Max Boniface is a French filmmaker and the chef of a vegan take away in Barcelona. This is the story of how to create wonderful things following your heart.
I found the place by chance, looking for vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Google Maps, tired of eating the same thing every day. Hidden in a narrow street in the district of Gracia, Väcka is a small and cozy vegan take away, exquisitely decorated without being snobbish, with books on vegan and raw food to read while you are eating. ¿Raw? That’s what I thought then.
Although by their Facebook page I knew the kind of dishes they cooked, I didn’t expect that the daily special would be an aesthetic and culinary work of art. The flavors were different from anything I had tasted before and the dessert was the most delicious thing I had eaten in a long time. Tasty and light. I left there full of energy and I’ve become a regular customer.
There are many restaurants with delicious and healthy menus, but the place won me over because of something less common. It is not a business. It is a philosophy of life. Väcka’s chef, Max Boniface, personally attends to all customers with exquisite kindness and humility. You feel that everything there is made with love.
This also can be felt on his Facebook page, masterfully managed by Max’s wife, Ana Luz. I cannot remember if there’s a website, but they don’t need it. Amazing photos are published every day that make you regret not being able to go there to eat, but they also share fond stories about farm animals who are lucky enough to live free and happy.
All this is what made me ask Max how Väcka started. This is the story.
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Born in France, Max studied filmmaking in Paris. For a time he worked as an assistant director until, at the age of 26, he took his backpack and went to Argentina to travel through the country.
The Andean country stole his heart and he decided to return to France to save some money and come back. Once established in Argentina, he met Ana Luz, a photographer, which would be his wife. Together, they created an audiovisual production company and worked for some large companies, but they couldn’t identify with their way of working. They loved making documentaries, such as one on violence against pregnant women.
During this time, Max, a vegetarian who had always enjoyed cooking, took lessons with Máximo Cabrera, one of the most creative organic and vegan chefs. This would be essential in his passing from vegetarian to vegan, not only because what this change represents ethically and dietetically, but also by the challenge of cooking from another base of food.
This jump left him without the usual tools. Some ingredients and products were discarded, but at the same time, other lesser known (but not new) were included. In this sense, Max believes that we all would benefit if “formal chefs” were trained in vegetarian and vegan cuisine. They would discover that there are ingredients that are not needed and it would help them open the range of recipes, thus being aware that cooking should be inclusive.
When the economic and political situation in Argentina began to deteriorate, Max and Ana Luz made the decision to move to Barcelona. Starting in the audiovisual business without contacts is very difficult, so they turned to their other great passion and opened a vegan take away.
Keeping the business afloat is not easy. There is much background work. Getting good suppliers is very difficult when you don’t know anyone and vegan cooking requires a lot of preparation. There are many hours of work to pay salaries and maintain the family. After a year of experience, they realize the need to change the menu to speed up the service, making everything more scheduled.
Fortunately, hard work has its rewards. On the one hand, the positive reaction of customers and, on the other hand, the satisfaction of contributing in improving eating habits. As Max tells me, there is a big difference between food and nourishment. The aim of Väcka is to provide quality, ecological and proximity food, while educating people and raising awareness. “Eating is a political act. We vote once every four years, but we eat 2 or 3 times a day”.
All this explains the name of the place. Väcka is a Swedish word that means awakening, something very linked to their philosophy of food, seeking ingredients that help us stay awake.
Along with Ana Luz, managing social media and relationships with suppliers, and Belén and Daniel in the kitchen, Max’s challenge for the future is to improve the proposal and continue to grow.
Yet, if you accept one suggestion (a wish), don’t grow up. Stay small. I mean, stay being yourselves.