Giving you some Xing!

unearths the food revolution in York, starting with health store Xing

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Simon Long and Peter Benson never believed in juices until they spent a year abroad in the States whilst pursuing business degrees at the University of Hull. They were fascinated by the American smoothie bar concept, “well-presented, clean, accessible for all. It wasn’t about being vegetarian, it just made you feel better”.

After they graduated in 2006, they took their business expertise and their newfound love for smoothies and created Xing.

What began as a mobile bar outside the school gym developed into a permanent shop on one of UK’s most iconic streets, the Shambles in 2009. Initially a juice bar “that replicated the smoothie bar concept that worked at Uni.” But smoothies were only popular in summer, and there was a need to reinvent their business model. Simon saw the gap in the local market for “natural food, free from all the additives of processed food” and went on to start serving hot food such as stews, soups and ‘wrappinis’.

Xing stands out from other shops in York with its simple menu, featuring only one vegetarian soup and one hearty meal daily. Each dish is lovingly prepared every morning using the freshest ingredients from scratch, even the harissa paste is homemade.

“Focus, and know your limits. We just do what we know, and we’re good at it.”

While the menu does not offer too much variety, it never fails to take one’s taste buds on the proverbial world tour, with flavours from Southeast Asia, to the Mediterranean and South America being incorporated into every unique dish. Simon is often inspired by his travels, and is constantly “experimenting to get a feel, to learn what flavours go together” to create delicious, hearty meals for all.

“It’s a real challenge to use fresh ingredients and remain price competitive”, but Simon remains committed to fresh, quality produce. Xing sources locally as much as possible, with fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and breads from Yorkshire producers. The bread at Xing is supplied by two Yorkshire bakeries, Bluebird Bakery and Via Vecchia, the Italian ‘mystery bakery’ in the Shambles.

Their mission to debunk the myth that “healthy stuff tastes awful” took an unexpected turn in 2007 when they were invited into a local primary school in Hull to conduct a healthy living workshop. While it was a short session, it certainly left an impact on the children, as the school received letters of complaints from parents the next day that had children asking for smoothie makers and fruit instead of the regular crisps.

The Xing team received positive feedback from every school they went to. Many of whom said that it was the most enjoyable class they have ever taken. But Simon understood that in order for students to change their lifestyles and diets, there had to be “a permanent example of healthy living and enterprise for young people”. And so, student-run smoothie bars in secondary schools were set up in deprived areas around the region.

While schools encouraged Xing enterprise and healthy living workshops, most were reluctant to implement student-run smoothie bars due to “higher risk of insurance” and labour laws. The Archbishop Sentamu Academy in Hull was the first school that took up the challenge to allow students to run their own smoothie bars, responsible for everything from stocktaking and staff rotas. Students are given the opportunity to take on responsibilities that they hadn’t been exposed to previously.

Simon shared the personal satisfaction and joy he derived from these ventures, and attributed the success to the students alone. “The impact on these young lives have been tremendous, not only for their CV but in building their confidence and discipline.”

Xing is also increasingly popular amongst the York residents for its Juice Diet, inspired by Jason Vale’s 7lbs in 7 days diet. It might seem crazy to some, since “there’s probably not a day since you were one that you haven’t eaten”. But Simon assured me that contrary to popular belief, it is not a crash diet.

Each participant of the juice fast goes through over 8 pineapples, 70 apples, 8 cucumbers and multiple avocados in a week. There’s certainly no lack of nutrients. It is simply a time for your disgestive system to recuperate while consuming the best vitamins and minerals, and all through a straw.

7 days might seem like a long shot, but Xing also offers 3 and 5 day cleanses, each with 6 juices and smoothies daily.

Over 150 people have done the juice fast with Xing despite its seemingly hefty price tag, with one particular 6-5-9 cabbie swearing by it because he claims the juice fast allows him to earn more as he is now able to concentrate longer at the wheel.

Simon’s tip to aspiring business owners: “Focus, and know your limits. We just do what we know, and we’re good at it.”

Follow @xingsmoothies and Facebook.com/xinghealth for latest menu updates. Students get 10% off all juice diets.

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