Suki chatted with the Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse, the Smith and Deli-cious authors about their book release:
Describe your new cookbook, “Smith and Deli-cious” in 3 words.
Mo: “Accessible, exciting… delicious (of course)”.
Shannon: “Just like grandma”.
Which recipe would you recommend I try first and why?
Mo: “Really hard to pick! Probably batch up things that will make your life easier for the week ahead. Bolognese is one Shannon and I recommend to everyone, especially when you’re trying to impress meat eaters. You can make heaps and save it for lasagne, pasta sauce, pizza, everything”.
Shannon: “Scalloped potatoes: there are few things as comforting as a giant bowl of scalloped potatoes. Your mom made it, my mom made it, everyone has a connection, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who would say no to this dish”.
Which recipe was the most fun to come up with?
Mo: “Because I don’t come up with any of the recipes, it’s so much fun to watch Shannon actually translate her recipes from brain to paper as she rarely writes anything down. Plus when deciding what went into the book. That was really hard to decipher what to give away and what to hold close to the chest.”
Shannon: “It’s my job, and it’s all fun. The most challenging [part] was getting the brownie right. The classic thing that makes brownies [is] eggs, that’s what gives the fudginess. There was a lot of versions of this dish before it became the brownie recipe in this book. Otherwise, it would just chocolate cake.”
What new creations are you working on bringing to life in your ‘little science lab’?
Shannon: “Choux pastry. One day I will make a vegan croquembouche”.
Dogs get not one but two double page features in the cookbook. Do you have any furry, four-legged friends at home?
Mo: “With our crazy lifestyle the animal wouldn’t get enough care, so having so many dog visitors to the Deli is a close second. We do, however, do a lot of pet sitting for friends. Patsy …..we joke is our stepdaughter, we get her every other weekend while her mums are away.”
Shannon: “Don’t be fooled by him amongst the dogs, Axl has passed away; hence the dedication to him in the thanks section.”
The deli sounds like an amazing place to work, as well as eat. What’s your favourite story about the staff or day at the deli?
Mo: “Putting together the perfect team was crucial to making the deli work. Shannon and I believe in making really strong and efficient, fun and above all respectful teams. It is really important to dispel the usual hospitality work environment, especially when you’re working under such extreme conditions. Putting together the managers’ profiles and quotes and writing the segment on the staff was a really special moment. There were some tears when I was writing that part.”
“Our little space doesn’t warrant for much faff, so we get to a point in the mayhem where we’re just arms and legs. We don’t even have to look at each other or speak. We are literally moving like the best-choreographed dance or a well-oiled machine. Those are my favourite moments. Then when Lara, our manager breaks it up with a little speech about how the wait will be worth it and makes everyone crack a sweaty smile, that’s the best.”
Shannon: “The day was really hot, the queue was massive, so I cut up a watermelon and handed it out [to those people waiting] in line.”
If you could say one thing to negative people about the vegan diet, what would it be?
Mo: “Please focus your energies somewhere else. If you want to get fired up, there are a lot of people out there doing really really bad things to the environment, animals and each other; [so] put your worries with those people.”
“Any negativity translates as well. Each time something bad is recorded, that’s a tick against someone potentially giving us a go. And if that means that person who eats meat just goes somewhere else rather than our shops, that’s a step in the wrong direction.”
Shannon: “Stop worrying about what I’m doing, and start doing something yourself. For the vegan community and cause.”
Do you have any plans to expand the cafe to other states in Australia?
Mo: “We want so much for the business, but we really do have to do things and do them right. Hence why the book is so crucial. It’s like having your own little Fitzroy in Brisbane.”
Shannon: “Not currently. But we try to attend events interstate whenever possible to make up for that.”
The photos in the book are brilliant, how important is it to show what goes on behind the scenes at the shop?
Mo: “We say at the beginning of the book that the deli is more of a feeling than a place, and community is so important [to us]. We wanted to share that while the food is amazing and innovative, the place is also so very special. This also feeds into the very important facet in life that’s quickly depleting, the human connection. [We aim to be] a place where people know your name and your order, [and] can help you through a breakup or ask you about your trip.
Shannon: “It’s important for us to show that it’s real people making real food. It isn’t a factory.”
How close does your rice paper bacon recipe compare to authentic bacon?
Shannon: “It doesn’t compare. But the recipe gives you certain components that bacon gives you. Think smoke, greasiness, flavour. As we say in the book this is no means bacon. [You can buy] liquid smoke in almost every day delis and specialty food stores. [You could also try to find] it in Latin and vegan grocery stores or online.”
Are all the recipes in your cookbook really vegan?
Shannon: “No. But you have to guess which one is not”.
Mo: “Ha. I love this. But really, people do ask us this every day, all the time. It’s the best seeing the faces light up when they realise they can eat everything!”