Topias Rohde: Hard on the outside, eco-warrior on the inside
„My diet used to feature much more meat than it did salad.…“
There was a time when Topias Rohde was part of the furniture of the Hamburg nightclub and party scene. As an event caterer, he burned the candle at both ends and got the energy for his exhausting job from meat-heavy meals during the day. “My diet used to feature much more meat than it did salad. When I ordered a kebab, I would just have the bread, sauce and meat, and leave out the green stuff”: this is how Topi describes his earlier culinary self. All this changed when he met the woman he would eventually marry – she had been a vegetarian all her life. Inspired by her meatless lifestyle, Topi started to approach the topic of nutrition from another perspective, too. While researching, he came across the documentary “Earthlings”, which opened his eyes abruptly and made him “go a step further”. He told his wife about it, and this time it was him encouraging her to take things further, because she also felt ready to try living without any animal products at all. Both of them have stuck at it, and have now been living very happily as vegans for 11 years – for the last five of which they have had a young daughter.
Topi would recommend that everyone watch “Earthlings” – the documentary which changed not only his life, but also that of his wife. “There’s simply far too much distance between us and the piece of meat on our plate or the glass of milk on our table. The advertising we see promises us healthy, beautiful food, and makes no mention of the animal suffering behind it. Many people have no awareness at all of the link between the living animal and the factory farming conditions it lives in, and the cheap piece of meat they buy in the supermarket – or of how one makes the other possible,” the passionate vegan summarizes.
„eye opener“ moments
For Topi, there were two moments which really opened his eyes and convinced him to switch to a vegan lifestyle. The first was the thought that he could use his diet to have a great influence in terms of protecting our planet, our resources and our climate. Following on from this directly, the second important reason was animal welfare. After he realized what factory farming (and even organic farming) entails, there was only one viable decision in Topi’s eyes: “When it comes to cruelty like that, I’m out. I can’t be a part of that.”
Having founded, and being one of the managing directors of “Vincent Vegan”, a highly successful 100% vegan fast food chain, he now lives out his moral and ethical motivations through his work. The cherry on top is that he can also live out his love for food and gastronomy. Through his work, he also wants to open people’s eyes and, even more importantly, to offer real alternatives to fast food which leave nothing to be desired in terms of taste.
„i want to leave the planet as undamaged as possible.“
What’s more, he also thinks it’s good that people see that not all vegans are malnourished, pale and totally obsessive eco-warriors. “We don’t really eat stones, and while we are eco-warriors in our hearts, that doesn’t make us weird outsiders,” Topi laughs about the most frequent prejudices faced by vegans in everyday life.
This cool, passionate restaurateur is far from being a finger-pointing moralist. When you listen to him, you feel encouraged to think more deeply about the influence you as an individual have on our planet. He leads by example – partly for the sake of his young daughter. “I want to leave behind a planet that’s as undamaged as possible.” It’s important for him, however, that his daughter has the confidence to make her own decisions. So she sometimes eats Parmesan at kindergarten, for example, simply because she likes it. She definitely doesn’t want to drink milk, however, and the sausages served up by her aunt weren’t to her taste either. It’s quite simple: she prefers the “normal vegan sausages at home”. And so, at five and a half, she lives as a vegan with small culinary exceptions that she’s chosen for herself. She’s in perfect health and has great blood test results, thus showing that Topi is right about vegan diets for kids not being rocket science, and that they should become a lot more normal in our society.
Topi judges how good a vegan dish is based on whether it’s something everyone wants to eat.
Different things are possible depending on his mood. With a beer in hand on a Friday evening, he tends to prefer fast food classics from Vincent Vegan. On days he’s at the gym, he’ll go for vegan food from Deliciously Ella. As a vegan, it’s also important to live a balanced 80:20 lifestyle. That means living healthily 80% of the time, and 20% of the time – as Topi calls it – “treating yourself to stuff”. Of course, ice cream and beer have their place in that!
When he’s in his kitchen at home, his dream is to have his whole family (in all their diversity!) sitting around the table together – his brother-in-law from the Caribbean who grew up in the USA, home of big steaks and greasy fast food; his Finnish uncle who still goes hunting, his father with his hard-earned beer belly, and his mother-in-law, who has been a vegetarian all her life. They all sit around the table together and go home with full bellies – without having missed out on anything in terms of taste. Ideally, Topi will have cooked not only vegan food for them all, but also food which is fresh and without using any imitation products at all. His tip for achieving this dream: both Asian and Levantine cuisine have ancient vegan recipes – that have always been around – in which pulses and spices are the stars of the show and no animal products are meant to be there in the first place. Other Arab regions, in addition to southern India, are also home to these old, traditional vegan dishes which bring wonderful flavor to the table and are perfect for getting the whole family together: just as Topi does for his family at home and for everyone who comes to eat at Vincent Vegan.