Growing appetite for plant power
Vegan restaurant in Richmond Hill is set to sprout from couple’s An Earthen Life venture
Plant power is the way to go, say Amy van der Merwe and Duart Maclean, the creative spirits behind An Earthen Life vegan food in Richmond Hill.
Their Earthen Life has been bearing fruit as Amy, 29, and Duart, 30, have been so busy with orders that they now plan to open a vegan restaurant, to be called Kindred Kitchen, in the next month or so.
Popular dishes already include Vietnamese summer rolls, tacos (available every Tuesday), as well as the burritos and various “bowl” offerings. Each day An Earthen Life offers two different main meals and one smoothie, for free delivery to Central areas and a pick-up point in Summerstrand.
“We are not uber-vegan but we are plant based,” says Amy, seconded by Duart who says they are not “super-fussy” so friends do not have to stress when inviting them round to dinner.
The couple have been together for three years – travelling and exploring the world – but only this year decided to make a full-time career of their penchant for healthy vegetarian food.
“We’ve travelled quite a bit together, but before that I spent three years in London and I also worked in catering in the US –United States, in the Hamptons and in Aspen,” says Amy who is the chef-in-chief with Duart her sous chef.
“I’m happy to do the hard labour, like the dishes and delivery,” he says, and is also armed with a law degree. New recruit Sindiswa Mali, 34, completes the kitchen line-up as prep chef and Kindred Kitchen home will be on the corner of Irvine and Raleigh streets, opposite Vovo Telo.
Amy – whose artistic eye was honed with an art diploma in stained glass from Nelson Mandela University – has eaten and cooked her way around several corners of the globe, including the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Closer to home, Duart and Amy ran the kitchen for a lodge in Namibia and took a workaway trip to Mozcambique last year, where they exchanged work for accommodation.
Now they reckon they are ready to put down roots and open their own establishment, with a focus on vegan and vegetarian food.
“I’ve always been interested in vegetables and when I started to do a lot of cooking, I realised that plant based is the way to go,” Amy says, not only for the health benefits but also due to environmental concerns.
The idea of cattle in feedlots appalls them.
“People think it’s just an American thing, but we do have feedlots here too,” says Duart, citing not only the carbon emissions from cattle but the trauma animals bred for food can go through.
Having said that, however, they are not zealous or against the use of leather or cotton – and Kindred will be able to serve customers coffee with cow’s milk.
Port Elizabeth seems to have embraced the vegan lunch dishes offered by An Earthen Life, which sends out the week’s menu on a Friday afternoon. Orders need to be placed before 5pm the day before.
“It’s been incredible, we’ve had a much better reaction than that we expected and the lunches have grown quite quickly,” Amy says. “Many people have said they are so happy there is something like this in PE.
“Lots of people just want a healthy option during the week, and quite a lot are the younger generation.”
Duart agrees: “There is a massive movement on Instagram also, there are new developments all the time in this type of food”.
“This is a trend but we are not doing this to be ‘trendy’, we are hoping it’s a trend that continues, because you need to eat right for yourself,” Duart says.
“You want to be eating food that is food, as natural as you can and that is not manufactured or processed.”
As well as focussing on whole grains and plant-based foods, they also try to support small local producers.
“We buy all our vegetables from Rocket Seed, who now deliver plastic free, and we take a big Consol jar to the Spice Cafe in Sixth Avenue and they fill it up for us.
"The Vegetarian Centre in Newton Park is also great, and we are going to stock Arrow Coffee at Kindred, it’s a small coffee roastery near Wilderness run by someone from Port Elizabeth.”