From banking to entrepreneurship
An interview by Geraldine Schläpfer for 20 Minutes.
Dear Alex, you worked in a Swiss Bank for a long time. How did you end up in the healthy food industry?
I strongly believe that we are not only meant to have one career. We all have passions and skills and they evolve over the years, so why stay in a comfortable seat forever? I love embracing change! It is true that in my case the change can seem very drastic, but the first part of my career in banking was a fulfilling working experience.
During my corporate time, I learned how to put into practice what I studied at university but also to network and create links with people. I joined the finance industry at the worst time when everything was collapsing. It taught me to fight, to never give up in difficult times, and to be resilient to stress. But most importantly, I learned to believe in my values and strength and to always form my own opinions. During my time in banking, I also realised that I wanted to be more connected to people and to nature and therefore it was important for me to find a job where I could really make a difference in people’s lives. Without the first part, I would have not been as confident as I am today and I would maybe not have started my own company.
I love food and I was always on top of all the healthy trends. My travels and culinary studies in Los Angeles were an eye opener. I realised that it is so easy and normal to eat nourishing and clean food when you are there. It also reminded me how difficult it was to be healthy back at home in Zurich, especially when your main source of food is coming from the office canteen. Zurich has an amazing restaurant scene that uses local and seasonal products, but the dishes remain quite heavy. I wanted to create simple meals using the same local ingredients but make them clean and healthy while still being super delicious. I don’t mind having a heavy dinner from time to time but for my everyday food, I want something tasty that nourishes me without making me tired or sleepy.
When I created EATbyalex, I wanted to bring new dishes to the market using what the planet gives us in abundance: plants. Plants are nutritious and filling, they can taste so different depending on how you cook them and depending on what spices you use but most of all, they make you feel amazing. If you join one of our clean eating weeks, you will get to try so many different ingredients and will experience a completely new body with better sleep and digestion. You will feel lighter and more energetic.
You took quite a risk to follow your dreams. Do you miss the corporate world? And what would you advise to anyone with a business idea / a dream?
It feels like a risk, but is it really one? It can be so daunting to leave the corporate world but actually my 10 years in banking gave me a strong foundation for the future. Admittedly it did take me a few years to take the final step of quitting my job. There was a lot of pressure around me to stay in my prestigious job but deep inside me I knew that it wasn’t making me happy.
Now looking back, it was one of the best decisions I took in my life and I am glad I found the courage to do it. For all the people out there who feel the same as I did – and I know that there are many – just remember that you can always go back if you really must! Any clever company would hire someone who took the risk to try their own business. And that is the worst-case scenario; now that I have jumped into entrepreneurship, I can see how many different opportunities are out there and I doubt that I will ever return to the corporate world.
I hope more people will dare to bring their amazing ideas to life and not let fear or people discourage them.
FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS, BE PASSIONATE, LEARN FROM PEOPLE AROUND YOU AND BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!
Your recipes are delicious. What inspires you to come up with such creative and colourful combinations?
For me, experiencing life means travelling and discovering as many cultures as possible. I personally do that by talking to people and eating their foods. My recipes are very much inspired by my travels but also by the people around me like my family who comes from Romania.
When I create a new recipe, the first thing I do is to close my eyes and start to visualise it in my head. For me it all starts with colour combinations, then come the ingredients and flavours, and finally the textures. That is when I start playing with the recipes in the kitchen and work on them until I reach the desired textures and flavours. I always had a strong attraction to art and now being a plant-based chef means I can create art on a plate and make it taste good. Best job ever!!
You studied culinary arts in L. A. What do you miss the most about this place?
THE FOOD! The food is just on another level there. You have so many options and because people put their health before anything else there, the nutritious and clean options are everywhere. It is so easy to eat clean and to discover new flavours.
Your diet is called plant-based. Are you vegan?
I am flexitarian, which means that I mainly eat plant-based. Being flexitarian gives me the flexibility to try foods from other chefs and to have more options when I eat out. Unfortunately, plant-based options for food lovers are still quite limited in Switzerland. The key for me is to be as balanced as possible and to use as many different natural products as I can in my recipes. The health benefits you get in a diverse, whole and plant-based diet are what attracts me the most. The huge shift in my diet also happened when I realised the impact that daily meat and dairy consumption had on our environment.
Our LEAN and STRONG weeks only use plants because we want to showcase the diversity and the endless food combinations that are possible. After one week of our meals, you will have eaten from the whole colour spectrum. Diversity is key to us and you can expect to taste a lot of new ingredients. It’s a great opportunity to eat whole food and discover new ingredients that you can easily add to your home cooking.
What does “Clean Eating” mean?
When we talk about “clean eating” at EATbyalex we mean whole, plant-based, organic, freshly-prepared food that is 100% natural. Let’s go through each of those in a little more detail.
Whole food, in contrast to processed or refined food, is rich in natural fibres and vitamins that support a healthy gut – which is our second brain. A plant-based diet is any diet that focuses around foods derived from plant sources such as vegetables, fruits, pulses, legumes, seeds and nuts. We use organic ingredients and prepare each day’s menu daily using freshly delivered ingredients so that it is as close to “farm-to-table” as we can currently achieve.
Our clean eating approach nourishes you with the correct amount of proteins, complex carbs and good fats rather than just counting calories.
What can I expect after a week of clean and plant-based food?
Eating a whole and plant-based diet for 5 days, you can expect to feel energised with brighter skin and better sleep and digestion. You can also expect to feel less tired in the afternoon and to have fewer cravings.
After one week of plant-based food you can also expect to have reduced your carbon footprint because we only use plants and focus on mainly using local and seasonal ingredients.
Our clean eating weeks are only offered from Monday to Friday because we believe the weekends should remain yours to eat and do the things you love. I am a very social person and I have so much fun trying new foods all the time. That is why I wanted to offer a service that suits my own lifestyle.
Interview can also be found in German online on 2omin.ch