Tastemakers: Peggy Chan of Grassroots Pantry and Prune

Living and eating green in a city like Hong Kong is no easy feat. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or simply looking for something healthier to eat, it’s often hard to find an appealing option (if one at all) while scanning a menu. Well, that was until Peggy Chan opened homey vegetarian restaurant Grassroots Pantry two years ago.

“I’ve always been a conscious eater and it’s definitely not easy being vegetarian,” revealed Peggy. “I went through anemia, dizzy spells and all that because I hadn’t figured out how to incorporate nutritious foods in my diet. Grassroots Pantry and Prune really started as a platform for me to help teach people how to eat healthily and to learn more about fair trade, sustainable and organic food.”

Tastemakers: Peggy Chan of Grassroots Pantry and Prune
Peggy wants people to feel alive and home at Grassroots and Prune.

Following the opening of Prune back in January, more and more people make the trek out to Sai Ying Pun just to stock up on Peggy’s guilt-free nibbles, nourishing juices and smoothies and drool-worthy vegetarian food — the best thing (especially for those who eat green) is that you never leave feeling hungry.

Nestled in a cozy corner inside Prune, Peggy talks to us about starting her own restaurant, the key to her success and her tips on going green.

Growing up… I wanted to be a fashion designer so I studied film, theatre, fine art, art history and all of that and then realised it was going to take a long time. I was always cooking as a kid but thought of it more as a hobby until my guidance counselor proposed cooking school.

I became vegetarian… gradually. I stopped eating red meat 14 years ago and then just started slowly cutting down on poultry and fish before I stopped altogether.

If you want to go green… you need to go slow. Everyone digests certain foods differently. For example, some people aren’t good with beans so that wouldn’t be a good subsitute for proteins. You need to experiment and cut down slowly — start with once a week, then twice and slowly go up as you see fit.

Tastemakers: Peggy Chan of Grassroots Pantry and Prune
The perfect place for a breakfast that’ll leave you feeling good.

The concept behind Prune… is based around a new way of eating breakfast. You have The Flying Pan and Oola but there’s always a lot of meat, oil and eggs. We do eggs as well but they are all free range. We’ve also got superfood smoothies, cold-pressed juices, acai berry bowls imported from the States, granola and muesli.

I always start my day… by drinking a glass of lemon water with a pinch of salt. I also love digging into a nourishing salad with different textures and flavours.

The places that inspire me the most… are Morocco and Istanbul, I just love all the spices they use there.

Tastemakers: Peggy Chan of Grassroots Pantry and Prune
Be sure to check out the delicious guilt-free sweets at Prune.

Making it in Hong Kong… depends heavily on being able to maintain something. You have to be there all the time to nourish it and feed it. Some people just open restaurants and then leave it to someone else to take care of and then the quality comes down.

The key to success… is to always be humble and stay honest. If you screw up, you just need to say sorry and learn from your mistakes.

My favourite places to eat in Hong Kong… are Café Gray for some nice quiet breakfast time and Posto Pubblico for dinner — we use the same produce from homegrown places so it’s all organic and good for you.

I’m currently busy with… finding a bigger location for Grassroots. We’ve been open for almost two and a half years and we don’t have the space right now to match the demand.

Photography by: Joyce Yung

MORE: We talk to Kevin Poon about juggling his own clothing brand, PR company and Blohk Party. 

Yi Li is your typical half-Brit half-Chinese hybrid with a serious case of wanderlust. When not writing, she's either on the hunt for the best new cocktails, on a hike or enjoying a sinful bowl of truffle fries (and working them off at XYZ). Follow her @yilidawson on Instagram or Twitter.