Although not I’m not vegan, Leah has been someone who I’ve looked up to even before she started her own vegan cooking business. I’ve been lucky enough to work with Leah in the past, and have always loved listening to her talk, as you can very much tell how passionate she is about what she does. So, when I got to sit down with her over a cup of tea, we could have talked for hours!
Q: What are the main duties of Just Frank?
A: I provide a range of my vegan products to some cafes in the Limestone Coast and Western Victoria. So we are in Sweet Espresso in Naracoorte, Que Sera in Millicent, Bliss in Kingston, Say Grace in Casterton, Periwinkles in Port MacDonnell, Metro Bakery and Cafe ,To Go, and She’s Apples in Mount Gambier. I also provide a meal service to some private clients, who have special dietary requirements, including veganism, gluten-free; I have a few that have specific allergies that I cater for.
Q: You used to have your online menu ordering system, is that still popular?
A: I still do that weekly behind the scenes, it just plugs away in the background. I took it down publicly because everything else was growing as well, but it is part of my work that I am very passionate about. I love the one on one contact I have with my clients and I have developed quite close relationships with them, it’s impossible for me not to have relationships with people so I tend to take them in as family. To me, food equates to love and kindness, and warmth. For me it’s a natural emotion that goes with food, it compliments the whole experience.
Q: Where did your love of food and cooking come from? In the past you had your gardening, so how does that work?
A: They do work together, I grow a lot of vegetables in my backyard, and I am very passionate about that. I came from a family of veggie growers, so it was natural to me. Anywhere I’ve moved the first thing I’ve done is to go out the back and dug a plot and planted something. Even if it’s only herbs. My mum worked, but loved cooking. We always had home cooked meals and cookies and cakes.
Q: What is the motivation behind what you do?
A: When I first went vegan, veganism wasn’t as out there as it was now, and was quite misunderstood. So I was used to people looking at me funny when I said I was vegan, so I was pretty keen to break down that stereotype and to show people I didn’t just eat Kale, that there is more to it, and it didn’t need to be boring. So I started with the online menu and it just grew organically. Then I toyed with the idea of having a vegan café, until I realized that for me personally, it was more important to have vegan food in mainstream cafes as I felt this was where I could have the most impact. The opportunity to ’normalise’ vegan options has become a passion of mine. My partner and I have very different eating styles, he isn’t vegan and the times that we went to mainstream cafes we found that we couldn’t eat together because there weren’t any vegan options or if we went to a vegan café there would be no mainstream options. And he is a bit conservative with his eating, so I thought what about if I was to get some vegan options in some mainstream cafes, because that would help me and it would help other people. And in actual fact I would estimate that 80% of my clients aren’t vegan and even maybe up to 90% percent. This for me is fantastic, because if it’s encouraging people through their taste buds to eat vegan food and it not even be identified as vegan then that makes the transition, if they ever were to, a lot easier.
Q: What introduced you to veganism?
A: Basically when I was 30 I had some health issues that were only going to be resolved by surgery, and I asked for just a bit of time to have a think about it and in that time I changed, I went vegetarian because I wasn’t eating well at the time. So I decided to do some research at the library because there was no internet. The books were limited so it was very hard to find information. I then made those changes and within 6 months I went vegan, much to the horror of my family, because it was like joining a cult back then. Then eventually I went back to the specialist and I didn’t need to have that surgery. That started my journey, because I thought I was onto something. And I just started to think that I had found something that was working for me. Of course, aside from the health benefits, once I started looking into the ethical side of veganism, well, the deal was done.
Q: You work from home at the moment, would you like to move into your own commercial space?
A: It’s definitely a consideration, and I’ve certainly done a lot of research into it. I’m probably resisting a little bit at the moment because I love the personal contact that I have with my clients. And I fear that if I grow any more than I have that I will lose that, and it’s too important to me. And I think there are a lot of businesses that get to the crossroad that I’m at, and you have the fork in the road and you need to make that decision, and most choose to go bigger, and at this point I don’t feel that. I feel that the people are more important than the volume. My thought is can I employ a couple of people and squeeze out 10,000 meals to people a month, or can I make a huge difference to the lives of 20 people? I’d rather make the impact on the 20 people, because I see what it’s doing in their lives. I would have to leave that behind if I go to the next thing and at this point (and for the foreseeable future) I’m not prepared to do that.
Q: What advice would you give to people who want to start transiting to veganism?
A: I think it’s a quote from a famous vegan called Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, and she says something like “if you can’t change everything, change one thing”. So just make a change, whether it’s for the animals, for your health or that of the planet.. Social media has been great for vegan activism and for raising awareness. There are no excuses for not knowing the facts anymore. If you want the information you can find it, so if that’s the road you want to take, just make a change. If it’s just to take out the meat, if you have to start with Meatless Monday do it. Any change makes a difference. It’s not hard, and it’s not expensive. How cheap is brown rice, how cheap are beans? And they can go together to make a meal and it doesn’t need to be difficult. I don’t judge anyone for where they are on their journey now, hey, I wasn’t always vegan, but I am here to support anyone wishing to make a change, no matter how small.
Q: What are your plans for the next 6-12 months?
A: I’m trying to contain it, trying to keep it under control. I’m blessed to be in this position, it’s happened quite quickly. But this isn’t all I want to do; I can see myself doing cooking classes. I’d love to teach people how to cook for themselves rather than me just sell my vegan food to 20 people. If I could find the right venue to hold the cooking classes I would do it in a heartbeat. And I think people want it, I don’t think people don’t want to go vegan; it’s that they don’t know how. If I can, I would love to help show people how, and how easy and delicious it is. (though it does have challenges, we are all creatures of habit.) I still want to be able to do my café work, I absolutely love that; I basically need to clone myself. I don’t want to build an empire, I just want to do me, and I am loving the journey. I’ve met some amazing people, and the community has been very supportive.
Vegan Creamy Spinach Cob Loaf (omg) (yum)
1 cob loaf
1 teaspoon of olive oil
4 spring onions, chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed (or 2 teaspoons of minced garlic)
250g frozen spinach, thawed
30g packet of spring vegetable soup mix (check pack to make sure that is contains no animal product)
225g tub of Tofutti Sour Supreme (dairy free sour cream which I found @ Coles)
1 cup of Praise Light Mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 200°C. Cut a large hole in the top of the cob loaf and remove the inside. You want to make sure there is a large well to fill with deliciousness whilst maintaining the structural integrity of the loaf. Cut the bread you have just removed into bite-sized pieces and place on a baking tray with the loaf. Heat the oil in a frypan, add the spring onion, red onion and garlic and stir until the onion starts to brown. Add spinach, soup mix, Sour Supreme, mayonnaise and salt and pepper. Stir well and cook for a few more minutes. Fill the cob loaf with the dip and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the bread is golden.
Serve hot and enjoy.
Thank you for reading!
Just Frank’s website: http://serenityleah13.blogspot.com.au
Photo’s by Jessica Elise Design Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessicaelisedesign/