Beza Ethiopian Vegan Food has been a favourite of local Elephant & Castle residents since owner Beza set up a pop shop at The Artworks, and before that her famed stall in Camden Market in the early 2000s. She’s been feeding the community for almost two decades, so it goes without saying that the local love is mutual and deeply rooted.
Like many of our foodie heroes, Beza has taken it upon herself to help the plight of the area’s families who have been affected by pandemic-fuelled hunger which is further exacerbated by the closure of schools. Having a local provider of at least one free meal per day helps take the edge off lockdown struggles for families who, like many of us, juggle home-schooling and working but with the added stress of having to provide an extra meal per day, now that school dinners aren’t an option. For many, the added expense of a meal is a burden that tips the scales to breaking point. Along with other kind-hearted Elephant Park businesses, she recognises that now, more than ever, neighbours need to look out for each other . . .
These days, Beza is preparing over 30 meals every week, on top of her normal trade: ‘I saw the news and it really pulled my heart into play. I have kids of my own, and the fact that there are other children out there who don’t even eat once a day… I thought, as long as I can help provide one meal a day, that’s making a big difference.’ For her, it’s about helping those in the community who have supported her business who have fallen on difficult times, ‘I’m getting a lot of support from local people- they’re my number one customers. So it’s give and take for everything we have to do around here.’
Beza describes her brand of cooking as cosy, traditional and happy. The plates donated by her of course fill stomachs, but the nutritional element is key in her dishes. She uses ‘berebere’, an Ethiopian blend of hot spices in many of her Shiro Wat (stews and curries) which are crammed with only the freshest vegetables and immune system-boosting turmeric. To top things off, all her plates are vegan, meaning her food is less impactful on the environment. Kind to the community and the earth - Beza does it all.
Of course, the restaurant has had to close its eat-in experience to diners but Beza assures us she’s not letting the pandemic slow her down. As well as providing school meals, she is also taking orders on site and is on Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat while changing the menu every three days to keep her band of loyal fans on their toes. She says, ‘I change the menu because as I’m doing vegan food and have lots of customers who are vegan, I’m always changing the options. Otherwise people could get fed up eating the same things!’
New items on the menu focus on turning meat-heavy traditional East Ethiopian cuisine dishes on their heads - substituting raw meat tartare for cauliflower tartare and eschewing eggs for potatoes to thicken sauces. These were dishes she treated her followers to pre-lockdown, and they are still proving popular nearly one year on. She also substitutes butter for olive or linseed oil, creating less fattening options without losing any of the flavour of their traditional, non-vegan counterparts. All this, Beza does alone, not that she seems to mind; ‘To be honest, I do it all by myself - i want to give back to local people because it’s nice to help each other out.’
We couldn’t agree more, Beza. From all of us, we say a massive ‘thank you’ for your contribution to feeding local kids and for keeping the community stocked in delicious Ethiopian dishes - goodness in every sense of the word.