Veganism is gaining popularity in Hobart – with three eateries, Heartfood, Veg Bar, and A Tad Whimsy café, all labelling themselves free of animal products.
As the movement grows, Veg Bar part-owner Jazmin Di Tommaso says she wants veganism to be inviting to everyone, whether they eat meat or not.
“The term ‘vegan’ is a bit scary for some and has been made so by the most passionate vegans who are vocal in a community that perhaps simply isn’t ready to understand the implications of eating animal products. It can seem like a cult – you’re either in or you’re out.”
Mrs Di Tommaso believes things are changing, but admits she has moved away from using the term ‘vegan’.
“I feel like using the word ‘plant-based’ is a lighter way of looking at it. We want to be an inviting restaurant.”
Now in its third month of business, the 100% plant-based restaurant – with the exception of an option to have cow’s milk in your coffee – has received both criticism and praise.
“Fear not meat-eaters! This place will satisfy everyone’s appetite. Food is so good, tasty and filling,” wrote one customer on Facebook.
Veg Bar’s menu is broad, from burgers to stews and stir-fries, and peanut-butter smoothies to turmeric and matcha ‘super-food’ lattes. Mrs Di Tommaso says she and head chef Isa Raku, hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, are focused on achieving plant-based food that is accessible and quick, offering both takeaway and dine-in.
However, some have been sceptical of the business, which is not run solely by vegans and vegetarians.
Mrs Di Tommaso says dietary choice had no part in deciding who worked at Veg Bar, and that she “just wanted people to work here who were good at their job.”
“I think people think we aren’t genuine because we aren’t emphasising that we are a vegan establishment, instead we focus on saying ‘plant-based’. The reason is that I want Veg Bar to be seen predominantly for its tasty food, that just happens to be vegan.”
“I want plant-based eating to be more of a normal thing. Rather than instilling the fear of having to completely cut animal products out in people who may not be ready, or implying that you can’t eat plant-based if you’re not vegan, I want people who eat meat to simply feel comfortable trying something new and extremely beneficial for our bodies and the planet,” says Mrs Di Tomasso.
Mrs Di Tomasso says that although she supports veganism and everything it advocates; she doesn’t want to imply the exclusivity the term can evoke.
“Even if someone comes in once a month and replaces their usual meal with one of ours, it’s a step in the right direction. I want Veg Bar to be for everyone.”