YEARS before healthy eating and choosing whole food alternatives became widespread a shop in Manningtree was leading the way.

Manningtree Whole Foods is now celebrating 20 years of business and, at by popular demand, is marking that anniversary with the launch of an in-store cafe.

And with the shop having been opened by her parents, Sarah Mawkes and John Dyvig, 23-year-old Maisie Dyvig is behind the setting up and running of the new eaterie.

Maisie explains she recently graduated from the University of Central London with a degree in anthropology but knew she did not want to go down the route of taking up a graduate scheme.

Gazette: Maisie Dyvig in The Wholefood Store Cafe in Manningtree

"I wanted to use what I already had really and we had a room that was part of the shop which was not being used and a cafe was something lots of our customers, who are really loyal, had been asking about a cafe for a while.

"And it seemed a really good time to give it a go," says Maisie.

She explains Sarah and John originally had a whole food shop in Brightlingsea and ran a farm growing produce for it, before moving to Manningtree to larger premises when she was three and her younger brother Tom was one.

"They were definitely ahead of the curve in opening the whole food store doing something else no-one else was," she adds.

Sarah, Maisie's mum, now runs the shop, selling amongst other things fresh sourdough, organic vegetables and locally produced eggs, delivered from the farm down the road.

"We have our own brand and our own labels which marks us out as different from other food shops, we are brand in ourselves really.

"And as part of the 20th anniversary the shop has just gone through a re-brand again, with a new shop front and new logo so it was a really good time to introduce the cafe," explains Maisie.

Gazette: Maisie Dyvig in The Wholefood Store Cafe in Manningtree

The cafe is very much Maisie's business, serving freshly cooked vegetarian dishes she has prepared herself.

"I am doing everything myself at the moment, the cooking, taking orders and serving so it is full on at the moment.

"The feedback has been really good though and we were so busy last week I might have to think about extending the opening hours already and we have only just opened," she says.

The cafe currently opens from Wednesday onwards but, as Maisie says, this could be reviewed soon.

For her menu she has drawn inspiration from her love of food and travel - and is even putting some of her anthropology studies into her new venture.

"I did my dissertation about the falafel !

"Food has always been my passion and food is a big melting pot of cultures really and that is what I am hoping to show in the cafe.

"I am really into Indian cooking, dishes like dahl and chilli and drawing on that influence and my travels I am bringing that into the food I cook here."

Gazette: Maisie Dyvig in The Wholefood Store Cafe in Manningtree

Having been to India, South America and a great deal of Europe on her travels, Maisie has been preparing dishes on the basis of a theme for her initial hungry customers.

"We do hot lunches and lots of salads and I will do a bake of some kind, a quiche and a stew.

"This week, which is actually the official first week, I have had a middle eastern theme so a lot of the dishes have been vegan like a fava bean stew and a lentil moussaka.

"I also make a lot of cakes and am getting others from the suppliers who make our bread."

She puts her business sense and love of food down to her parents.

"My dad is actually a really good pizza chef and he is quite an entrepreneur and my mum was mainly a fruit picker.

"It is a real credit to her that she has kept a thriving business during a time when others have been closing around her and I think they were both really involved in helping the environment, and being ethical before everyone was really starting to think about it," says Maisie.

Gazette: Maisie Dyvig in The Wholefood Store Cafe in Manningtree

As well as the tasty lunches she is rustling up Maisie also serves up organic coffee produced by a local roasters, Primo, and customers can also gain inspiration from her dishes and re-create them at home.

"They have already been asking about how they can make it at home and then buying the ingredients from the shop on their way out," says Maisie.

The Whole Food Cafe is inside the Whole Food Store and is open from 10am on Wednesday each week.

Gazette: Maisie Dyvig in The Wholefood Store Cafe in Manningtree