Independent, hand-made, and most importantly tasty as hell, Flux Vegan has been making a name for itself with the vegan scene, by bringing a taste of the America’s sunshine state to the sometimes sunny streets of Brighton and Hove.
The handiwork of partners Sophie and Charlie, Flux is a triumph of independence and innovation in a city renowned for its ready support of both.
“Veganism was how I really got into food and cooking, and I got to a point in my life where I was working in kitchens within cafes and coffee shops and wanted to start my own business that was 100 percent vegan and more in line with what I personally wanted to be making,” said Sophie.
“I wanted to create something that felt like a treat but wasn’t junk food either. Our food is all freshly made by hand, but this is to make sure we can produce the best possible product, it’s not purely out of health motivations.”
The Flux menu of Californian-inspired street food was borne out of a year spent in the sunshine state as part of Sophie’s University career.
I wanted to create something that felt like a treat but wasn’t junk food either. Our food is all freshly made by hand, but this is to make sure we can produce the best possible product, it’s not purely out of health motivations.Sophie, Flux Vegan
“I loved the variety of the food scene out there,” she said. “The influence of Mexican food out there was something I have tried to bring back, with our tacos for example, but then we also have things like burgers and fries, nachos, tofu nuggets. The broad scope gives us a licence in that way to try new things.”
The couple have only moved to Brighton in the last two years, with the city’s reputation for supporting independent – not to mention vegan – businesses being a key factor.
“We knew that Brighton would be a good place to start a vegan business for one, but we also just really enjoyed the vibe of the city and that was one of the things that drew us here.
The pop up model, both in terms of literal streetside operation (Flux Vegan started trading at the Brighthelm Street Diner food market last year) and as a guest kitchen at a number of Brighton pubs (Cafe Rust, Brighton Bier Freehaus and Unbarred Brewer to name a few) has enabled Sophie and Charlie to develop both their model and their customer base without the added pressure of committing to a brick and mortar establishment – much as seen in many of London’s rent-centric street food operations.
“It seems to be a very Brighton thing that a lot of pubs are very open to having separate businesses running the kitchen, which for us has been great. But obviously we would eventually love to have a permanent residence at a pub and then maybe our own restaurant, but it’s early days of course.”
Having only started operating as a business last year the big bad lockdown has put the brakes on what was shaping up to be an exciting summer for Flux, although Sophie and Charlie have been busy making the most of a universally bad situation.
The couple have not only started trialling a delivery service out of their own kitchen, but have joined forces with a number of other street food traders as a collective – Street Feast.
“Street Feast came about after initial conversations with The Hopping Bakery and its owner Jessica, and we were just chatting about how to appeal to people and bring the different options presented by a street food market to the current environment.”
The openness of those already trading in the street food scene has been of great benefit for Flux, commented Sophie, with traders happy to support up and coming businesses.
“Even coming from working in food before, setting up a business where you’re often working from a patch of grass and a gazebo has been a real change, so having a community around you of people that are open to helping you out with the kind of things that you really only learn through experience, has been great.
“The street food community we have found to be a really close knit, supportive one. It has been a really nice way of meeting in Brighton, but also a great way to grow the business, as people are so open to connecting each other to new opportunities, there’s a real collaborative spirit that has been great to be a part of.”
The city is one known for its support of creative independent ventures and the food scene is at the heart of this. There are few places in the UK that value unique offerings quite like Brighton, be it brick and mortar venues, pub kitchens or street stalls, and such was a key factor in establishing Flux.
“Brighton is a really great kind of inbetween in terms of size, but it also has a really unique independent scene both in terms of business and otherwise, that’s something that really drew us here,” said Sohie.
“We wanted to work for ourselves, and be in full control of our own creativity in terms of what we make and how we live, and Brighton is such a great place like that in terms of its support for independent businesses and its culture of pubs, restaurants and bars and such.”
Collaborations have been key. From initially running a menu out of Cafe Rust in Hove – where Sophie worked at the time – to setting up two days a week at Brighton Bier’s Haus on the Hill pub, the support of other local businesses has seen Flux Vegan expand at pace.
“It is a great chance for people running pubs to expand their menus, and react to changing demands, but also a great chance for small businesses such as ourselves to have the chance to have something a bit more permanent. Customers know that we are here each week, so there’s more repeat custom as opposed to say, doing something one day a month that people may miss for whatever reason.”
It would be remiss to speak of the Brighton vegan scene without mentioning the Vegan Brighton Facebook Group – the unruly beast that it is.
As anyone who has been exposed to the group will surely attest, the breadth of discussion can be quite interesting (putting it mildly) but behind the thousand-comment scandals over seagull rescues and beehives there lies a supportive, open-minded community, one which Flux Vegan has become a key contributor.
People appear very excited to go back to their favourite restaurant, their favourite pubs when this is all over and there is definitely a feeling that people will come together to support their local businesses and their local communities when some degree of whatever normal is returns.
“Posting on Vegan Brighton has been important for us. It has enabled us to get the word out to a large number of people, but in turn, I feel that vegan communities as a whole are a lot more excited about trying new things and open to finding them.
“I have definitely found it to be a positive space, and one where people are excited to discover new things and also share new things.”
Sophie further mentioned the hilltop haven of the Hannover Community Notice Board as further proof of the positive community forged in our dear city and drew positivity from a visible desire to support independent businesses in these tough times of ours.
“People appear very excited to go back to their favourite restaurant, their favourite pubs when this is all over and there is definitely a feeling that people will come together to support their local businesses and their local communities when some degree of whatever normal is returns.”
For now Flux Vegan is focusing on its home delivery service and helping to grow the Street Feast community, but rest assured, should we ever return to some degree of normalcy, Sophie and Charlie will be straight back to bringing the best in Californian-inspired vegan street food to our dear city – even if they won’t reveal the secret tofu nugget recipe.