The vegan thing comes second for Mo Wyse and Shannon Martinez.
Second to what? Serving up seriously delicious food, that’s what.
Wyse and Martinez are the epitome of cool. Their so-hot-right-now restaurant in Fitzroy, Melbourne, Smith & Daughters, has a serious buzz about it. And it’s vegan. Opened in 2014, it’s also innovative, Latin-influenced and full of simply delicious plant-based food. The pair also opened Smith & Deli, a shop and deli, and it's been a hit too.
US-born Wyse says that while the vegan element of the food is important, she and Martinez wanted to focus on providing “good food first”.
“We don’t want to shove the political message down anyone’s throat,” she adds. “The whole point was to get away from that; the whole ‘you have to be thinking about what you’re eating’. It was like, ‘no, we want you to think about a really delicious meal and that’s it. And then it’s like, ‘wait a second, there’s no animals involved at all.”
“We had a journalist in the restaurant last night and she brought a friend, who was groaning about getting a vegan meal – loudly. And then, on the way out, the friend said, ‘I am so ashamed of myself, that was amazing.’ That’s the goal!”
And it seems like they are on scoring all the goals right now. The Smith & Daughters cookbook (scroll down for some delicious recipes from the book) has just launched in Australia and the UK this month and there’s a US edition coming out in 2017. It’s all happening.
Martinez – who is, somewhat surprisingly, not a vegan - is in charge of the kitchen (and Smith & Deli, the nearby shop offshoot), delivering up to 400 meals every night in the restaurant. She says she has always wanted to create a cookbook, since she was “super young”.
“To me, what makes you successful was to have a book,” she says. “In my eyes, if you had a book that meant people knew your food, they wanted your food. So when we were offered the book it was finally a chance to share some of our stuff with our customers who have been asking us for recipes for 10 to 15 years.”
“And it gives us such amazing exposure in places that we can’t be physically,” adds Wyse. “We just wanted to offer more to everybody and get our name out there and hopefully we can do stuff all over the world.”
It helps that the duo is driven as well as dynamic. The 92 recipes for the book – which includes options such as Kale and leek bake, Mexican red rice and some decidedly decadent doughnuts that use aquafaba, the vegan ingredient everyone is talking about – were shot in an amazing six days.
“We had a really good team,” Martinez says, including photographer Bonnie Savage and stylist Leesa O’Reilly. “We shot the whole book at my house. We did it over six days and cooked all the food in my own kitchen at my home, because that’s my happy place pretty much, so we found it easier to do it from there. And everyone just worked really hard and we did it really quickly and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It was amazing and I hope to do many more of them in the future.”
Exhausting, perhaps, but Martinez says, “that’s the way I like to run”. Wyse adds that Martinez found it slightly easier as she only had to prepare one perfect meal at a time, as opposed to one meal times 400.
And, interestingly, Martinez had never written down her recipes before doing the book, says Wyse. “She just had a really good team that she could communicate things with and they just memorised things and made food. Now she had to actually write things out and measure things.”
Martinez laughs. “I am a ‘chuck it in’ kind of cook. It’s really tricky! It’s hard to measure out things like pinches and fistfuls of things. And that’s how I’ve always cooked, so this was the first time I had to use tablespoons and measuring cups so I can tell you, it’s not as fun, but we got there in the end.”
Wyse disagrees. “She says that she flukes things all the time, but they’re calculated, they’re not fluking. She’s very very talented.”
The book delivers – it’s got vegan staples, such as the tofu scramble, but even meat-eaters will plenty to get excited about in the Spanish-influenced food. And the vegans? Seems to be a fervent yes from them:
Cook the book
Forget what you know about tofu. Forget what you know about tofu scramble. Slap this on toast, add your favourite veg to make it more omeletty, put it in a burrito or brekkie tacos, or eat it directly from the pan, whatever way you choose … It’s perfect, so enjoy it.
"Moreish as. We serve these in quantities of three or six at the restaurant. People always, ALWAYS choose six. You’ll see why!".
This amazing Peruvian pasta dish is totally delicious, spicy and unusual.
These are everyone's favourite doughnuts at the restaurant.
The origin of this dish comes from Shannon’s childhood and her grandad. Shannon has great memories of her Puppy, her father’s father, going to the Preston market and buying slabs of dark chocolate in bulk. Once home, he’d use a hammer to break the chocolate into bits and put it between bread with olive oil and salt and that would be lunch. He never made it into pâté, and Shannon didn’t realise it was a Spanish thing. Then travelling in Spain, she tasted the real deal.
Smith & Daughters: A Cookbook (that happens to be vegan) by Shannon Martinez & Mo Wyse (Hardie Grant Books, hbk, RRP $48), is available in stores nationally.