Entrepreneur serves a slice of heaven

Marcus Fanenbruck, co-owner, Ethos Organic Café & Restaurant at Harmony Center, along General Mathenge Road on September 29, 2022. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Did you know that it takes 60,000 litres of water to produce a kilogramme of meat? It was such mindboggling statistics that grasped Marcus Fanenbruck’s heart resulting in a lifestyle change.

In 2015, Mr Fanenbruck decided to be a vegan, motivation to make the fight against climate change a personal one.

For the German, who came to Kenya in 2015, this lifestyle-altering move wasn’t made on a whim but on information gathered throughout his life working as a Geography teacher back home and here.

However, he quickly realised that being a vegan in Kenya was a David versus Goliath task. Unlike a vegetarian who can eat some animal products or by-products, a vegan diet is exclusively plant-based. It excludes all animal products and their by-products – milk, meat, eggs, honey, poultry and fish, among others.

“If you went to a restaurant as a vegan six years ago, your meal choices were meat dishes without the meat. A Caesar chicken salad without the chicken was one of the few options available,” says Mr Fanenbruck who also taught English. With an ocean-deep determination, his course of action was as clear as day. He needed to find a solution.

His journey of seeking out plant-based foods culminated into the opening of Ethos Organic Café and Restaurant.

Located at Harmony Centre on General Mathenge Road, Ethos is a vegan’s slice of food heaven. Stylish in design with high ceilings, large windows and a classic school-chair-and-desk concept, clients are invited to sit and enjoy unique meals that are exciting to the eye, rich in taste and flavour, and good for the heart, soul and the environment.

Opened less than five months ago, Ethos prides itself on doing things better for people and the planet.

Mr Fanenbruck’s goal is to cement sustainability into the hospitality industry.

The first sign of this commitment is in the café’s tables cEntre pieces, which are recycled wine bottles done by a local pro-sustainability artist.

“We supply customers with organic and plant-based dishes at a fair price,” the foodpreneur says.

“So far, we find ourselves catering to those with special diets. Vegans, gluten-free consumers and people with food allergies.”

The restaurant, which has a terrace where customers can soak in some sun, serves a large assortment of vegan meals — coffee, sandwiches, bread, pastries and meals — developed by Mr Fanenbruck and his business partner, who’s worked in the Berlin vegan space for more than 20 years. He describes him as “a genius product developer and master chef”.

One can also enjoy a glass of organic wine and beer here.

“Our milk alternatives for coffee are soy, almond and oat milk,” he explains, noting that they don’t charge extra for this.

“In the future, we should charge extra for cow’s milk.”

Growing movement

For my afternoon coffee, I select a cappuccino with oat milk, because I love oats.

Three minutes later, it arrives piping hot, complete with a cookie. It looks and tastes like coffee. The cookie is made from gluten-free wheat flour, dark chocolate and soy milk as an alternative to milk and butter.

Three and a half years ago living in a country with limited vegan tofu, Mr Fanenbruck and his business partner developed and started selling a handmade, plant-based and organic tofu christening it Mtofu. The response was incredible.

“The vegan movement is rapidly growing globally and people here are catching up keeping meat off their plates for the planet, animal rights reasons or just to live a healthier lifestyle,” he says.

The success of Mtofu encouraged them to develop more foods that imitate cheese and meat products.

The Ethos menu carries some of them. For example, the ‘Like-Cheese’, ‘Kama Kuku’ and ‘Kama Nyama’ burgers and the ‘Kama Kuku’ nuggets. They look and taste like meat but are plant-based.

Their pizzas are prepared using homemade vegan mozzarella cheese. Gluten-free options are available too.

After my coffee came the ‘Kama Kuku’ nuggets. A bite into the crispy, breadcrumbed layer reveals a soft chunk of flavourful tofu that tastes similar to chicken.

I feel like I’ve missed nothing at all.

Sustainability is the thread that ties all of Ethos together. About 95 percent of their products are organic, sourced from small, local organic farms and manufacturers. Only organic wine is sourced from France.

Local sourcing

“All our ingredients are carefully selected or manufactured by us to ensure their quality and integrity. We don’t use artificial ingredients,” says Mr Fanenbruck of their products.

To deliver a vegan experience, Ethos partners with brands that share the same vision. Currently, he delivers this experience with a team of seven employees. Their average age is 22.

Most Ethos clients are Kenyan-Indians who lead a vegan lifestyle, health-conscious expats and locals, and young Kenyan foodies who want to make food choices that are good for the plant, he shares.

“They’re quite happy to find that vegan products and foods don’t have to be boring,” the passionate vegan says, adding that an organic and vegan customised smoothie bowl is his next launch product.

As I leave, I ask him if he misses meat. “I was a vegetarian throughout my teens and tweens then had a fall back to organic meat products. But with my newly won ability to imitate cheese and meat products, I don’t miss meat at all!”

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