As told by Marwin Shaw to Jo Rittey

Marwin Shaw is a passionate man. He opened Monk Bodhi Dharma in Balaclava six years ago and then brought his food, coffee and philosophy northside two years ago when he opened Admiral Cheng Ho in Abbotsford.


Abbotsford is a beautiful area to be in. It’s really up and coming. People here are open to fresh ideas and to alternatives rather than being too traditional in their thinking.


For me, Admiral Cheng Ho is a mainstream vegetarian café that gives people a choice to eat a certain way. I’m very big in life on choices. I’ve chosen this; to eat a certain way, to live a certain lifestyle and it works for me. It’s not to say that it has to work for someone else.


Being vegetarian or vegan for me is about sustainability. I don’t want to preach, but even cutting out one meat meal a week is huge and has big ramifications on the environment. The other thing is the health aspect. I feel better eating this way. The third thing, which is increasingly important to me, is animal rights. I acknowledge that we are hunters and gatherers. But I think the context we’re in means we have a right not to eat meat.


Having a choice is a privilege. Having a choice is very different to being in the Himalayas and having to kill goats because you don’t have plants to eat. Or being in an environment where it’s all plant based and you have to search for protein. It’s all context.


I like the way the aboriginals ate. They ate with the seasons. The aboriginals didn’t eat kangaroo all year round, only when they knew that the next generation would be born and live. They’d be gatherers at a certain point and hunters at a certain point. It’s all context. I can’t stress that enough.


  If you base your life on the way you’re seen and on what people think of you, once that’s gone, you’re done.”


There’s a lot of shaming in the health food community. It’s about building your own mountain and not letting anyone climb your mountain. You have to build your mountain based on a solid foundation, rather than just ideas. If it’s not based on something that feels right to you and is solid, it crumbles too easily. If you base your life on the way you’re seen and on what people think of you, once that’s gone, you’re done. There’s no foundation. This applies on both a personal and business level.


Nowadays you need to have a label. You can’t just open a café. But wellness cafes are on every street corner and they’re struggling. Unfortunately, often flavour comes at the expense of healthy food and too often, wellness food just isn’t tasty. But what if we put them together? To me it’s about flavour and wellness working together. The sum of the parts becomes a beautiful thing. I’ve come up with a term called flaveness.


It’s not so much about finding a niche in the market and exploiting it, it’s just what we do. I’m not sure whether people can relate to that. I feel like the flaveness aspect is essential.


What I’m offering is a choice.



325 Johnston Street, Abbotsford




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