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Friday, October 30, 2020

BOSH!’s Henry Firth and Ian Theasby: ‘Small changes can make big differences’

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The UK’s bestselling vegan authors, Henry Firth and Ian Theasby, on creating BOSH!, working on ITV and their new cookbook.

Henry Firth and Ian Theasby are known as “the vegan Jamie Olivers” and are the faces behind the globally-known plant-based recipe channel, BOSH! They aim to formulate delicious and easy recipes to prove that “you can be plant-based and never compromise on flavour”.

Their vegan journey began around five years ago after watching Kip Andersen’s documentary, Cowspiracy. “It opened our eyes to a lot of important things — like how eating a plant-based diet can help the planet — and we haven’t looked back since,” they say.

Firth, who was once “a voracious meat-eater”, is now a pioneer of veganism alongside his peer. When they first transitioned, the pair had difficulties finding recipes as they thought they were “pretty uninspiring”. So they went back to basics, relearning how to cook and experimenting with the flavours of fruits and vegetables alone.

 

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Firth and Theasby say: “We think of ourselves as food ‘remixers’, because we recreate classic meals we enjoyed as meat-eaters, just with plants.” Although challenging to begin with, they have found that it’s helped them be creative in the kitchen. It led to them curating recipes such as the classic “hearty spaghetti bolognese but with mushrooms and walnuts, or meringues from whipped-up aquafaba. They’re the same huge flavours but with none of the meat or dairy.”

BOSH! began in 2016 when the duo started sharing their recipe videos on social media. Their engagement grew rapidly; after only one month, they reached 100,000 followers. Now they have over 2.5 billion views online, quite the success considering veganism wasn’t as common then as it is today. As they are UK-based, they found that BOSH! was the most ideal name, as it connotes to “quick and easy”, a catchy title to emphasise their aim when it comes to their recipes.

“Our food was very different from the usual vegan offering around at the time. It’s vibrant, adventurous and full of flavour. So, we reckon that’s what caught people’s attention,” they tell me. Their community includes the core vegan followers who have supported them since the beginning, but also those looking to cut down their meat consumption after becoming more aware of the ethical side to veganism and how they can contribute to saving the planet.

As well as their success on social media, the vegan duo has contributed in many ways to the vegan community. “Our first cookbook, BOSH!, was a huge achievement for us. We were the first vegan cookbook ever to get to number one in the UK,” Firth and Theasby recall. Since the release, it has also become one of the top 50 cookbooks of all time in the country.

Aside from writing their own recipes, they also had their own show on ITV, Living on the Veg. They tell me about the experience: “It was the first-ever mainstream plant-based cooking series in the UK, so it’s been an honour to be part of it as it’s a real marker for the vegan movement.”

 

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Most importantly, as vegan chefs, they have recently launched a range of BOSH! plant-based products in supermarkets across the UK, including Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose, Ocado and even Selfridges. Just this month, they partnered with pub chain BrewDog, serving some of BOSH!’s most famous vegan dishes.

“We’re really proud that we’ve been able to take veganism mainstream with these achievements. Ultimately, we’d love to reach as many people as possible to show them how tasty and accessible vegan food can be,” they say.

Firth and Theasby have formed quite the brotherhood throughout their vegan journey. Living and working together, they have more time to create and produce vegan recipes for their various platforms, which include Instagram, YouTube, their blog and, of course, their cookbooks.

During lockdown, many people were becoming innovative with cooking — whether it was learning how to cook for the first time or even testing vegan cuisine. The pair started their BOSH! live videos: weeknight cook-alongs for their followers, which were both creative and educational.

 

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As vegan authors, they have had to adapt as time has changed and more products have become available. Their first cookbook, simply titled BOSH!, came out in early 2018, but there was a lack of plant-based meat showcased in the original cookbook. “When we wrote our first cookbook, there weren’t as many meat substitutes available in supermarkets, and we wanted to really show how versatile plants can be,” the pair explains.

In the two years since, they have found that more vegan meat alternatives have become accessible. And they have included them in their latest cookbook, Speedy BOSH!, which will be out on September 17. In this book, readers can expect tasty vegan food that can be on your plate in 30 minutes or less. Additionally, they want to showcase how to make the most of vegetables while cooking.

speedy bosh
Photo: HQ/HarperCollins

“There’s this misconception that vegan food can be a headache to cook, which we wanted to tackle with this new cookbook,” they explain, adding that the new BOSH! book is perfect for weeknight dinners, quick breakfasts and weekly meal preps. “We loved the challenge of the time limit. It made us really creative in the kitchen.”

Firth and Theasby have enjoyed tremendous success in the last five years, which they aim to see last forever. As they constantly grow, they want to continue showing that vegan food can be delicious: “We want people to see that small changes can make big differences to the planet.”

Mansi Vithlani
Mansi Vithlani is a journalism student at City, University of London. A vegetarian her whole life and a massive foodie, she enjoys discovering more about veganism and eating vegan cuisine! She enjoys investigating social media based stories and how its influence has made a significant difference in the last few years.