoy my hobby if it does turn into a profession?
If the answer is no, then you know what to do.
- Am I ok with not being in control?
I delayed launching S.P.U. as I worried that people would not enjoy eating my way. Finally I just pushed myself to get out there because I would never know until I tried. Till date, I go to bed upset about a dish that did not translate the way I wanted it to during service, but these are things I must take in my stride and find ways to improve upon. A piece of advice that has stuck with me is “All you can do is control the controllable”.
- Am I comfortable assigning a value to what I enjoy doing?
This is an area I continue to struggle with the most because I don’t have the heart to assign a monetary value to something I love doing. This is not something to be proud of or feel noble about. Through my experiences I’ve realised that letting someone else assign value to your work doesn’t help either because you end up feeling underappreciated at times. You must feel confident enough with the service/product you offer to be able to assign a number to it and feel content about it.
- What is the ecosystem I need to help transform my hobby into a profession?
I strongly believe that people help you get to where you are in ways you may not realise. Being vocal about what you want to achieve, being comfortable with not knowing it all but willing to ask for help and engaging with those who excel in an area close to what you are interested in will ultimately get you to the place you want to be.
How to embrace a vegan diet
The first step is to identify why you want to transition to a vegan style of eating (do you think it is healthier? do you care about animals? do you care about the environment?) as it greatly impacts your approach and the pace at which you transition. Once you have understood the why, these are some simple tips to help embrace a vegan style of eating:
- Start today:
Don’t overthink. Start with what you know and continue to make changes as you learn more. I find that constantly thinking and researching can be more daunting than implementing it.
- Think about what you can eat:
Don’t think of a vegan diet as restrictive but think of it as an opportunity to diversify your diet and be creative with all the ingredients you have at your disposal. You may end up liking vegetables, fruits, spices and preparations you never thought you would as many of my pop-up guests have shared.
- Ease into it:
Pick 1 or 2 ingredient categories, especially those that are easy for you to avoid during your first month and then slowly phase out the other ingredients month by month, so it doesn’t feel overwhelming. This enables you to build momentum early on in this journey and start off on a positive note.
- Be kind to yourself:
There will be slip ups here and there especially during dinner at a friend’s or relative’s home or while traveling. If you indulge in a piece of cheese (or two), a scoop of ice cream or dig into that drool worthy slice of pizza, know that it is OK. Enjoy that little treat, pick up where you left off and don’t beat yourself up over it. As time goes by, your choices will naturally change and those slip ups become less frequent.
- Don’t confuse a vegan diet for a healthy one:
You can have an extremely unhealthy diet while staying vegan - think pasta, white bread, oreos, potato crisps etc. To stay healthy and energetic, ensure that you eat a colourful diet (a great trick to ensure your diet is diverse) rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, natural fats, spices and proteins.
Overall, I think making small changes and working at a pace that works well for you personally will make it easier to ensure this becomes a new way of life for you without feeling like a burden. Even the smallest change is a step in the right direction.
Validating her unique approach to life
I recently travelled to Spain and Paris with my close friends. Typically, I would be pressured (either by myself or company around me so that I don’t come across as someone ‘on a diet’ and ruin my foodie reputation) into drinking a couple of extra glasses of wine or indulging in a sub-par dessert (not vegan!), but this time around I was unapologetic about my choices. When I thought about how my body would feel after, the chatter my mind would engage in for eating dishes I knew were not worth deviating from my plant based regime or engaging in activities that I absolutely did not care about, the choice was straightforward. I went on runs through the sights of Madrid and Seville, hiked solo one morning in a tiny village called Rhonda, and thoroughly enjoyed dousing my white breads with local peppery olive oils late into the night with glasses of classic Rioja as the Spanish do. I savoured each bite of my favourite chocolate passion fruit macarons from Pierre Herme and Pain Au Chocolats (most definitely not vegan!), as we strolled along the Seine and engaged in endless life conversations. All these choices either nourished my body or nourished my soul and I am now back home feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and at peace with myself, without an ounce of vacation guilt.
Spurti Ravi is a Food Scientist by education and profession and has over 6 years of experience conceptualizing, developing and commercializing natural food products and beverages for a Fortune 500 CPG company in USA. At Ssprout, her past projects range from non-dairy milks and clean-label pet foods to ayurvedic functional beverages crafted especially for women.
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