Interview with Clean Bean - Vegetarian Winner 2019 | Unilever Food Solutions UK

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This small but perfectly formed Seaham restaurant saw off stiff competition from all over the UK to be named the winner of the Best Vegetarian or Vegan Roast Dinner in Knorr® Professional’s Great British Roast Dinner Competition 2019.

So who are Linda and Paul Barron, and why did they decide to launch this pioneer of clean eating in England’s North East?

1. Tell us about your restaurant. What’s your story and what makes it different?

Clean Bean is a 100% gluten-free restaurant, whose concept was born out of personal experience.

When Paul had to make a drastic lifestyle change as a result of his personal health, we soon realised that there were few eat-out establishments that could cater to his needs. So we took the plunge and decided to fill this gap, even though we had zero experience in the hospitality sector!

But we had travelled a lot and learned about food from other cultures - which is what inspired our concept and our diverse menu.  We recognised the challenge consumers might face in finding natural, versatile and balanced dishes, and we opted for a more simple and natural approach with Clean Bean, promoting food that aides wellbeing and strengthens the body from the inside out. 

2. What do people love about your menu? How often is your menu updated? Is there a time of the year when your dishes are most popular?

Our menu is entirely centred around fresh, high-quality ingredients the way nature intended. Nothing is brought in and nothing is processed: it’s all prepared in-house and contains everything the body needs to function optimally such as vitamins, antioxidants, good fats, fibre, protein and complex carbohydrates.

We also decided to be 100% gluten-free. Some people who suffer from Coeliac disease read the menu and realise they can eat everything on it, and they are genuinely shocked.

We used our experiences as travellers to inspire the “Clean Bean Around the World” concept, where we update the menu every two weeks with dishes inspired by Lebanon, Sweden, Jamaica, Thailand etc.

Our Wellness Bowls are also extremely popular in the summer, and our healthy soups and pimped up Northumbrian Pan Haggerty seems to sell as the weather gets colder.

3. What makes your roast a winner? What’s your favourite ingredient?

Our nut roast is made with mushrooms and chickpeas, and our stuffing is primarily made with quinoa, giving a crunchy texture on top of the softer mash. We serve these with roasted/charred vegetables, again giving texture but also retaining the flavours that would be lost when boiled.

Our favourite ingredient has to be our homemade Nut Roast, it’s so tasty and healthy and our customers love it.

4. How do you get customers through the door?

Our restaurant has become part of our community. We tried to incorporate as much as we could from local industries – like for instance the bricks we have gathered from the old mines. It’s all reclaimed, handmade and designed by us. And we host art by a local art group.

We have tried different means of advertising, but what brings our customers back time after time is that we genuinely care about their whole experience and that brings in their families, friends, colleagues etc. To us reputation is everything.