Down to our final Veganuary influencer interview! How time flies ...
Introducing the local vegan community's power couple, Ryza and Cherish! They manage Sayang's, a home-based cake business that specialises in fair-trade chocolate cakes.
A little more about each of them...
Ryza, 30, loves experimenting in the kitchen and works alongside his partner and mother as the lead baker for Sayang's. Ryza completed a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Centre for Nutrition Studies in 2015 and is an active volunteer for Animal Allies Singapore.
Cherish, 32, has been leading a vegan lifestyle since six years ago. A bubbly and highly animated extrovert, Cherish helps Ryza out with Sayang's marketing and operations during her free time and lives with an equally affectionate and feisty 2-year-old cat, Princess.
Image credit: Adib
1) What inspired you to turn vegan?
Ryza: I watched vlogs produced by vegans who shared their lifestyle on Youtube. Many spoke a lot about different plant-based diets (whole foods plant-based, starch solution, high-carb low-fat, fruitarian, raw vegan, etc.), which intrigued me. Through this, I also learned about the ethical and environmental aspects of veganism, and how it could benefit the planet and reduce animal cruelty. I sat my parents down and had them follow the documentaries and talks that I watched. From there onwards, we concluded that going vegan was the most logical and positively impactful thing to do on an individual level.
Cherish: Six years ago, an ex-colleague briefly mentioned to me that she avoids drinking dairy because cows were mistreated for milk production, and as a result, their lifespans decreased by a drastic amount. A quick search on the internet gave me the answer and that also led me to uncovering the reality of egg industry, which made me decide to adopt a vegan-friendly lifestyle. Prior to that, I was a pescatarian.
2) What is the biggest challenge you faced with turning vegan?
Ryza: It was accepting the fact that I was conveying the "vegan message" angrily and aggressively, and that I wasn't winning any hearts and minds by doing so. I have thoroughly changed my approach since then and always try to come from a place of understanding, love and care. Our good friend, Dr George Jacobs once shared with us this quote: “Let those who are without sin cast the first stone.”
Cherish: It would be mingling with non-vegetarians at social gatherings. I came to realise it was due to me being overly concerned about how others might judge me for my choice of food.
3) How do you act on your beliefs?
Ryza: With Sayang's, what we're doing is introducing high quality, eco-friendly and ethical chocolate cakes on the market. Our cakes are free of animal products and palm oil. Additionally, we use fair trade cocoa, coffee and sugar. We also espouse the 'Bring-Your-Own-Bag' movement to encourage our customers to reduce waste. What better way to get people to take affirmative action than to buy and share the delicious cake with their loved ones?
On my part, I post delicious and nutritious vegan meals on my Instagram feed (@theveganmumnson) to put out a message that vegans can also enjoy their meals and encourage others to eat the same way. I also share my workout routine to motivate and inspire people to stay active.
Cherish: I started using Facebook as a medium to share information on animal cruelty. However, I learnt that it wasn't as effective as sharing the positive side of veganism such as posting vegan food pictures and organising activities such as gatherings at vegan-friendly eateries and potlucks.
4) What is your favourite dish to cook and could you name your ideal spot to dine out?
Ryza: I love making linguine with herbed marinara sauce, chive dumplings and nutritional yeast. My favourite place to eat at is Xuan Miao Vegan at Paya Lebar Square, which is one of the few entirely vegan and halal eateries in Singapore. I often get the U-mian dry noodle bowl with extra spinach and noodles.
Cherish: My favourite food to make would be curry potatoes. My all-time favourite place to eat out would be nomVnom because the owner Wai Lek and his wife Chiga are both very humble and friendly towards their customers despite their success with the business.
5) What advice would you give to people embarking on the Vegan lifestyle?Ryza: Surround yourself with a group of positive and like-minded people whom can give you support and encouragement. When you do this, it can be very uplifting and helps you stick to your goals. When I joined Animal Allies Singapore, it was one of the happiest days of my life as a vegan! Lastly, be open-minded to learn new things, try new activities and meet new people. You’ll never know what you might develop from incredible and long-lasting friendships. You may even meet your future partner as I have.
Cherish: Along the same line as Ryza, I believe the most important thing would be for new vegans to seek support in vegetarian and vegan communities as it might be difficult to find mutual understanding among non-vegetarian family members and friends.
6) Do you think it’s difficult and expensive to be Vegan in Singapore?
Ryza: Absolutely not! I save a lot of money on my grocery bills by sticking to buying mostly unprocessed, whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains. There are many helpful people in the online green community in Singapore that can help recommend budget-friendly eco and vegan-friendly products like clothes, accessories and personal care and cosmetic products. There are also plenty of eateries that offer affordable vegan options. Leading a vegan lifestyle in this day and age couldn't be any easier!
Cherish: Difficulty and how expensive largely depend on how 'vegan' one is. I believe in voting with my dollar rather than having to see vegan-certified items to show my support for vegan-friendly items in businesses. Of course, it does give me a peace of mind to see the vegan-certified logo, but it may not always be the most practical choice for me.
We hope through this segment of interviews; it has helped many of you to explore further the possibilities of thriving on the vegan lifestyle. Thank you to these influencers who have worked with us the past month and providing our readers more knowledge and insights about the vegan community. We had a blast and hoped you did too!