When Ireland was first plunged into lockdown last March, the Flynn brothers, like everyone else, bedded in for the long haul in their kitchens. For nearly 20 years they have been renowned throughout the UK and Ireland for their plant-based diet plans, health food cafés, vegan ready meals and cookbooks. But though more than half a million Instagram followers swear by their recipes, the twins’ children were surprised to see their fathers suddenly standing at the stove, making dinner.
“My daughter Elsie said, ‘Dad, I didn’t know you could really cook? I thought that was just for videos and stuff’,” says Dave Flynn, one half of The Happy Pear. “We didn’t [used to] have to cook that much at home because we always had our cafés and restaurants, and why cook at home when there were chefs cooking really tasty food?
“Then everything had to be cooked at home for the first time in 16 years, which was new for us. We had to put what we’d been preaching for years into practise.”
Twins Stephen and Dave have been healthy lifestyle gurus since 2004 when they opened a tiny veg shop in their home town of Greystones with a dream to help people eat better. It was well before the term “plant-based” had become mainstream, before the clean eating backlash, and definitely before Instagram had revolutionised how lifestyle influencers could reach the masses.
Sixteen years later, the brothers have a chain of cafés (all but one of which they had to close in the pandemic), a range of products in supermarkets, four cookbooks, a farm and coffee roastery and a series of online courses designed to help people get healthy and lose weight with a plant-based diet.
50,000 people have now used their health plans, and the brothers’ new cookbook, The Happy Health Plan, is a culmination of what they have learned trying to help others get healthy. “We see day in day out the incredible feedback of people who go ‘Jesus, I didn’t realise what I was eating and what a massive effect it had on my energy levels’,” says Stephen.
“I remember there was a taxi driver in Dublin once who did one of our courses and he’s definitely not your quintessential plant-based yoga person. He did one of our plans because he had had a heart attack and at the end of it he was like ‘I can’t debate it, my cholesterol has dropped, my blood pressure has dropped, I’m going to stick with this plant based life. I can come off my statins.’”