As many of you know, Dello Mano has launched an all-vegan line of vegan brownies, vegan cookies, and vegan gift boxes and hampers. While these eggless confections are some of Dello Mano’s first vegan products, they’re far from my first foray into the world of vegetarian and vegan cooking — I have over a decade of experience in vegetarian food innovation. This experience stretches all the way to my corporate food brand days and continues into the present. I’m looking forward to sharing everything I’ve learned about vegetarian food with Dello Mano devotees, omnivorous and otherwise.
During my time at Sanitarium, Australia’s oldest health-food company, I worked directly with the CEO to develop new vegetarian brands and products. One of my favourite projects was Kitchen, a vegetarian Wholefoods cafe that we (shown above) opened in Brisbane in 2008 for an eight-year pilot run. The phrase “vegetarian cafe” may conjure up a hay-on-the-floor aesthetic, with crunchy-granola cliches and the scent of patchouli in the air, but I made sure that we offered way more at Kitchen. The decor was beautiful and modern, the menu was wholesome and accessible, and everyone was welcome. I believe food choices are very individual and that there is no need to stereotype the surroundings and definitely looked to never alienate anyone from the vegetarian experience. In fact, the decor at the wholefoods cafe was very much about happiness and inclusiveness. At the time of developing the store’s pink logo and brand livery ( shown), I was studying Holistic Counselling with a focus on artistic therapy. The Kitchen logo design shown in the image, was inspired by my studies in water colour paint therapy. The idea of this free flowing water colour paint in the logo, was used to evoke thoughts of inclusiveness and togetherness as we sought to bring people of all backgrounds together to enjoy great tasting meat-free food.
When we first set up Sanitarium and moved into our bright, airy space on Eagle Street, Brisbane near the river, the long termers in the building who worked in the offices above were initially suspicious. “You’ve no hope without meat and booze,” one scoffed. Soon, though, Kitchen was drawing vegetarians, vegans and omnivores alike from all across the city — including those offices upstairs — for healthy, satisfying meals that just happened to be meat-free. We made sure to include plenty of options for people who avoided dairy, eggs, gluten, nuts, and other allergens, so every one of our customers could find something to love. My experience with Kitchen confirmed my long held belief that great food, vegetarian or not, is about food made with care and love. If these critical ingredients are present then this food is very hard to resist.
I had that idea in mind when it came time to design Dello Mano’s first vegan products. In my opinion, vegan food isn’t about hopping onto a bandwagon or cashing in on a fad; it’s about inclusivity. Truly delicious baking, or cooking of any kind, requires a large measure of empathy: as cooks and bakers we anticipate the needs and desires of friends, family and customers and develop recipes accordingly. To this end, our first vegan Dello Mano product was earlier this year and was as a result of a calling from our customers to offer a Vegan Brownie heart for Valentines Day. As Dello Mano is the Australian Brownie Pioneer, we lead the market in Brownie innovation and so determined it very fitting that we launch the first Vegan Brownie Heart.
Soon after Dello Mano launched our vegan brownies, we received a validating message from the Queensland University of Technology. The University’s Business School and Institute for Future Environment funded a project called VaV (Veganism as a Vehicle to Grow the Global Bioeconomy), an international effort to research and develop new, sustainable vegan products. We were approached as an innovator in the vegan market and asked to collaborate! The QUT team invited us to participate in and respond to their research in vegan food development. We gathered a textbook worth of valuable information from the experience and can’t wait to incorporate some of what we learned into our own recipes.
Our work with the QUT team allowed us to connect us with another exciting vegan endeavour: Pure Planta, a new event at Brisbane’s iconic Powerhouse. We’re lucky to have lots of food-forward events all year round here in Brisbane, but Pure Planta is a new breed. Like many food events, Pure Planta is a hybrid spectacle that combines cooking demonstrations, a food fiesta full of toothsome treats, and a live MasterChef-esque recipe competition. The difference is that everything on display is entirely plant-based! The cooking competition will be the first in Brisbane to focus exclusively on vegan recipes. The food fiesta attendees will taste multiple courses of creative vegan dishes, from Fenn Foods’ creamy sesame “cheeses” to eclectic canapes by Vege Rama. Save room for dessert — Dello Mano will be bringing that, and we’re planning on treating the attendees.
Pure Planta brings our vegan journey full circle. The Powerhouse was one of the first places we ever sold our original Dello Mano brownies, and now it’ll be one of the first places we share our new vegan line. If you’re interested in attending a Pure Planta event, you can buy tickets and learn more at their website: http://www.pureplanta.org/. The food fiesta and live cooking competition will be held on October 21st at the Brisbane Powerhouse. In November, the organization will hold a workshop for food innovators and entrepreneurs, established or aspiring, at Queensland University of Technology. We hope to see some of you there!