Spag bol. Stroganoff. Carbonara. If you’re a meat-eater, you probably take these comfort foods for granted. But if you’re vegan, they’re meals you likely miss. What if you didn’t have to? What if you could drop into a deli and find all the foods you’ve been craving ready and waiting in delicious plant-based form?
Meet Mo Wyse and Shannon Martinez, the masterful meat-free duo behind Smith & Deli in Melbourne’s Fitzroy. They’ve created a cornucopia of culinary pleasures without an animal product in sight. But it’s not just vegans frequenting their deli, meat-eaters have been won over by chef Shannon’s knack of recreating all their favourites.
This is key, she says, in getting non-vegans to try more plant-based foods. And she should know, she’s a meat-eater, too.
“I can tell you, there’s never a morning where I wake up and crave a chia seed pudding. You’re not going to convince a meat-eater to go without for a couple of days a week by giving them some blended kale. People are happy to change the way they eat if they don’t feel like they’re missing out too much.”
Mo, on the other hand, is vegan, with the pair having met back in 2012 when Mo ran the People’s Market in Collingwood. Shannon’s vegan food truck proved one of the most popular and the two formed a strong working relationship.
“One of the things we noticed,” Mo explains, “was that both of us had the same work ethic and we floated past each other that we should do something else. We planned a fictitious restaurant for about a year while we had other jobs and then Shannon said, ‘enough with this’ and real estate ninja-ed us this space which became Smith & Daughters.”
A fresh vegan venture
Starting as a Latino restaurant, Smith & Daughters is now Italian and features plant-based versions of classics including beef ragu, chicken schnitzel and cavatelli puttanesca.
Both incarnations attracted a flock of diners and pretty soon, Mo describes, they outgrew their home. “It was from the second day we were open, we tried to run lunch and dinner service with a coolroom the size of a closet, turning out 400 meals a night, so there was absolutely no way we could keep up with the demand.”
Having been forced to cancel lunch, they started a search for a bigger space. An office that could be converted into a prep kitchen with a shop at the front provided the answer and saw the opening of Smith & Deli.
To read the full story, pick up the latest issue of Selector Magazine at newsstands from March 7.