Interviewing Love Yourself Founder & CEO Wojtek Kolan

Interviews (Podcast, Videos & Written)
Interviewing Love Yourself Founder & CEO Wojtek Kolan
Nicola Raimondo

Nicola Raimondo

Co-Founder at Marvin's Den, The Italian Foodpreneur Podcast Host

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In this series, I interview leading food founders and food business experts. The aim is to extract their experiences and any tips & tricks that they may have learned along the way!

In this post, I interview Wojtek Kolan. He's the CEO of Love Yourself. Love Yourself, which is one of the meal prep companies on the Marvin’s Den mobile app is a fairly recent business, it was founded about three years ago and it has grown now into a multi-million-pound revenue per year business.

Wojtek is going to share with you a lot of really good insights into his background, which is unbelievable. You see, when he was just 4 years old he moved to Australia and he has led a really successful life and career. He truly has a lot of wisdom to share and we go through it in this episode.

Here's the interview in written format

Hi Wojtek, I love this name, it sounds really cool – where are you from?

Yes, actually, I'm what you call a Pozzie. I'm half Australian, half Polish.

That's really interesting, how come?

At the age of four, I moved to Australia. My parents left me when I was three years old and they went to Australia. So I travelled all by myself at the age of four to Australia. So I arrived there. I didn't speak English or anything. So it was a big change as a young child. So I spent 20 odd years living in Perth in Australia.

And after that?

Then I came to London in the year 2000 and then I was more involved and more interested in having a good time backpacking, travelling, doing these kinds of things. And then I had an opportunity in one of the places I was working to go out to China. So I was working for this company, and they sent me off to China to sort out their electric scooters because this company was one of the first in the UK to sell electric scooters.

When was that?

This was back in 2004, so it was way before. Now we see these electric scooters everywhere on the road. So this guy came up with the idea in 2004 and he had problems with his manufacturing plant in Shanghai and he goes, Wojtek, do you want to go to China to fix the problem? I thought: ‘Fantastic, Yes, I'll go there.’ So I went there and ended up fixing the problem of the electric scooters, the manufacturing issues, even though I had no idea what I was really doing.

So how did you get into entrepreneurship?

I found some other products that were out in China and I brought those products back and I showed my boss these products and he goes: 'If you can sell them, we'll buy them;'. So within a few days, I got the products onto Ideal shopping channel and we ended up selling £250,000 of product in 24 hours. And that kind of started my previous life in the gadget business. So I was doing that for about 15 years and I successfully built up a company to about £40 million. So we were doing all kinds of innovations, electronics, those kinds of items. I put the button on the selfie stick and that was really successful. We sold a few million selfie sticks, so that was fun. I got to travel the world, went to the best restaurants, stayed in hotels, and I flew business class everywhere. It was a really nice journey.

And how did the Love Yourself journey start?

My friend said he's got this idea about changing and revolutionizing the way that food is delivered. So he told me about it was basically that we deliver food exactly what people need for breakfast, lunch, dinner. We'll give them all the calories that they need and we'll cook it fresh to make sure there's no additives, no preservatives, none of the nasties.

That seems great for busy professionals, doesn't it?

Yes, one of the biggest problems is you get when you go to the high street or if you go out for lunch with your work colleagues, there's not very many healthy places to get food. Quite often you're stuck on an industrial estate and the only options you've got are Greg's, Subway etc. So even if you want to eat healthily, you can't eat healthily and then you end up spending, like ten pounds anyway for something you didn't even enjoy in the first place. So I thought, this is a really great idea, but we have to do it. So it's cheap and affordable. Because I was thinking, let's go mass market. We needed to get the right price point. So we probably positioned ourselves too cheap to begin with, because I didn't understand the complexities of this business, the cost of delivering fresh every day, of producing fresh meals. So there's actually a reason why not many people have done this before, because it's bloody complicated. It's very operationally, challenging it's. So that's why you end up having processed food, treated food, canned food. For food to be delivered fresh, it needs a whole logistics and transportation to keep food at a certain temperature. So, yeah, it's challenging to give our customers the very best we can at an affordable price has always been the goal. And one of the things I've really enjoyed doing along the way is knowing the effects that food has on people's lives. It can really help people. It can make them healthier.

If you're healthier, you're happier as well!

Yeah, exactly. You're healthier, you're happier. So it's just helping people along that journey as well as well as mental health. I've got a few theories about diets and mental health and how they interlink, which maybe we can talk about later on.

Well, that's a really impressive story. I can't help but think that, going back to your very formation years, kind of being dropped and travelling alone to a completely new country so young in a country like Australia, that must have really taught you how to kind of fend for yourself a lot. Of course, always staying with your family all the time is how we wish everyone would grow up. But at the same time, you can't ignore some of the benefits of that because you just become very independent.

Yeah. I didn't actually realize this until recently in my life, very recently, that the stress of leaving Poland and travelling to Australia at such a young age would have imprinted on who I am today. So basically the interpretation of that is always in survival mode. You have flight free Faun. When you're in survival mode, your body is different. So at the age of four, I would have been in survival mode, getting on that plane all by myself during the Cold War. So this is like the Hut, the peak of the Cold War. So it was very difficult even to leave Poland because there was communists everywhere. It was quite difficult. So I don't remember all the details, but I'm sure I would have been quite scared as a child travelling and going on that plane. And when I arrived in Australia, we had the camera crew, the West Australian newspaper arrived. And I just think that whole at such a young age, whatever happens to you at that age, it kind of stays with you. It imprints a certain defense mechanism. And so I think I've had to maybe not fence for myself because I had very loving parents and really nice small family in Australia. But it taught me to be resilient and adaptable.

Resilience is probably the best predictor for kind of success. Can I ask what kind of background did you have? What did you study or did you kind of learn by yourself to create all of these products? Are you more of an inventor type or more business-minded?

Yeah, I'm more of a creative. So I'd say my key skill is having a good eye.  Good eye for a product, my eye sees things that maybe other eyes don't see. So I tend to know what works, and what doesn't work. And as a teenager, I quite got into computers, even at the early ages of the Internet. I was an early kind of hacker-esque kind of guy trying to find out, pushing the limits. What is this Internet? How can we hack the Internet? What can we get from it? So that was really I learned a lot about computers and about the World Wide Web at an early age, even like before Google. Actually, I think it was before Google using a search engine called Ultra Vista at the time, back in 20 19 94 Vista and Go as a search engine, they were doing all different banner advertising, gambling sites, cost per clicks, CPMs, all that stuff. That's a completely different era of the Internet is where we are now. I think the era that we're in on the Internet now is I think it's very difficult for new brands to come in. The Internet is so congested and populated for any new brand to come in. They need to have a really big budget to make any impact because it's going to take them a long time for Google to pick them up, SEO to start working and it's difficult to keep a customer because there's so many new companies popping up. The loyalty amongst the customers is a lot lower than what it was ten years ago. So I think there's been a major shift in the Internet and even more so with social commerce that we're living in now and even more is coming around the corner.

It's quite a complex digital world that we live in now, but for sure, I mean, you had the kind of early Internet experience, but you must also have new Internet experience because Love yourself is how old?

Just three trading years.

And from what appears to me the growth has been incredible. While also at a time probably you were one of the really early ones. Maybe at the beginning you had a couple of competitors, but now there are many meal prep companies on the market and ready meals.

Yeah, I think we made it just in time, just in time to start the company because you had the likes of people like Hello Fresh and Gusto who do their recipe boxes. So they've owned that recipe box market where you have to cook the food yourself, but nobody was really doing ready meals. So the way I saw it is it's like the next stage of that development. Why cook when you can get everything delivered ready to eat fresh, calorie, controlled and in a way that was a bit of a blessing for us. We started the company and left the company in a pilot mode for a year just to see whether customers like it. We had very minimal expenses, very minimal kitchen, and we're seeing if customers liked it and to see what the repeat orders were with customers. And it seemed to be working. We were delivering 150 deliveries every day, we had repeat customers but we weren't making any money. However, we could see the business was working and it could be scaled and then covet happened and I actually saw COVID happen probably earlier than a lot of other people because I'm quite close to China and I was just reading about what's happening in China with COVID, so I just thought, well, this is a good opportunity now to do some marketing about covert. You want to stay home, stay safe. So COVID really helped us in terms of getting out there to customers, helped us so much that we outgrew our kitchen that we were in, we couldn't produce any more. Our orders went three times. Basically, they went up to 600 deliveries a day in a short period of time, so we couldn't produce all that food in that kitchen space. So during lockdown, it was difficult to find any place to rent because everything was closed. You couldn't see any real estate agents. So I went to my local Church and I spoke to the priest and he said that we can use the Church community hall as an add-on to our packing area.

That's a really good add on. You had a higher force pushing yourself forward!

Everyone had to work because we're food production. We were considered key workers, so our drivers, our staff and all the production people, they all had to work in order for the company to do what it has to do. So it was nice working from the Church different environment to where we are now. Then after that Church episode, then we got some angel funding, met some lovely angel investors that came on with some very good experience and then we could start looking at places because we couldn't stay at the Church forever, we needed something professional. Then we moved to a place in Park Royal where we've got quite a big kitchen now about 300 m² of space and we're producing about 5000 meals a day at the moment.

Wow! And is that all direct-to-consumer or do you also have any wholesale?

No, that's all direct-to-consumer. We've got B2B projects in development at the moment where we'll be doing our own range of healthy sources. So anything that we do and love yourself, we have to add a different element to it. So we don't want to use any sugars, any fats, nothing processed. So we're coming up with 100% natural organic range of sources, hot sauces and other products which are low carb to sell to the BGB market.

Wow, that's really impressive. How did you get to so many orders? Of course, as you said, COVID helped. But as a fairly new business, what kind of has been the driver to that? What sales channel have you really found a lot of success and probably that differs from each stage of the company because maybe when you're very early, something maybe not very scalable work and then maybe something else works when you're a bit more mature and then now maybe something else really works.

I think what you said is very true. Different strategies work at different stages of the business. What worked really well when we were smaller was doing events. We could go to a small event like private fitness people hosting an event of 40 or 50 people attending and we would sign up ten to ten people at those events, but they weren't very scalable because we could never find enough of those events. Maybe that was due to covert at that time. So everything that we kind of wanted to do, we couldn't really do because of COVID. So we quite quickly switched our mentality to being very internet digital driven. And then we discovered Facebook and Google, especially Facebook. Facebook was really good sales strategy for us for about two years. It was giving a very good return. We knew with Facebook that if we put £1 in, we would get £5 come out the other end. So it wasn't like a slot machine where you put your money in. A lot of marketing is like a slot machine. You put your money in, press the lever and nothing comes out. I think Facebook was more like a vending machine. You could put your money in and you know what's coming out. But all that changed last year with the iOS update coming in. Really through all the data, all the tracking data, Privacy policies, it really made that investment a lot worse. And it's just been on a downward trend ever since. I was seeing an article the other day that Facebook the cost of advertising on Facebook has increased 90% over the past twelve months. I can validate that. It's definitely we're not getting anywhere near the bang for buck than we were before. And I think that's due to a lot of new companies in that space, a lot of competition and a heavy reliance on social media retail sales.

So what do you think now? You kind of think that really works because to be honest, as a new app, very natively digital, we bet a lot of our ads in the Facebook advertising budget and actually the first couple of weeks it really worked well, but then it's been really terrible and we're actually exploring right now new sales channels. For instance, we're trying to connect with gyms, we're trying to do some offline, but we're still very much in the exploring phase. So for you, what's really working right now?

At the moment, there is no magic bullet. We're looking for that. That's something that's really special, to be honest. The past few weeks have been really quiet generally, I think, in the online space. So I'm not surprised. I've been speaking to other people, and they're saying the same thing. I don't know whether just on a very short time focus is the threat of inflation, the war in Ukraine, all this negativity in the news, whether that's having an impact on consumer spending. Well, one thing that we've got a good base of existing customers that keep on ordering. But in order to get new customers at the moment, it's very difficult. It's a very tricky time.

You said you have a really good eye for product ideas, understanding if they will work. We believe, of course, that it's really important for enabling customers to have on one app. So first of all, to order meal prep on an app, and second of all, to kind of have it's amazing that there are all these new meal prep companies. But for new customers especially, there are many people getting into meal prep because it's a fairly new concept. And with all these new companies, there's a lot of offering. But it can be quite overwhelming with all these companies with their own niche to kind of find the one that really works for you. So we believe that everything in an app will be very beneficial for some customers. Many of your customers are surely happy to just order from Love Yourself. But we believe that there are some people who may get bored a bit more easily from the same company, so those people will benefit from an app in which they can order one week from Love Yourself, one week from another meal prep company, all in the same app, one account. Do you think there's merit to that? And what do you think would be kind of our challenges if you want to help me out?

Yeah, I think what you've done, you're definitely the first person to enter a platform business for a platform marketplace. Right. So you're kind of like a marketplace in a sense. I think you're the first one to capture that. And there's so many meal prep companies now in that space. I think it makes sense that you've got the supply chain of different companies. You just need to focus on getting the customers to come in. On the other side, I think any platform is always a chicken and egg scenario. Do you need to get the supply first or do you need to get a customer first? It's always a difficult challenge. We've been trying to balance this, but to be honest, we've been really happy with onboarding companies like Love Yourself. It makes us feel that we had a really good start in terms of supply side. I believe that very soon for both of us, we'll find a way that we don't need to use the likes of Facebook and Instagram, that we can use our own proprietary software there to talk to our customers, to our customers, customer society, to the influence from our customers and the people they know, the further relations. And I think that is the best way of gaining customers is through having a good product, then referring them to their community and so on. I think that is what we're working on more rather than having bigger spend budgets, it's more about let's use utilize the people that we've already got, the community that we're very close with and let them become ambassadors, let them talk about Love Yourself to others. And I think we can facilitate this whole community building through clever software that we can infiltrate.

Are you kind of talking about kind of maybe blockchain, for instance, such as, I'm not an expert, but from what I understand, there are some opportunities in blockchain of kind of removing the middleman, whatever that's Facebook or for example, in the music industry, it's your Spotify, your Apple Music kind of having that more direct relationship with your fans or in our case, with our customers. Do you think that can be kind of the feature for companies?

I'm not smart enough to understand blockchain, how blockchain can be used to acquire customers, but I do believe that by having a platform of our own, instead of using a website like Shopify, which is very limited, by having our own platform, which is built for the needs of Love Yourself, then we can turn that into a social commerce experience. Okay, that's a very interesting insight. At the moment, there are many opportunities as we talk about blockchain. The masterverse apparently is going to come eventually, maybe not. There are many concerns. Nick, what is your background? Are you a technical guy?

No, I mean, I'm talking technical right now because it is fascinating, but I'm no expert at all. I'm the food guy in Marvin's Dan. Abhi, who is the CEO and the founder, he is a software engineer, and he's very savvy online and in digital stuff, that kind of stuff. He, of course, made the app with some other technicals and the website and all the back offices, et cetera. But you seem very kind of creative and also intuitive person. So, yeah, it's good to bounce those ideas off of you. So do you see, for example, ideally, that Love Yourself's website will become almost its own social media platform?

Yes, it will become its own social media platform with commerce integrated. Yeah. It's not just a transaction, but it's a whole more built for content creators to post their content, to bring their community into this platform. So other like minded health companies, whether they're nutritionists, personal coaches, personal trainers, all kinds of, wellbeing, people, they can all come into our universe and interact with one another, whether that's doing broadcasting, videos, community posts, forums, chat, it's going to be a place of love. Yes. Weather wider, love Yourself community can hang out and interact with each other. We've been working on this for quite some time, but we're very excited that we're close to launch. Really. Something close to, like a very social platform is close to launch. Yeah. Wow. That's a big as with all these things, it should have been ready earlier, but there's bug fixing and all these. It's getting the finesse rice for the last final part, which always takes the longest bit of time because we don't want to launch something that's not going to turn people away. We want to launch it to make sure that's bug free, because we've got an app at the moment. But it's purely a commerce transactional app.

Wow. This will revolutionize the company. Wow. And I mean, even the industry, probably because there aren't any. Like, I can't think of many websites, even not just meal prep, in which they're not just transactional, but they're also social at the same time. I'm really curious to see when you launch it. Let me know, because I'm really curious to see how it is. So you mentioned that you also have got an app to launch, or is that only on the website?

It's a mobile-first approach. The whole platform has been built to be in your pocket. And the objective is, of course, as we know, people are switching more and more towards mobile, and probably soon we will have even smaller gadgets that can connect you to the Internet and to the virtual world. Like, for example, Apple watches are kind of a fair starting point, I guess.

How do you see that affecting ordering food? For instance, however, I've listened to a podcast interview by Stephen Bartlett, interviewing the founder of Deliveroo, Will Shu. And towards the end of the podcast, Will kind of talked about how he sees the Deliveroo app becoming, as you said, less and less transactional. But rather than necessarily more social, it talks about it becoming more emotional. I think that's kind of the word they use. So more about the story, the background of the food, maybe even the smells, even. What do you see in the future?  

Yeah. I think food is always a very cultural community social experience. But by nature, food has been for generations a social way of interacting, whether it's families or get-togethers, friends, different religions, cultures. Food is quite often the pinnacle of a defined culture. I think food and social community is very important. But I do like what the delivery guy we just mentioned said about bringing the flavour and the smell and bringing the emotional concept of food. I think that definitely gets your mouth watering when you see something nice on-screen and you can almost smell the flavours coming out.

Yes, that would be an amazing technology. There's a lot going on here in the world of smells. For instance, they even developed a device that basically can smell your room. Like you put this small device in your room and it can detect from smelling any harmful stuff in the air. And yeah, there's a lot of new technology in the world of smell. And I'm pretty sure that in the not too distant future, there is going to be that technology of being able to allow customers on the app to press something and then smell the meal. And that's going to be so exciting.

I think in our lifetime we'll see these kinds of new innovations coming into place, especially inputting into our brain playing Pong, for example, just with your brain. That will definitely happen. Yeah. Are we going to start, do you think, with this new technology, like games with very basic games such as the games in the 80s or they're going to be straight away super? I think it will take some time to learn how to use your brain to send off the right frequencies and communications to that device. I've tried some of these early contraptions where you see a Pixel on the screen and you have to use your brain power to move that Pixel. I wasn't very good at it, but I saw some other people who have been practicing and they could move their Pixel around quite well. So I think it's just a matter of time until we have a very simple game like Pong or Pacman that could be used with the power of your mind.

As you said, you're Polish, and if it's possible would you be able to share your thoughts as to what's going on in Ukraine? So not just you as a person but also as a business kind of took this kind of current situation to heart. For instance, on our most superficial level, I believe, like your Instagram picture now has the flag of Ukraine. So originally being Polish and having basically ran away from a war, albeit a cold war, but still a conflict. How do you kind of process what's going on?

To be honest, it's been so difficult to process. I mean, this is the most unexpected thing I've ever seen in my life. No one would have predicted that this was going to happen. I remember like 30 days ago when the Russians were at the Ukraine border. Nobody thought they were going to cross it. Then one day I wake up and I was watching this, I've been monitoring this going on. So I find out I've got an interest in the activity that goes on. I've been checking the news almost every day and then I check it one morning and they say that the Russian soldiers have walked into Ukraine. I was shocked, really shocked. Do you even believe it? At first? Maybe you felt like it was some reporting against could be fake news, because I always am very careful about the news to always look at news subjectively. I don't trust one source of news, but yeah, it was true and completely shocking. So sorry for the people that have to put up with that happening in their country.

Yeah. To be honest, it's like beyond my imagination. Perhaps you can imagine better. But yeah, imagine living your country, your livelihood, everything behind because of the choice of some people with enormous amounts of power that really cannot relate to your situation. I really wonder when, as a word, we're going to realize that we're all humans. I mean, there are no borders at the end of the day. It's just something that we made up many years ago that doesn't make sense...

I completely agree. I don't believe there should be flags. There should be one United Earth, one Federation of Earth, where there is a central government that would control the better interests of Earth as a whole. I know that's a little bit Star Warsy, but I don't think having flags and wars and competing the world has enough resources to go about around to everyone without certain countries taking the biggest share of those resources, which I think is ultimately unfair.

Yeah. I mean, even just talking about food, how much food do we waste? Not just in the UK, but in Western society. And then, of course, there are many areas of the world, many parts of the world that don't have access to food. But there is enough food so we should not have an hunger problem. So there is more than enough food, but it's just a misallocation of resource.

It is a misallocation of resources. There's so much that we could all do to help Africa. It's within our power to end poverty. I don't believe that the world's interests are aligned because everyone's too worried about their own country's interests and the power of their greed ultimately.

Let's talk about some positives. What are some positives either in your life or Love Yourself? What's really driving you? For instance, when I kind of get outside of business, when I cook for my family or my friends outside or inside my home and they complement my food, that's when I feel the best. What action results in maximum satisfaction for you?

I think helping people, for me, is my ultimate higher purpose. I enjoy helping people, whether it's our customers, our staff, or just random people. I enjoy putting a positive effect and leaving positive footprints to everyone that I touch. I try, but by no means it doesn't work out a lot of the time. But I think you're right. It's all about the amount of negativity in the world at the moment with the inflation and the war and all this, and there's just negative news all the time. But I think there's a lot of positive news that we can have. Everyone listening or reading this interview are all very lucky people. We're born in the top 1% economically. We've got food on our plates, we've got shelter, we've got safety, although we may not think it's safe, but it's still a lot safer than most other people. So we're all very blessed. And I think we need to think about that every day and think how blessed we are and thank the higher powers that they have chosen us to be in this position, and we should do our best to help others and not take you for granted.

So is there any connection between this and kind of the name behind love yourself? I guess if I can make a wide guess is love yourself mainly comes from the idea of don't buy food from very large corporations, so don't love them because that's kind of harming you. It's like buying from these foods is not loving yourself. It's loving these companies, but buy food to actually kind of nourish yourself, to love yourself, to kind of gift yourself good nutrition, taste, convenience, and save yourself time. So love yourself. Right?

Love Yourself means different things to different people. Some people automatically laugh as though it's got like a sexual way of about it. Okay. I thought, like, maybe too cheesy. Yeah. There are some people that say that, for me, Love Yourself is actually you have to love yourself. I think first you have to appreciate who you are, love who you see do your best. And I think by helping others, you're loving yourself, but you can't help others until you love yourself first. So it's about self-love. It's about gratitude, joy, eating well, feeling good and having confidence. These are all key points in the name. So I think the name means different things to different people.

Have you had any kind of standout stories? Maybe especially during the pandemic? For example, in the previous episode I recorded with Nourish Fit Food, they found that during the pandemic their meals, they received letters from elderly people because their sons or younger relatives ordered on their behalf on the website and then sent them the meals. And that was kind of game-changing for them. Have you had any similar stories, maybe inside or outside the pandemic with Love Yourself, that kind of really stand out to your memory?

We tend to have customers who stay with us for a long time. And they say they've lost eight kilos, ten kilos to stone. It's quite common. Generally, we find that not that losing weight is important because I think everyone needs to feel comfortable in the body they're in. And one important thing about loving yourself is not to put yourself under too much stress. A lot of people will go, they need to lose weight. That's all they really care about. And they go to this hardcore diet. They'll go to the gym, they'll train hard, they'll pull a muscle, they'll strain themselves physically and mentally. And then as they get more tired, their willpower drops. And then when their willpower drops, they tend to do something foolish and then they'll break their diet and then they'll get upset about what they've done and it creates a cycle. So I think we're all human, we all have limited willpower. So I think it's important not to be too hard for yourself. If you want to go on a diet, stay sustainable. Weight loss of like one kilo, one and a half kilos per month, and keeping yourself mentally strong and stable is the way to have a good lifestyle and on track weight management, that's my opinion. But I think mental health and diet are very interlinked. If we're stressed out, for example, if we're stressed, we'll tend to eat. So it's how we handle stress. I mean, so many times we see people who look at them and you know that you don't need fasting to stand on the scales. You can just see them and they're very obese. But you ask them, what do you eat? And they go, I just have smoothies and soups and I consume 800 calories a day. But it's impossible when you look at them, they're massively obese. So they must be eating in most cases. But it's down to stress. I think they're stress-eating.

And related to that, what I really appreciate about Love Yourself is even though clearly you kept a lot of loyalty and he talked about it, how it's been one of the biggest drivers of success while onboarding your meals and your descriptions onto our app, I've noticed that you have in comparison to others much longer descriptions and explanations. And I don't know if that's the intent behind it, but of course, it kind of educates the customer. And so I think those descriptions, which are very science-based and expertise-based, can eventually educate your customers to kind of stop relying on yourself, actually so damaging your business, but kind of ultimately helping the customer to have the skills to be nutritious by themselves.

We see that all the time customers will come to us, stay with us for two months. They'll learn a few critical things about diet and the main one is portion size. They will actually learn to see what those 2000 calories look like. And then when they stop Love Yourself, they've got an idea of how much they should be eating. So I think that is a great help to our customers to actually understand what those 2000 calories look like. Understanding portion control. And I think a lot of the time people just overeat. It's quite easy to overeat, especially when people are drinking, they'll tend to overeat. So if people go out and they have the guys go out, they have four or five pints. Each pint is 250 calories times four. That's 1000 calories. But then what happens? They're a little bit pissed. They've had four or four pints and then they make worse decisions about what they're going to eat. Then they could have a kebab that's going to be 7800 calories before they'd know they've consumed an extra two and a half thousand calories on top of everything else they've consumed that day. So I think it's important to have an understanding of what you're eating calorie-wise and what you're burning calorie-wise.

What's kind of your advice to people that may be kind of used to overeating, then they switch to Love Yourself and they found the portions too small. Is there any tips that you can say to make it easier for them to stick to better portions?

Yeah, it's best to speak to our dietician. You can do some consultations with people, but generally what I find is people don't get hungry because they're eating. Let's say some guy eats two and a half thousand calories of junk food. That's not a lot in mass weight, but when you have two and a half thousand calories of healthy, nutritious food, it actually weighs a lot more and there's a lot more food to get through. So we find that by giving people five portions a day, it keeps them fuller and they don't actually get as hungry as they would just by having two big meals a day, which a lot of people do. So the way we do it is we give you five portions of food throughout the day, breakfast, lunch, dinner, two snacks or calorie controlled so you don't feel the need to eat as much and you're Fuller longer.

Yeah, that's a really good point. Also it's almost like a time thing as well. I think probably because if you see yourself eating five times, first of all, probably if you buy from Love Yourself, it could be because you're a very busy person. So if the only times available in your day for food, basically you already could buy five slots. I think that probably helps to you just don't have the physical time and I think those kind of nudges can be really helpful because when you're busy you don't really think about food. If you're like truly busy.

Yeah. I mean it is difficult to eat five portions of food a day. It's not easy. But when you've got those five portions, you'll take a mental note to have your 15 minutes morning snack, take some breaths, de-stress and then have lunch two or 3 hours later and then have an afternoon snack. And then if you have your dinner, our dinners tend to be smaller than our lunches because we believe that you shouldn't go to bed with a full stomach. So our lunches are a higher calorie than our dinners.

Since joining Love Yourself, is there much about nutrition you have learnt or where you already confident?

I've learned a lot and I still have so much more to learn. It's a fascinating field and quite often in nutrition there is no correct answer. A lot of it is theory based. So for example, is fasting good or is fasting bad? What time should you have breakfast? When should you have your last meal? All these questions, are juice diets good for you? Are they bad for you? Is a keto diet good for you or is it bad for you? But one thing I've learnt is everybody is different. Very few people have the same dietary requirements. So I think it's got to do with genetics of people. Where the genetics come from and what food works best for that particular genetic group is one of the theories, which I think is quite true. So somebody from, let's say from Asia, from a warm country, they have a lot of fresh fruit, they tend to have a higher carb diet, more fruits, and then switching them to an all-meat diet isn't probably the best for them because it's the same as somebody from a cold country where they have no fresh fruit during the year. Then giving them a diet full of fruits is also not going to do best for them because it's not in their historic DNA gene makeup.

Yeah, that's a good point. Do you think then if that theory is true, which I mean logically makes sense, do you think that people who maybe are like a new generation from completely different parts of the world may struggle, say somebody from South-East China moving to Finland, for instance.

I mean, I know that now that could be a very good point, that the migration of people in this modern, in this century, people are moving all around, which could be a theory. I don't know, but it could be a theory of why there's such a high case of diabetes and why there's more nutritional diseases than there was before, because the genetics are made for this travel and different diets. It could be a theory. It sounds plausible!

It's really interesting stuff, as you said. Nowadays, to be fair, like in Finland, you're going to find exotic fruits, for instance. But I mean, maybe still, even if you hit them often, even in Finland, probably there's still some effect because maybe they're not as ripe, not as vitamin rich. You will need them all year round, though, right?

In Finland, they'll grow in the summer time and that would be it. Now we have fruit all year round. We can have mangoes in winter, pineapples and coconut. There's many different theories. Maybe we should eat what's local to us, what's produced at that time of the year, but we tend to import everything. We import what flavors are trending, things like avocados and coconuts. Most plant-based milks are all imported. Most plant produce is imported. The UK grows very little. So it's a very deep and complicated subject.

Yeah. I mean, I don't want to go back on the negative, but actually I have never discussed about it on the podcast, as Brexit has had any serious impact on kind of the way you love yourself needs to sort their like fruits and vegetables.

Yeah, it did have a big impact on us, but we moved very quickly. And Brexit is a thing of the past now. Completely a thing of the past. We buy UK where we can all our supply. We've moved to UK. We tend not to get European produce where possible. And we've been using UK suppliers as before. Brexit, we have deliveries coming in from all over Europe, but because of a lot of the difficult administration and importing regulations, it all became too much. So we managed to quickly resource everything. We had a great team in place that made this transition. So I think we transitioned well. And we also things that are non food, we get made in China as well, directly.

I'm sure you have an advantage there. As you said, you have a good kind of base from China!

So we've made our own packaging, which I think is very cool. It's completely biodegradable. It's your own kind of manufactured in China. It's our own manufactured. It's our tooling, it's our design, it's our mold, it's owned by us and it's fully biodegradable. Yeah, fully biodegradable. So the paper composition, it's a Brown crafty paper. That paper composition is called bagasse. And that's like a paper pulp, but then it's lined with a PLA material which is made from corn. Plastic cornstarch and it biodegrades. So I've got a compost in the back of my house. So I tested this out and it decomposes in six to eight weeks. So what I do is I use yourself containers to plant my tomato seeds and chili seeds or my greenhouse, because then as the roots come out, it breaks through that paper, and then you can just replant it. It makes great gardening.

You're a gardener yourself! I've done lots of gardening during the pandemic because I went back to Italy. Now in the last basically in the last year or so, just in London, I'm in a flat without any garden or anything. So you've got a garden, you've got a greenhouse. How's it going?

Yeah, I mean, I'm still yet to start this season. I've been quite busy. But normally I like to start getting the seeds out and probably growing the seeds at an early stage. So I noticed you said you're Italian, which I could tell by your accent. We had this email from a customer, and he said, Please do not give me any pasta unless it's cooked by an Italian. What do you say to that?

Look, Italians, we're special, let's say, not to use any bad words. We're a special kind, very proud about our food and not very open minded about it, let's be frank. So my apologies on his behalf.

It's very good to be proud of your food, our nutritionist and the girl that makes the menus and creates the menu, she's Italian. And when we tell her, put chicken in a pesto, she says 'No, you cannot put chicken in a pesto!'

Yeah, it works out with the nutrition. We need to make sure our meals are balanced. And just by having pesto and pasta may not give enough protein for what is recommended.

Yeah, like Italian recipes. I mean, I think all countries recipes regionally are not meant to be nutritionally complete. So it's very hard for your prep to kind of replicate them 100%. So, of course, there should be some understanding about that because you can't have everything. You can't have super traditional recipes, but at the same time, nutritionally complete.

But maybe that's actually, like, a huge advantage for a company like yourself. Because if you are Italian, you know that you can do your own cheat meals, but you can't trust yourself to make a nutritionally balanced pasta because we would never put chicken there. So that means we would buy ourselves. So if you give the dirty work to another company, you can maybe blind yourself and eat it, and then you'll have nutrition complete. Yeah. Because it's like somebody else does the crime. But I need the nutrition, right?

Yeah, exactly we can just don't call it pesto, we'll call it pine nuts and pasta!

Can you share any background on the other co-founder Michal? Love Yourself is of course really proud of his experience as a Michelin-trained chef.

Yeah, he's fantastic. He's a top chef. It's so interesting to see the culture of chefs compared to the culture of office people. The kitchen culture versus office culture is completely different, the way they interact and talk to each other. Michal likes to keep a very strict, disciplined ship there. It's like if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen kind of style. There's no messing about. They have a rank system. There's a chef director, sue chef. It's like a military operation.

Yeah, it's a war. I mean, I've been in a kitchen.

It's great. I love cooking myself, but I've never worked in a commercial environment. But what they do is a fantastic. It's amazing. I love to watch them. We only have a relatively small team. We have about 78 people in the kitchen. That includes all the prep people, the washing people. They can produce a lot of food. Wow. That's a lot trained them really well. He not only creates the menus of Benedetta, but then he implements a whole system of how this is produced. And we actually have almost zero food waste because we know what we're getting in orders two days in advance. So we know today what orders we're going to have on Monday, and we can order the exact amount of ingredients. So we actually hold almost zero stock. We order on a daily basis to make sure that all the ingredients arrive fresh, similar to what a restaurant will do. But the advantage of us versus a restaurant is that restaurants don't really know what they're going to sell on a Thursday night. They may be busy, they may not be busy, but they still need to buy the produce. We know in advance exactly how many orders we have to produce on a certain day. One of the advantages, I suppose, of meal prep and online and systems.

Yeah, that's a very good point. Sometimes customers get a bit upset about the fact that you need to order in advance. There's like a deadline with many mutual prep companies. But, yeah, I mean, it brings many benefits in terms of the inventory of food and eliminating food waste, which is huge and should be a huge thing in our society nowadays. So I think the meal prep industry, in a way, is very sustainable and very efficient and always full. Do you believe that customers would be happier if they could order now and get it within 30 minutes?

I guess it depends on individual people. I can speak personally. For instance, these companies that kind of do ultra, super fast delivery within even like now you can even get in ten to 15 minutes. It's a bit over the top, but in some situation I found it very useful. So I'm not going to take much away from them. But I just can't see that business model working. They're wasting so much money. So talking on a business perspective, I think they're really unsustainable. They're really wasting a lot of money. And I don't know how they're going to be profitable unless maybe they have robots or drones delivering. But even in that case, it's very I don't know how to look like you want to have a walk and you can't find people by your feet like just robots. I don't know if it's amazing, but at the same time. So I also think that planning your week ahead in terms of meals, good things come to those who wait.

If you order in advance, it means you're thinking about it in advance. You're planning in advance. Like you can't really plan last minute. Because then you're going to make some impulse decisions and it's not ideal for your diet, for your plan. So of course there are pros and cons, in my view. But, yeah, I'd be really interested to see what you think about it.

I think that that model that's very big now to get it quick. I'm not quite sure how sustainable that is. And it's only a matter of time until they will get replaced by drones or robots or automated cars. And I think one of the bigger challenges is the demographics. If someone's in a village just out of London there, they're not in reach. It's a very complicated business. It's more of a logistical business, I think, rather than a distribution business, more about logistics. And there are so many of these companies.

Right. Like you have Gorillas, Yango Daily, Jiffy, Go Puff...there are so many and I really don't know how they're doing it. They must be waiting ton of money that could be going somewhere else.

I think they're giving people like ten pound free shop just to join and buy that. You can buy anything with that. Buy a bottle of whiskey with that ten pound. I was surprised that they were allowing any purchase for that initial order. Normally they say tgat it excludes alcohol and tobacco. I had a friend and he said that if you got it on Getir you could buy anything he wanted.

There are like at least five or six, at least in London. It's incredible! And I've seen some ready meals on there. For example. I believe there's Mindful Chef in one of them. I don't know if I'm biased because I have a meal prep app with meal prep companies on it. But as I said, I think the nature of meal prep is not ordering last second, because that's kind of like a desperation takeaway. I think if you want last-minute food, you go to Uber Eats delivery, that kind of model. I'm sure that delivery could switch to more healthy meals and then it's absolutely fine. But as I said, meal prep is innately something you plan in advance.

Yeah. I think food has got so many possibilities. That's a great industry to be in. I'm very happy I'm in the food industry. It's really got my mind working about the evolution of food. I mean, I found an amazing thing the other day, went to the exhibition at Excel, first time I've been there. So I saw all different food producers. It's quite fun actually going to a trade show again, because I've done a lot of trade shows in my life. But it was fun to go to this trade show because it's all food-based. But one of the best things I found was the world's biggest avocado. Avocado that is the size of a melon. I think it weighs about 1.5 kg. It's like eight times the size of a normal avocado. Must be like 3000 calories in that avocado! I'm waiting for it to ripen as I got one. I want to see how it ripens to make some guacamole.

Yeah, that's for Saturday night with some tortilla chips. But you've got to have those cheat days once in a while, actually, how do you see cheat days? Do you have any beliefs about them? Do you think if you have them once in a while and not too crazy, do you think they can actually be beneficial? Or at the end of the day it's just adding calories? There's so much contrasting information!

I think you can't live a life just focused on your diet all the time. You have to enjoy, you have to enjoy yourself. So as a company, we have a philosophy that you have one day a week, which is your cheat day, and that's a Sunday. It could be any other day because we deliver Monday to Saturday. It becomes the Sunday, but that's the day they could enjoy the pizza, enjoy some KFC. If you cheat one day, it's not going to offset your whole diet. It's quite easy just to recover back again on Monday. I think you have to be kind to yourself. You have to be kind to your inner self. If you keep having the leash that you can't do this, you can't do this. If you have to restrict yourself, then that's not good for your mental health either.

Yeah, and apparently we got really used to kind of high influxes of calories at once. For example, you can imagine at the very beginning of human time that we would find like a tree full of fruit and that fruit has a lot of sugar and actual calories, even though it's like a very natural thing and you could eat as many fruits as you wanted and you'd be fine. Of course, the problem is, of course, people nowadays in Western live very sedentary lives and they have these high-calorie influxes on a more consistent basis. Then of course it's going to be harmful. But actually our bodies got used to digesting high amounts of food all at once and maybe not eating for a couple of days or whatever.

Yeah, definitely. I think that's the ancestral way that we deal with diets. You can eat a lot at once and then not eat. But what we've got now is there's so much of everything. You can have a juice diet in the middle of winter and stock yourself up full of 20, drinking twelve apples a day, eight carrots, six pears. Go into a juice diet on a day that's not natural. Yeah. Also because juice it's kind of concentrating because you lose a lot of the fibre which slows down the sugar intake. Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed being on juice diets. But when you look at it logically, it's not really natural for our species to have that much fruit in one go.

Actually, I've never spoken to anyone doing that. How has it been?

I mean, I've done a juice diet the old fashioned way where I go to my greengrocer and I load up the apples and the carrots and the celery and it's a heavy bag to do a day of juicing. You've got to buy a lot of apples and that's where the benefits come from. You've got to do some muscle work to get the produce and then you got to clean the machine and everything. But one of the advantages of doing it yourself is you do get a lot of fibre. We've done juice diets in the past as a company as well. But the difference is with juice diet is customers don't stay with you for months on a juice diet. It's more of a short term. It could be just one day or three days.

How were your energy levels? Were you feeling full?

I discovered the juice diet through a guy called Jason Vale he's a very famous juice author and he's got a famous Jason Vale 7-day plan and 28-day plan. I read the book and I got motivated to do a juice diet this is actually before Love Yourself. It's when my friend had prostate cancer and he was quite obese, then he went on a juice diet and it changed his life! He went from let's say being 20 kg overweight to coming just on the right weight through juice diet. He didn't eat anything for months he was living his whole life on juice and it worked well for him, it really helped him! I couldn't last seven days because I went on a seven day diet but I gave up on day six because I was on a train and I didn't bring any juice with me and it was a long train up to Liverpool for a meeting and I didn't have any juice with me, I was hungry and I said I need to eat I can't do this anymore but I think if you're well prepared like with the meal prep and you think in advance and you've got the right food with you then it's achievable. I'm on a keto diet by the way at the moment that's my favorite diet! To be honest I love my carbs, I love my pasta, I love my rice, I love my tacos, I love carbs as well but I also love all the things you can do on keto diet like you can eat as much cheese as you like you can have as much fatty meats as you like you can have certain vegetables you have eggs you can have as much mayonnaise there are nice things to have on a keto diet!

To be honest the juice diet a prima facie to me seems completely crazy because thinking about on a nutritional perspective it's very limiting right? It's just fruit with a lot of sugar, not so much fibre and you're not chewing anything...but if you tried it for six days and you have experienced benefits that makes me curious! So why does it work, how do you feel, how is it?

I think well one thing I've noticed about myself and I've read about this other place is that when you're actually fasting it's a good place to be when you feel a little bit hungry that's why a lot of healthy Yogi gurus and all these kind of people they tend to fast a lot, and they tend to be on the borderline of being hungry not to overeat. Because once you overeat, then you become lethargic. So being on that kind of fasting level is quite good. On the juice diet, I always felt as though I'm a little bit hungry, but I had a lot of energy. You have a spring in your step because you don't feel sluggish as eating three bowls of pasta after eating three bowls of pasta, I'm like, just give me the remote control so you feel very light and full of your skin becomes more shiny. I think there's definitely benefits. I'd recommend for you to try a juice diet if you haven't, just for science sake, just to see what effect it has on your body.

I'm not asking your personal experience, but how's the toilet then?

There is no toilet time. You save time. I think you have a very little toilet time from memory because you're consuming maybe 800 calories a day in that juice diet. So personally, I think a juice diet is more just a big fast, which is healthy. I mean, a lot of different religions around the world have a fasting time. So I think it's just a tastier way to fast. Okay. Now I think I'm understanding the idea behind it, and I think you get enough sugar to make it sustainable that you can live life. But yeah, if you haven't tried, it is an interesting concept to see the difference. Yeah, for sure. It wouldn't be very good for muscle mass or anything like that, but just for cleansing the system, like a three day juice cleanse. Yeah, maybe there's a point. I just don't believe in like the detox size of juices. But at the same time, I really enjoy juices. And I understand that if you get quality fruits, it can be really healthy and you do it properly. So maybe you insert maybe some cruciferous vegetables and fruits that are not maybe too high in sugar, then it can be really healthy.

I'm definitely one of those people that are very kind of questioning detox claims. I think the liver does all that for you, what are your thoughts?

Yeah, I think the benefits are questionable, but I don't think it hurts. I don't think a three day juice cleanse would hurt anyone. Also on the Jason Vale version is you have like two juices, and I think it was two smoothies. So you have something that's got a bit more like avocado, banana stuff that's got more calorie density in there as opposed to just carrot and apple juice. So there's a mixture to give you the energy and some substance. But he's written so many books and he's released apps, he must have made millions out of this juice diet. In that sense, it's definitely beneficial.

That's very interesting stuff. I'm going to definitely look into it. What are your thoughts on keto then? I've always thought keto would be like a great way to lose weight in the fastest while being healthy way, because of course, losing weight fast is not very healthy, but there are some people who need to do it. So keto, I've always thought it's a really great way to do that. But at the same time, the key aspect of losing weight is having a calorie deficit. So you can have a big calorie deficit, even consuming carbs. So then why does keto diet work for Love Yourself customer and for you on a person level?

I will speak for myself but when I'm on keto diet, I feel more focused. I'm more mindful of what I eat because I look at everything and I say, is there carbs in there? Can I have that? I think that's the very first step. When you look at food, you're already becoming mindful and aware of what you're going to eat. But actually over consuming calories on keto is not really the problem because in a normal situation, your body Burns carbohydrates for energy. Once you go into keto mode, it takes three days for me to get into keto mode. I've got this breathalyzer to blow into which is a lot better than those urination sticks, which are really not the best thing. So I've got this breathalyzer. So after day three, I breathe in it and it says I'm in keto, and that means that my body is no longer using carbohydrates for energy. It's using fat. So I'm on fat-burning mode. So then I can pretty much eat anytime I'm hungry. I don't have to wash the calories so much and your body will just burn fat. It no longer burns sugars and carbs, but it's very easy to get out of keto mode. If you accidentally order a Coke instead of a Diet Coke, two sips and you'll be out of keto if you eat. If I go to a restaurant and I want this good example, I went for a curry the other day and I looked at the menu and I chose a curry which should be solely high fat. There shouldn't be any sugar in there. However, that restaurant put a lot of sugar into the sauce and a few hours later I used the breathalyzer and it showed that I've gone down on my keto level. So I think keto is good. I think it's a good way to go on a longer period of time. A lot of people go for keto just to lose weight. But what happens, I believe, is when someone goes on keto and they lose weight in the first two weeks, they're just losing water because carbohydrates contain more water. So that initial weight loss is down to water levels being lower after a month. That's why you can check the visceral fat and a lot of people have high visceral fat. You can't see it on their bodies, but it's inside their arteries. And keto seems to get rid of that visceral fat. Even though you're eating fat, your body's burning fat as its main source of energy. So it's great for getting rid of visceral fat. There's a lot of debate on the keto diet, such as with my nutritionist. She believes that keto has a high cholesterol rate that will give you high cholesterol. So I think it's down to each individual has a different experience with keto, and some people just can't handle eating that much fat and butter and oil and it's not nice for them. But the hardest thing about keto is the kids and I've got two kids. I've got a five-year-old and a ten-year-old, and we love to have pizza nights, pizza and TV night. Missing out on a pizza delivery or missing out on pasta or just rice. It's difficult at times or even a simple thing like bread. You can have keto bread, but you need to have that premade and prepared. So you've got to have everything prepared for a low carb lifestyle.

As a parent, would you be able to provide me any advice? I'm still too young, but in terms of, like raising your children around, how to think about nutrition with your kids, do you have any philosophy on how strict to be? For instance, you have kids on one end of the spectrum who do nothing else other than eating sweets and chocolates. But probably there's a line somewhere of how strict you should be with your children. How do you set that line and how did you set it? Did you adjust it at any point?

So this is something that my wife and I have constant arguments over. Children want some candy and I believe that they should have some candy as long as they don't live on candy all the time. I feel that if we don't give them the candy when they want to have the candy, they're just going to go and have the candy anyway when we're not looking. So give them a little bit when they want some. But we tend to eat healthy at home. Luckily, we've got Love Yourself as food, but we also cook ourselves. I do a lot of the cooking. My son, my ten year old son, he wants to be a chef. He's really into cooking. He can make a great scrambled eggs. Eggs are a great test of a chef's skills. He can make good scrambled eggs as good as I can make scrambled eggs. He can cook basic curries. He can cook bolognese and he's only ten, so he's constantly cooks something generally healthy. Sure, they're kids and they like their sugars, but all in moderation, I believe as long as they brush their teeth after the candy, I'm okay with that.

So kind of the line you said is kind of as a family in general to be healthy.

However, kids are going to be kids. So if they have any cravings, we're okay with that. Not on school nights though, so they can have candy on weekends. Otherwise, what happens if they have candy on a school night? They'll tend not to go to sleep or they'll get a sugar rush and we don't want that. We want them to go to sleep for selfish reasons. And for their own, otherwise they wake up all grumpy in the morning!

Yeah. It's probably one of the hardest and most satisfying jobs in the world, being a parent. It's a whole new level.

Yes, a lot of responsibility. I've got friends who I can see they're just worried about going out, doing this, doing this. But as a parent, your priorities change a lot.

I'm sure that food is a huge part of it. And that's why I kind of wanted to ask you that question, because you want your best for your children. Also on a food perspective, because of course, there are many implications on how they grow up, also on their health, and of course, on their culture and their relationships with other children. And there are just so many things to think about. I'd be worried if I restrict too much sweets that not only they'll be upset with me, but maybe other children will make fun of them. Like: 'oh, you're the kid that cannot have sweets!' Right? So there are so many things to think about!

Yeah. I give my son chillies because I want him to be able when he's there with all his friends because we live in a very multicultural place in London. There's a lot of curries and a lot of other international foods. And I want him to be able to have chillies and not go to someone's house and get shocked the first time he has a strong curry. So since a young age, I've been doing chilli challenges with him. We take two red chillies and we look each other in the eye and we eat it.

Wow, that's incredible. I've actually grown up as well in a very kind of spicy house, even though usually it's not very Italian, except maybe the region of Calabria in the south. That's the only spicy area of Italy. But yeah, I've grown up seeing my father put like chilli flakes on his pasta or like any food basically for like 20 seconds or like cut raw chillies on top of the pasta as well. Like the spiciest ones. I remember a funny story from when I was a child. I was at a table with other children of my age. And then I've gone to the adult table and there was like a bottle of chilli flakes. And then I put it on my pasta. I thought that was the end of it. But because children are children, they're like: 'oh, you put that, you can't be the only one'.  For me, it was just normal. I didn't even think about it twice. So all these children started putting a lot of chilli on their pasta. And then, of course, every child screaming and their parents are like, oh, what's going on? And children crying and licking bread and going crazy. It was absolutely like one of the craziest moments of my life. Imagine, like, 20 children all screaming, going crazy, running to their moms, and hell came loose.

I love spicy food. I think spice adds another element of flavour.

But of course, with Love Yourself, you can't probably overdo it, maybe as much as well.

Well, we don't overdo it, but when we do a Thai red chilli, we do a Thai red chilli. When we do whatever we do, we try to make it as close to the original as possible. Apart from Italian, I think we tried to be as authentic as possible. Sometimes our food can be chilly. If we do, like a tummy on gum soup or a Thai chilli beef, it's got that Thai flavour. Not for everyone. We do get complaints if it's too spicy. So we have to just find that right amount of spice.

And everybody is very different in that respect. So I imagine it's really difficult to make, like, for example, the Thai happy, but maybe some people just born in Britain live their whole life in Britain who have never eaten spicy back at home as well. On top of that, the requirements are really different. Take something like salt. Yeah, actually, that's a good question I can ask. How can you navigate with having different customers with different experiences who are used to maybe salty or less salty food or as we said, like spicer, or less spicy. How can you find the balance? Because, I mean, there is no level that's going to always please everyone. So how do you navigate as a business?

As a general rule, we try to reduce the amount of salt as possible, but we all know without salt, the flavour will not come out. So salt is essential for the other flavours to come out. So there has to be a little bit of salt, there has to be a little bit of seasoning is important for any chef, but it can't be too much sodium. So this is all done through the nutritionist. We come up with the levels of sodium that are required. And levels of spice also need to be controlled. We can't use different chillies at Love Yourself. We have to use the same ingredients from the same suppliers, the same packets to make sure that there's no difference in the chilli factor. For example, if we're using a certain dried chilli, we need to keep using that dried chilli. If we switch to another dried chilli, it could be of higher potency. And it's very hard to measure spiciness.

I've noticed it's not just you can eat spicy food or not, but it depends on the chilli variety or where it comes from. Like, for example, I can handle very spicy Chinese and Italian spices because I'm used to them. But for example, like, in Mexico, I'd be almost a beginner in spiciness because I'm not used to Mexican spices that much. And you need to build tolerance with different kinds of spices.

They're not all the same. Absolutely. Mexican spice is a different kind of spice. It's very intense. But spice is fun. I've always enjoyed spice, experimenting with spice, making chilli sauces. I like to experiment in the kitchen with different spices, but then you can have the world is full of great ingredients from each culture. You know, like, saffron is a nice ingredient to use, cardamom pods, a lot of Indian Indian ingredients. I think it's really nice. We're very lucky that we live in the world where we live. We have access to all these all the foods of the world at our doorstep.

Food is amazing because it's so varied. Having an innately international background probably serves your business very well in terms of being very open-minded with different flavours. I saw that helped me while I was growing up in Italy. I considered myself, like, a really good cook, knowing a lot about food. But then I moved to the UK, and I noticed that there's a whole other word as well. So, yeah, you've got to travel, you've got to experience different flavors. That's the spice of life, quite literally!

Yeah, exactly. There's so much food diversity in the UK, so many different foods, from Ethiopian cuisines to Caribbean cuisines, so many different forms of Indian cuisine, North, south, they vary a lot. Then you got the Chinese and Oriental cuisines. It makes Western food seem boring. And I think once people have tried Eastern food, Western food becomes very bland.

I've noticed that a lot because basically I have a Chinese girlfriend and I've eaten like, Chinese so many times. And not that I'm complaining, but I've noticed that now when I make Italian food, I add a lot more garlic than I used to back in Italy. And I've got feedback from some Italians like 'oh, your food is too garlicky!'. But now I really crave adding more garlic than what is traditional in Italian food. For instance, have you tried the hot pot?

Yeah, I love a hot pot. We have a hot pot at home and twice a year I take out the hot pot and invite people over. We have a hot pot party.

That's amazing. That's really lovely because in your little bowl I always had a lot of minced garlic to then dip into why you just boiled or fried and that's how I actually built my garlic tolerance and also spice tolerance about Chinese spices because that's very garlic and that's how I really came to love garlic.

Yeah. It's very nice.

I think we can end it here, thank you so much for your time and insight into Love Yourself and your experience!

Thank you!

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