Did you know that LEON, the fast food joint, famed for its Mediterranean style hot boxes and Avo & Halloumi muffins, served at Mcdonald’s style speed, is now offering drop-in fitness classes? They have a page on MindbodyOnline and everything!
Turns out co-founder John Vincent is quite the martial arts fan, which is why he has dubbed his wellness centre, “The Kwoon”. As well as Wing Tsun Kung Fu, an ancient Chinese martial art, you’ll also find more traditional fitness classes such as Bounce Fit, Zumba and Yoga.
If you’d prefer a one-on-one, you can book in for some “individual wellness” to focus on your physical and emotional wellbeing. Every session is tailored to your specific needs whether that be injury rehab, injury prevention, dealing with stress or anxiety, coaching, mentoring, or general health advice. So not only will you leave feeling warm and satisfied from those Moroccan Meatballs, but perhaps a tiny bit happier as well. Sessions are available at the Fitzrovia store in Eastcastle Street. We caught up with JV to ask about his inspiration behind the idea…
You say that happiness and fulfilment comes from becoming really good at something, honing it, mastering it, and then giving up the fruits. How did you develop this philosophy?
Initially from seeing how unhappy rich people tend to be. People who value money more than anything lose their connection with themselves, with others and with nature. This is not good. Then if they or a family member become ill they realise they would give all their money for health.
Four years ago, I read a book called The Great Work of Your Life by Steven Cope. It is a modern commentary on the Hindu text The Bhagavad Ghita. The lesson is that fulfilment comes from focus, from immersing oneself in the practice and that it requires to not chase the outcomes of money and things that the ego attaches itself to. It is at the one time so simple and wise and yet the opposite of the grasping way that many people live today.
What got you interested in Martial Arts, and how has practising it daily affected your health and happiness?
I have always been intrigued by the discipline and focus of martial arts. I did judo at school and enjoyed the process of learning. A friend called Stuart at Bain the consulting firm I worked at was a very good martial artist and it helped him bring an incredible discipline and focus at work.
In studying the principles of Mastery I read a book on the subject by George Leonard, and Aikido master. It encouraged me to finally take some action and learn. I left messages for a local Aikido teacher but received no replies – plus I was a little put off by the fact that the News section was eight years old.
Shortly after I was at a charity event and bid for a lesson with Julian Hitch who I had met at the event earlier that night. I brought Julian to a Leon well-being event where he gave us a taster of Wing Tsun. I liked him, I liked it, and I liked what it could teach me.
Tell us more about why you developed “The Kwoon” wellbeing centre?
Well-being has to live in the restaurants where people work each day. But we also wanted a space where team members and managers can both practice and teach things like yoga, massage, HIIT training, kung fu etc. We also provide big discounts on gym memberships but we wanted our own space that reflects our unique approach and where Leon people can hang out with other Leon people from across the Leon family.
‘Kwoon’ is the Chinese name for ‘Training Hall’ where people practice Chinese martial arts. It is a simple space with very little gym equipment apart from the traditional ‘wooden dummy’ that Wing Tsun uses to practice. I have a kwoon at home, and I wanted everyone at Leon to have the chance to enjoy the benefits too.
Alongside food you will be offering Yoga, Zumba, Fitness, Meditation and Sound Therapy. Why is a holistic approach to health and wellbeing important to LEON?
We believe that all aspects of well-being are inter-linked. Of course at Leon it starts with eating well. For pleasure and for vitality. And moving a lot and exercising a lot (both calmly and less calmly) is also essential. But we believe in the growing insight that the mind and body are one, so we both seek to experience the Eastern Practices that have this philosophy at their heart, and actively study the western science that is slowly catching up to this reality. That is why we are open-minded and enthusiastic about acupuncture, yoga, sitting meditation, movement-based meditation and other practices that make us feel good. And it is why we are conducting our own medical trials on the positive impact of our food on the gut and therefore on our moods and mind-set.
We hear you offer a month of massages for team members every quarter? That must make you pretty popular with employees?
The massages are one of the most popular things. Our team members have often lived with back pain or similar problems and they often find these go with just one of two sessions. It can be life-changing. Plus people appreciate being taken care of and physically cared for. It can be expensive to get a massage in London, so yes, I think the team members appreciate it. Another lovely part about this is that all the massages are provided by qualified team members who work at Leon, who we pay to pursue and share their passion.
Why do you think Mediterranean cooking is the healthiest of all?
The consensus is that it actively uses good fats and oils like olive oil, seeds and nuts, is low in sugar and high GL carbohydrates and uses lots of herbs, spices and a wide range of vegetables. These reduce inflammation, has lots of anti-oxidants and feeds the good bacteria and other mice-organisms essential for health and vitality.
What is currently your favourite dish on the menu at LEON?
The Chicken, Lemon and Olive Tagine. Yum.
What are the three things that you can’t live without?
Laughing, loving and dark chocolate.
Do what you say you are going to do.