Food for the soul
Peter St Ange is bringing soul food, good music and ‘oneness’ to the Sea Café on the Green in Deal
The picturesque, grass-topped waterfront at Deal, is pretty much the ideal place to have a café.
The town is known for its staunch support of independent businesses over chain stores and the Sea Café On the Green, at the Walmer end of the beach, certainly has all the personality to fit the criteria.
“Deal is lucky enough to have always had that independent feel,” says Peter St Ange, who has owned the café for more than 12 years. “It has managed to keep a lot of the big brands out for a long time, which is right. And businesses can thrive on that.”
The café really is one of a kind. A converted public loo, have been transformed into a charming outlet filled with good vibes, artwork and, of course, good food.
Moving from south London to the Kent coast 14 years ago, Peter followed a dream of owning a dining outlet by the sea. Having left the army aged just 21, he fell into the hospitality industry, serving as a wash up across restaurants in London. But that is where he fell in love with food.
Having graduated from the University of West London with a qualification in hospitality management, Peter set about combining it with kitchen skills, learning his trade into high-end hotels, including the Hyatt London The Churchill near Marble Arch and restaurants such as Melange in Covent Garden. It was in the West End where the original Soul On Sunday concept began.
“I was inviting the street entertainers from Covent Garden to come and entertain the diners, while they ate. It was West Indian food at the time – and it was soulful – but I have since realised that soul food is just about good thought-out food.
“It could be a cultural source of food, or it could be good vegan food. Soul food could be a roast dinner, as long as people feel that togetherness while they are eating it.
And that’s what we are trying to build here.”
Down at the Sea Café, the Soul On Sunday Revival includes a two course meal including options such as a roast dinner and an stunning vegan stew (trust me, I’ve tried it).
“I create all the dishes myself and I cook from the heart,” says Peter. “Food is supposed to be a pleasure, so it is about creating things that don’t disappoint, and that is the same when it comes to vegan cooking, too.
“My girlfriend and I tried to go vegan for a three-month period, but we were struggling to find good places to eat, so I thought I would come back to café and make something myself.
The vegan stew has a base of lime leaves, lemon grass, pulses and lentils and then topped off with some veg and a bit of warming seasoning.
The every-day menu is what you’d expect from every café.
“You have to give people what they want,” says Peter. “You’d expect ham, egg and chips. You’d expect fish and chips and sandwiches and rock cakes. So, we have them.
“But we also do jerk chicken, curried goat and different sorts of vegan options because that’s what the market requires. We can’t go off on too much of a tangent, we can only indulge ourselves with food that will sell.”
AN ONUS ON ONENESS
The second part of the Soul On Sunday evening sees the open expression jam session where musicians and artists can get up on stage and play some live music to a crowd of around 30 people.
The night, and the café, bring themselves under the banner slogan: “Oneness of love, known no colour.”
Just last year, Peter was racially abused and his café was vandalised, but rather than look for police intervention, he faced it head on and hardened his resolve.
Anyone heading to the café will see the multiple signs of peace, rainbow flag and embracing hands showing the signs of harmony and togetherness.
“I wanted to deal with it personally, and that’s where the ‘Oneness’ campaign came from,” says Peter. “There needs to be more integration here, many people haven’t been touched too much by different cultures.”
If events like the Soul On Sunday form the large Oneness events, the daily does comes in the form of The Stone Conversation.
Each of the tables in the café is scattered with stones painted with topics of conversation, often hard-hitting in nature. There is also a circle of stones on a rope placed on each table for the conversation stones to be banished to. Peter explains.
“The theme could be people’s tribes,” he says. “We are all in tribes of some sort. That could be Christianity, or Muslim. It could be politics, sexual orientation, football, anything. The start of the conversation is saying all tribes are welcome, and not to let your tribe to get in the way of a full and frank conversation.”
The mission is to create platforms that celebrate people’s differences, allowing expression to be heard and shared without prejudice. Peter is working with local authorities and schools to bring his expression stones ideas to others.
“I have always had good relations down here,” adds Peter. “I have had people I would call white supremacists come in this café, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t get on with them, because I do. I spent four years in army and I understand banter, and I also understand that you don’t need to agree with someone, to be able to get on with them.
“That is the whole idea of ‘oneness’. It’s not about everyone being of the same idea, it means that even though we don’t agree, we can still break bread.”
To find out more about the café visit @seacafeonthegreen on Facebook.