A Newcastle chef who impressed Gordon Ramsay with her creations is set to open a vegan sushi and banh mi bar in Heaton after raising more than £5,000 in just five days.

Zoë Newman started her business Veganatomy on January 12 2020, and despite opening mere weeks before the lockdown, became a Covid success story. The 41-year-old was forced to pivot away from her original plans to serve street food at festivals and events across the region, and instead to create graze boxes and sushi platters for delivery.

From summer 2020, she traded from a shipping container in HWKRMRKT at By The River Brewery on Newcastle Quayside, building up a following - even impressing the UK's most potty-mouthed chef, who called her food "incredible" when filming at Träkol earlier this year. However, HWKRMRKT announced that it would serve customers for the final time in a while on Sunday, October 1, temporarily closing as scaffolding erected for the Tyne Bridge restoration blocked off access to the site.

This left Zoë and Veganatomy without a huge source of income, potentially delaying the opening of a bricks and mortar premises. She has even taken on part time work on evenings and weekends in a bar local to her home to cover her bills and living costs, and eventually started a GoFundMe page on Wednesday November 22.

Zoë told ChronicleLive: "The reason I started the fundraiser was because I normally have that amazing weekend trade down there which was going towards savings that I already had to kickstart what I'm doing. But that closed down so I lost that and it was a realisation after a couple of months to get to where I needed to be, I was going to have to start something else."

Zoë Newman, who is opening a vegan sushi bar in Heaton
Zoë Newman, who is opening a vegan sushi bar in Heaton

She admits to being apprehensive about doing a fundraising page, and would have preferred to fund the project completely with her own money, but realised when setting up the unit on the corner of Chillingham Road and Wharton Terrace that there were several "hidden costs" that she'd not considered. But she has had an outpouring of support from her customers and peers, smashing the £3,000 target she had said up almost immediately.

Zoë continued: "I've been overwhelmed by the support and I'm still in the middle of thanking everyone, it's just great to have the support. It's all brand new, it's exciting and nerve-wracking, but mostly exciting.

"I was working out of a converted shipping container for the last three years, so if I can do it from there, I can do it out of a smaller unit. This one is going to be enclosed indoors which is nice - the cold in the winter for rolling sushi, it's really hard to do!"

Zoë Newman, who is opening a vegan sushi bar in Heaton
Zoë Newman, who is opening a vegan sushi bar in Heaton

Veganatomy will join a series of independent eateries and bars in the popular suburb, and Zoë can't wait to be part of the culinary scene there. She has already been offered support by Elder Beer who she says will allow customers to take her food into the bottle shop; similar to an agreement it already has with Flint Pizza.

She said: "It just felt right to do it in Heaton, there's so much variety and there are a lot of small, independent businesses on Chillingham Road which is how it should be. Small businesses should be able to have a go and thrive and be part of the high street as much as the bigger businesses.

"A lot of business owners on Chillingham Road have been really supportive so I'm less anxious about things because of that."

And as the only 100% vegan outlet on Chillingham Road, she feels she's bringing something new and fresh to the area. She finished: "My place is the only 100% vegan place on Chillingham Road, since Glaze Donuts is on the roundabout (at the Coast Road).

"We've been chatting about how great it is to bring a bit more vegan to the street. I think it's all just a bit more healthy competition!"

There isn't an opening date yet for Veganatomy, but Zoë hopes to be serving customers from her now bar for at least some of Veganuary (January). For more information, or to donate to Zoë's fundraiser, visit her GoFundMe page.

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