As the man behind Ireland’s only organic vegan café, Pat Quigley of Very Healthy Food on Douglas St. has built a business in which the offering truly lives up to the company name. Keith Watterson meets the man who's putting the happy into health food...
The hospitality industry is never the easiest sector in which to establish a truly unique business, but Very Healthy Food at 72 Douglas Street has just done that, having recently marked its first year in business as Ireland’s only organic vegan café, supporting no fewer than six jobs, including that of its owner, Pat Quigley.
A business’s objectives are often referred to as a ‘mission statement’, and speaking with Quigley, 40, one is left with the impression that with his business, he truly is on a mission, and not just on paper. “I’ve been a happy, healthy vegan for 16 years,” the Blackrock man explains, “and I set up VHF to help people understand eating healthily is crucial for a happy mind, body and spirit.”
Pat became a vegetarian when he was 19, and then, five years later, became vegan “to see how it felt”. He noticed a difference almost immediately. “I felt happier, more alive and more positive,” he said.
But he insists that it is not only vegans who benefit: “You can be a carnivore and have a healthy diet. By eliminating foods that are full of sugar and saturated fat, and eating more healthy foods, you are going to feel much better, look better, and require less sleep.
“People are currently being poisoned by so-called fast ‘food’, and processed foods, which are making them fat, docile and lethargic. Eating a more vegetable-based diet is a great way to lead a healthier life, feel better, look better and be happier,” he says. “If you eat our food even once a week, you’ll be greatly enhancing your diet.”
In his 20s, Pat travelled the world, spending three years in India and studying Chinese medicine and tai chi. But while he was swayed by healthy eating he never envisaged making a living from it until his return to Cork, when he witnessed the demand for the homegrown bean and seed sprouts that he began selling at farmer’s markets.