Emma Pocock sits down with Dan Rossiter – owner of Good Vibes Café in Falmouth – to talk vegan cooking, sustainability, and growing collaboration between independent businesses and local entrepreneurs in Falmouth.
When I reach Good Vibes Café, it’s nothing like the day Dan Rossiter arrived here to consider taking over the café last January. It’s sunny and every table downstairs is full, with people chatting over freshly made breakfasts. Recounting how the charm of Falmouth got to him the first time he walked through the doors of Good Vibes, Dan shares his love of the town’s diverse selection of independent businesses:
“It was January the first time I visited this place, it was pouring down with rain. I thought it was going to be dead but I walked through the door and the place was absolutely heaving. You don’t know what you’re going to get, I didn’t know what to expect. It was amazing.
“I think there’s something for everyone here, it’s got a charm.”
After the café’s first Vegan night, Good Vibes owner Dan has focused on placing the café as a community hub that celebrates fresh local ingredients and allows local entrepreneurs and artists to collaborate and express themselves.
Local businesses offer a way to change one’s spending habits in an easy way: a coffee at Good Vibes costs no more than many chain brands, but is sourced with Origin, a single-origin roasters based in Porthleven. Jesse Anderson-Dodkins from Origin Coffee Roasters was the mastermind behind Good Vibes Café’s experimental Vegan Nights, and Dan was enthusiastic about the venture. He told me more about the café’s direction and attitude to sustainability, and emphasised the importance of local producers and Falmouth’s unique charm.
Both of the Vegan Nights at the café have sold out quickly, without even being able to see the menu, customers have shown that they trust that the café will serve them something excellent. Dan says he was trying to make the menu a surprise for people, so that people would come to the event interested in the foods they were being served. The Cafés choice for their first themed dinner evening was an intriguingly bold move, and various restaurants along the high-street have been adopting their own vegan and vegetarian evenings since the cafés first venture into ethical eating.
Why Vegan Night?
“Obviously we get a good vegan following at the café anyway! Hannah and John – the previous owners – set the café up as a mixture, trying to make everybody happy, so everybody’s quite open to the idea. When I first started, I met Jesse at Origin Coffee, who became vegan a few years ago. He spoke to me about hosting a vegan night then, and he said he’d been experimenting with vegan pasta.
“We found that being in Falmouth, where the options are already quite good, people are more open to trying new things.
“For me it’s more about making veganism interesting. Everybody should be able to enjoy food; it’s part of who we are. We want to make it more exciting, and stray away from the norm. That’s what this was about, trying to break the mold. We wanted to try to make more European and English dishes by using vegetables as meat, just trying to make it taste interesting.”
Do you have any advice for people getting bored and making the same things over and over again?
“Try experimenting! Try to substitute things like butter with oils, different milks. We recently brought oat milk into the café, for example. Almond milk, grounded nuts, just using different ingredients to make it fresher.
“We stay away from meat replacements like tofu and seitan as well. Even though they are really nice we were just trying to show that you don’t have to feel like you have to have meat, you can celebrate fresh ingredients.”
Are there going to be any other themed evenings?
“Definitely! What we’re trying to do is collaborate with other people. My aim is to get our name out there to people who want to try different stuff and give them a space for that. We’re only open during the day really; we have a whole restaurant and a whole kitchen to use. We’d love to collaborate with local people who want to cook food, use the area and spread a message and get people trying interesting things. We’re going to try to host a vegan barbecue in summer, that could be a lot of fun.”
Good Vibes also hosted an event with Origin Coffee Roasters – who supply their coffee beans – last autumn. The talk educated customers about how the company is encouraging experimentation, and where coffee beans come from:
“We were aiming to discuss more about the coffee industry and where it’s going. People don’t tend to know that it’s a trade that’s sort of falling on its knees a little. It’s in such high demand – especially with big corporations, and specialty coffee is really struggling. We’re trying to get younger people interested in the industry to try and pioneer new directions. Origin is trying to work closely with younger growers and roasters to try to get new flavours and specialty coffees. They’re now asking to their growers to try something new, and saying that they’ll buy it from them no matter what, even if it hasn’t worked.
“The margins are usually so small for the growers, and it’s a massive risk for them to try to make a new product. Origin are trying to make sure that they’re secure and they’re taking the risk for themselves instead.”
Are you consciously trying to put out a sustainable business model?
“Definitely, we’re trying to use local produce where we can – we use Canara Farm (West Country) where we can – we try to get as much local produce as possible, especially in summer. We’ve got a really local supplier growing tomatoes and blueberries to use over the summer.
“We try to discourage the soy-milk industry as well, it’s not that sustainable so we’re trying to use almond milk and oat milk.”
Of course, prices of local ingredients can be a challenge for small businesses, and though evidence supports the need for local choices and the regional benefits of supporting local producers, it’s important that this burden does not fall on the shoulders of small businesses, as this effect will trickle down into local producers. It’s great to hear that Good Vibes are doing what they can to support these producers by sourcing from local farms like Canara (of West Country):
“A lot of local stuff is quite expensive but we use it as much as we can.”
What’s important to you in a supplier?
“Trying to be as local and ethical as possible. In an ideal world we’d use all British ingredients. Our butcher is all-British and we make sure we farm responsibly and as locally as possible.
“We also value a good ethos. People who treat their staff well, it’s really important to me that people are looked after – as a whole, we can forget that people are getting mistreated in this country as well as other countries, so it’s not just about sourcing domestically but making sure we find places that we know treat their staff well.”
Dan took over the café in June 2016, and has been developing the café’s connections with local businesses ever since. His love for Falmouth shines through, and the café’s incorporation of Falmouth’s atmosphere keeps it alive through the dark winter months.
What was important to you when you took over Good Vibes?
“My ethos here was to do new things with food and drink but also to give people an opportunity to express themselves as well through collaboration. People are so important to me, I’m not a closed-door sort of person. It’s important to me that people get the opportunities to get where they want to be.
“We have a really good working relationship with Espressini up the road as well. I’m from Birmingham, so quite a big city, and the one thing I fell in love with about Falmouth was that I’d come here and see so many independents and entrepreneurs and giving it a go. As a town it really pushes for events and pushes itself. To see what the town planners are doing in such a small town like this, it’s incredible.”
“There’s more going on here than there was in Birmingham!” He laughs. “It’s a shame in a way, because everywhere should be like this! The more independent businesses, the better. You don’t want to see the small guys fall down; you want to support each other and hold each other up.”
Good Vibes’ latest announcement of a dinner evening is a Soul Food Supper occurring on April 1st in collaboration with Horizon Retreats. The £17 fee will include “delicious and comforting home-cooked food” (bring your own beverage) followed by a relaxed, informal beginners introduction to meditation. Book online here, and visit the café’s Facebook page here.