Debbie Rich of Out To Lunch likes to celebrate a riot of healthy and colourful plant-based foods. Catch her at the Shongweni Farmers and Craft Market each Saturday.Picture: S’bonelo Ngcobo/ANA
Durban - CraftFest not only allows you to indulge in the best locally produced gins and cocktails, but also offers an array of fine hand- crafted foods.

The third CraftFest to be held on August 9, brought to you by The Independent on Saturday and the Shongweni Farmers and Craft Market, celebrates the best in craft beers, artisanal gins, great local music and the makers of the finests crafts. And the whole family can enjoy a fun day out in the country.

Food vendors offer everything from pulled pork rolls, to hand-stretched pizzas, wonderful overstuffed Mexican burritos, to authentic Greek souvlaki and spanakopita.

The Independent on Saturday spoke to Debbie Rich, whose vegan Buddha bowls celebrate the full range of flavours, tastes and textures, and whose passion for healthy food leads her to create interesting new recipes.

Rich started her route to plant-based food in 2012.

“I started by going on a detox. I was feeling too caffeine addicted, too sugar addicted. I loved chocolates and biltong and it was all washed down with a damn strong cup of coffee. And after the diet I just felt so much better, so I stayed with it,” she said.

“The effect was overwhelming, not just on the way I felt, but with others commenting on the difference in me.”

Here, Rich offers me a delicious slab of her own home-made vegan chocolate.

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“And then I started getting creative. It’s not easy to find vegan food that doesn’t have gluten or sugar in it. And it was even more of a struggle when I went out. Everything always has feta on it. I used to eat something before we went out.

“Then people stopped inviting us around because they didn’t know what to feed me. So I invited them around and started experimenting. And that’s when someone said I should start my own restaurant,” she said.

And so Out To Lunch was born at the Shongweni Market in 2013. “I am not a qualified chef, but I was brought up in a family of adventurous eaters. We were open to new flavours.

“I called it Out To Lunch because it was a term used to describe someone eccentric. I was busy making some creative looking food and someone would say, ‘She’s out to lunch’ but we should all be out to lunch,” Rich said.

When she started, people would stare from a distance. “And then they’d try and it’s rapidly increasing in demand, especially with the younger generation making changes to save the planet, or those making changes because of illness.

“And you don’t have to be a vegan to enjoy my food. Some people say: ‘Ooh that’s vegan food,’ but it’s just veggies and nuts and seeds. You get all the different sensations of colour, flavour and texture in each mouthful.

“You do eat with your eyes, so it’s got to be visually appealing and when it’s made with passion, people pick up on the good vibe.”

Rich also has her own food truck for special functions. It’s a friend’s converted 1970 caravan called My Darling Clementine and is painted in as many colours as her food.

Rich took it to Splashy Fen this year and served 300 to 400 meals a day “out of that tiny space”.

She also has depots around Durban (Umhlanga, Ballito, Kloof, Hillcrest and on the Berea) where meals are delivered.

So what is on her CraftFest menu? “Something exciting,” she said. “I love doing interesting, different things.”

She mentioned toasted pita with smashed avo, and her famed Buddha bowls and a harvest table where you can create your own meal.

And then there are vegan popsicles. “I was at a fashion launch where we made these wonderful coloured layered popsicles. We served platters on top of ice-cube balls with flowers in them.

“It was hours and weeks of work and within minutes, all gone,” she said.

But she’s not complaining because it’s her passion to encourage people to a “healthier, happier place”.

Rich points out that it was Hippocrates, the father of medicine, who said that your food was medicine and your medicine was your food.

“Healthier people are definitely happier people,” she said. “And happier people are a lot more fun to be around.”

The Independent on Saturday