With a third cooking book, a line of food products and several cafes under their name, one might think that David and Steven Flynn know a thing or two about healthy eating.
As they were celebrating the 5 years of The Food Academy, a programme designed to help small businesses getting their products on SuperValu shelves, the famous twins answered our questions about how they, as fathers, feed their children, as well as some easy tips to eat healthier and why they want to step away from the vegan labelling.
What is the dish that your children always ask you to cook?
Pancakes! We make them every Saturday morning. My daughter Elsie is 7 and she can make them. They are dairy-free pancakes that are much higher in fibre than the regular ones. I’m happy for them to eat them because they are really good for them. It’s a great recipe and we serve it with this healthier Nutella that we make ourselves - it’s got 60% hazelnut.
What is their favourite treat?
They are like all kids, they like sugar! They will take any form of sweets or chocolates. When they are with me they have kombucha which is a fermented tea that is very good for the digestion and the immune system, or else they might have a treat from our cafe, which would have a high fibre content.
Do you believe that eating a vegan diet is sustainable for a young child?
I don’t think the message is about being vegan or vegetarian, I think it’s about eating more fruits and vegs. I think people get caught up thinking “I need to be a vegan or a vegetarian” but I really think it’s back to basics. We all want to be happy, healthy, wholesome humans and every leading scientist says you that eating more fruits and vegs makes your body healthier and therefore much more likely to be happier. I think the vegan label puts people off because it is too black and white. At the end of the day we are all going to die and what’s important is to be as healthy and happy as we can while we are here.
What was your favourite dish growing up?
Porridge was always my favourite. We would add bran flakes on top, we kept it very simple. Mam would never allow us to have sugary cereals like Coco Pops as kids.
What about your favourite treat?
On Friday night, Dad would come home from work and bring back a selection of chocolate bars as treats.I think my favourites were the caramel ones.
Who would you demolish this #vegan milk choc bark with? Tag your chocolate loving friend (bearing in mind this is about 1kg of chocolate!) - this was Steve’s bean to bar organic Peruvian #vegan milk chocolate bark which he ground in his granite grinder for about 20 hours with coconut and fresh dried raspberry - really enjoying getting in touch with his inner Willy Wonka
Has cooking always been a family affair for you guys?
No it really wasn’t! As kids, we saw food as fuel, our mam is one of the few people who eats to live, it was never a pleasure for her so it wasn’t until we changed our own diet that we really got into food. It’s good to see that for our kids now, they find it normal for their fathers to be extraordinary passionate about food, always be cooking and always be around food. They find it normal to be going to market and experiment with baking breads and making their own chocolate bars or kombucha, that's just life for them.
Do you have easy tips to make our kids eat healthier?
I usually have three simple rules.
1. Your children are going to eat what you eat. You can’t sit there eating a burger and chips and expect them to eat their broccoli. You have to lead by example and be congruent.
2. They will eat what is in your house. If you have a press full of chocolate bars and crisps they are going to be seeking them like a seeking missile. You have to be aware of what you buy because that’s what they will eat.
3. Do your best in trying to get them to eat more fruits and vegs in whatever way you can.
What measures should the government take to help families eat better and healthier on a daily basis?
We need to go back to basics, to get more kids and more people involved in growing fruits and vegs. When kids are involved with growing it or spending time on a farm, it’s just going to get to the root of things. We were asked before what we’d do if we were in charge and Steven said it would be great if, when they leave school, every person could spend a year working on an organic farm because then you’d immediately know where your food came from. It would create an association with nature and the soil and then we’d have a different food culture in Ireland.
What dish do you particularly enjoy cooking at the moment?
Personally, I’m very into mushrooms, I am experimenting growing oyster mushrooms. I am also experimenting a lot with fermentation, making kimchi and kombucha. A recent study said that by 2020 Korean women will be leaving until 90 years of age. They’ll be the longest living women in the world and one of the factors is that they eat so much fermented food, so I am big into that at the moment. We have a large section about fermentation in our last book, we are passionate about it.
How important is it for you to eat locally and seasonally?
Obviously, there is ideals and reality. For me, I really strive to eat organic and eat as local as I can but then I do realise that I live in Ireland and we are not the best at growing vegetables in this country, we are much better at growing animals and producing dairy. It’s not to beat ourselves up but just to try and eat more fruits and veg in whatever form it is. The more it should be local, seasonal and organic but if you get too caught up on it or stressed about it you might just end up eating burgers and chips all the time.
What are your tips to shed a few pounds before the summer holidays?
One of the best things you can do is up your fibre intake. 8 out of 10 Irish people don’t get enough fibre. Fibre is so important for weight loss because your stomach is made of density receptors and fibre fills you up. It’s low in calories and you only get them in fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Eating more of those foods will fill you up and therefore you will eat less; it’s a sustainable way of losing weight.
Yes or no?? Our new #vegan pulled pork sambo from our cafes. Here we use green jack fruit which has an amazing ‘meaty’ texture and bake it will a barbecue sauce then serve with #vegan coleslaw, pea shoots from our farm in a sourdough bun - Recipe is also in our new book or we have a vid recipe on our YouTube Channel
Do you think it’s getting easier to find healthy food everywhere?
There is a massive shift in demand, many people are moving towards veganism and getting much more interested in healthy food so as a result, companies are catching on and investing in healthier products. In supermarkets, coffee shops, even in Starbucks you can now find almond lattes! Next month we are going to start selling products in the UK with Waitrose and they didn't want any vegetarian products, then only wanted vegan because they see it as a huge growth area in customer demand.
You became famous through social media. What’s your relationship with these platforms nowadays?
Our message is to get people to eat more fruits and vegs and to try and inspire people to live a healthier, happier life. Social media are incredible platforms to help us share this message. We use our accounts as business accounts, we don’t share anything personal, but we find it so useful. Two weeks ago, for the launch of our new book, we organised a public swim rise - we swim in the sea every morning - and we invited everyone, we told them to meet us at 5.15am on Sunday, May 6th and about 700 people showed up. The power of social media is incredible in bringing people together, building a tribe and trying to inspire people.
What advice will you give your children when they are old enough to use these platforms?
I don’t know, that’s a very different story! My oldest kid is 7 so we haven’t had to bridge that gap yet. It’s a very scary place for parents nowadays. I’m not there yet but when our kids are old enough I’ll be very conscious about it.
What is your proudest achievement in your career so far?
It’s the sense of community. In Greystones, where we live, being able to walk down the street and know so many people because we have been in business in the heart of the town for so long, and the messages we get from people on social media every day, thanking us for our books and our products because we have helped to make them feel healthier, or people following us on Instagram stories telling us they felt depressed and watching our stories makes them feel better, all these things make me feel so proud.
Your new book “Recipes for Happiness” is just out, what’s next for you guys?
So as I said the expansion on the UK market is coming up soon, we have spent two and a half years working on it, we were invited to be a part of Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube to work closely with him in the UK. We have shot 400 recipe videos and as a result of that, on YouTube you get direct feedback about what people like and what they are looking for. We have learnt so much with the process about how to make food really accessible for people and we have put that in our book, so we feel it’s our best book yet. Our work for the next six months will be to get in as many people’s hands as possible because we really think it’s a great tool to help people eat healthier and be happier.
Also, by the end of the year, we will have 35 products in SuperValu in Ireland, it’s been one of the best relationships we have had, we are getting healthy food to more people. They are as committed to healthy eating as we are and we feel very fortunate to be working with them.
Since the programme’s inception in 2013, Food Academy graduates, supported by their Local Enterprise Offices, have sold €78 million worth of produce in SuperValu stores and the 329 suppliers involved have grown to provide approximately 1,500 jobs.