Helen Peacocke meets Prad Walimbe to try his healthy meals that are fighting child poverty

Prad Walimbe, director of the newly formed wa! company, developed a passion for food while watching his mother create original infusions from wild vegetables and spices in their home kitchen in Karad, India. Preparing and sharing food was a huge part of his upbringing, yet he says it was only later in life, when he discovered travel, that he connected the diversity of local culinary recipes to the relationships they create between people and cultures.

Prad, 25, says he realised there had to be a more efficient way to meet the world’s food demands and ensure no one goes to bed hungry, whatever part of the world they live in. This led him to create wa! along with its pledge of ‘Nourishing Happiness’. He developed his ideas last year while he was working in sales and marketing, having left his native India 11 years ago for Oxford.

He said: “History and culture have always been my favourite subjects, the very reason I love travelling. Oxford has a rich history, world-class education, diverse culture, and is always buzzing with new ideas about the future. Any entrepreneur likes to be surrounded by such a diverse, competitive yet homely environment.”

After gathering together a production team, including chef Darmyan Singh whom he appointed team manager, Prad was ready to launch his soup company. But he needed a premises in which to prepare his food. This problem was solved by renting the kitchen of a popular Cowley Road restaurant during the night, from 2am to 6pm, when the kitchen was not in use. This saved Prad huge capital expenditure and provided him with a premises that met all the strict hygiene regulations.

It also means that each tub of wa! organic vegetarian soup boasts a label saying ‘cooked today’, so it couldn’t be fresher. “As well as leaving out additives and preservatives, I wanted to make sure the meals would be cooked fresh every day, right here in Oxford, with my chefs getting started around 2am each morning, ready for the pots to be distributed to the various city outlets, just in time for the lunchtime rush,” Prad explains.

As a part of his aim to educate people about the ways of healthy eating, the pots show the “date made” rather than a “use by”, to confirm how fresh the food is.

Prad also had to obtain accreditation from the Organic Food Federation and Vegetarian and Vegan Societies. He arranged this by working alongside local organic suppliers and farmers to ensure his meals were created from the freshest plant-based ingredients, blended with flavours influenced by his travels, to create a range of organic, free-from, vegetarian and vegan soups, sauces and meal pots.

Salt is used in minute amounts in his recipes but no sugar is added, as he says while you can add extra salt and sugar to a dish if your taste buds call for it, you can’t take it out.

“My chef and staff have set ourselves the task of changing lives around the world. Our ‘Nourishing Happiness’ pledge promises that for every wa! soup bought, a child in poverty, somewhere in the world, gets fed with a healthy meal.”

The last batch of almost 800 meals was delivered last month to the charitable Ehsaas School in Satra, India, that helps mentally handicapped children lead a normal life. It is a school that struggles to obtain aid and is run by local volunteers.

With his seven years of marketing experience, launching his products and getting them placed in suitable outlets was easy. Prad is proud that his soups are now stocked in local delis, markets and health food stores such as Gatineau in Summertown, The Athlete Centre in Oxford, The Market Garden, Eynsham, Cultivate Veg Van in Oxford, Farm Fresh Oxford, North Parade Market and the 1855 Wine Bar Bistro among other places.

Although he only started his business a few months ago, feedback is good. It seems that the rich, nourishing taste of his soups particularly appeal to young children, as well as dieters or people who can’t find the time to cook healthy food from scratch.

Prad says that his meals taste so good even meat eaters are asking for seconds. Having tasted them, I am inclined to agree. Besides providing a nourishing soup that contains more than the required five-a-day, wa! products make superb sauces.

To learn more about this enterprising new business you can visit wa! on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest at WaCuisineWorld or www.wacuine.com