Hey everyone, welcome back to another one of Rachael’s recaps- today’s recap is of my interview with Wahad!
Today I interviewed Salim, our co-founder and passionate restaurateur who has been the man on the ground working hard to make this business a success.
He’s a super approachable and down-to-earth guy ( Promise I’m not just saying this because he’s my boss, haha) So I’m sure you’ll enjoy this conversation as much as I did.
We discuss his role at Plant Sumo, what it means to be inclusive while celebrating plant-based food and how to balance dietary change family
His true name is Wahad, but everyone calls him Salim.
Meet The Team: Salim
Starting Plant Sumo
Salim told me that he and Deepak have known each other personally for a long time. They actually met in one of Salim’s previous businesses which was a Caribbean restaurant in Fulham, and just naturally clicked.
Deepak over the years had sent him a lot of messages about potentially opening a restaurant. At that time, his vision was a Brick and mortar place which was a route Salim didn’t think was a good idea.
He spoke a bit about how risky a brick and mortar restaurant can be and how many people he has seen over the years be impacted negatively on a financial and emotional level by one going bust. I called him the ‘saviour’ of the business which is true.
It took three years before Dee proposed the idea of Plant Sumo.
Working With Some Both On The Same Page And Not
Salim reminisced on how he and Dee had a face to face chat to discuss the development of Plant Sumo. How they both shared so much excitement and anticipation for the project with it’s potential possibilities. And how from day one they just went running.
I was kind of always used to think of how to turn off any business corporate and make it kind of streamlined and make the business work for you rather than, you know, working for the business in the best way, you know, and still trying to achieve quality, consistency, all of these things, which is very difficult and not having a partner that sees the same thing is really difficult. So it’s just like, you know, banging your head against a brick wall.
But we just thought with our backgrounds, you know, with me, I’m really passionate about food business or not. I’m just, you know, I love food and I love kind of trying new things. And Deepak, obviously, you know, his bread and butter is the online space. So with that, you know, our skills just matched perfectly for this specific business. And that’s the reason for kind of trying this business.
Why Salim has been a ghost
A critical question I asked Salim was- why have you been a ghost?
Since joining the team, while I had had a few zoom meetings with Salim he seemed less involved with the entire process. He explained to me this is because he has been facilitating the middle ground of online and face to face where he deals with what is physical and tangible. This includes the food, meeting with suppliers, speaking to and hiring chefs.
With Deepak even before covid he is used to his life being online- but for Salim this isnt normal, working from home. Speaking to chefs, getting suppliers its hard to get people on board with having meetings online and discussing, negotiating in that space.
He says its easier to negotiate if you are physically there. You can pick up on the cues which indicate if the chef or employee is truly going to be competent for the job. So Salim really is fantastic for sourcing, identifying this.
Being very humble he says he doesnt want to take too much credit. Unfortunately for him I take publishing only the facts very seriously do he gets full credit for the logistical, on the ground organisation of the business. Once it gets started its so quick and you need to innovate and get revenue coming ins so you really need to be on top of things which is what Salim does.
Image Credit: Inside Cambridge
Salim’s flexitarianism and having kids
Salim has gone in and out of being vegan, ergo he is a flexitarian. Part of this has been because of raising two young children- going into the supermarket and reading the back of everything. And the fear of getting enough, in terms of food and vitamins.
This concern over nutritionist something Salim and Deepak were allied over, and that is what they feel veganism stands for.
Salim is a guy who really cares about his kids- on sunday he wakes up and goes to the farmers market from a farm in Surrey, he doesn’t want to push his kids to be overtly political and obsessed with veganism. And on top of that eating so much meat is very much a generational thing- as culturally, in Sudan which Salim’s relatives come from you cant afford to just slaughter a cow every day or whatever it may be.
How Deepak And Salim’s Background Feeds Into Plant Sumo
Salim spoke about how ethnically Deepak is Indian and Salim’s background is in Sudan and South Africa. They want to avoid sending out plates of food which are boring, it needs to be exciting not just vegan- it needs to be fantastic food beyond being vegan.
Why brand plant sumo in this way?
Salim says on the marketing side they don’t want to force feed people the reality of the ethical and environmental realities of going vegan- common sense dictates these things.