As the demand for plant-based options continues to rise, chefs are innovating alongside the market.


Making vegan pastries is a triumph for any chef or baker. How do you construct a flaky croissant without using butter or make an Italian meringue without egg whites? It’s a challenge Chef David Rigby was keen to tackle with his vegan patisserie Oh My Days, which originally opened as a café in Sydney’s Glebe four years ago.

The decision to switch from a café to a bakery was made in 2020 when the
chef began developing a new croissant recipe. “I was trying to run the kitchen
and the bakery at the same time which was getting a bit much,” says Rigby. “In
the background, we were launching an organic vegan croissant and it just wasn’t
happening, so we decided to shut down and put all our effort into the croissant which led to a fully fledged patisserie.”

The croissant became the crux of the venue and provided an opportunity to
fill a gap in the market. “Croissants or laminated doughs were our main focus
for about three years,” says Rigby. “We got to where we were because of them.
They were that one thing vegans couldn’t have or found it hard to find.”

Rigby has continued to work on broadening the scope when it comes to
his pastry selection and deliver products that don’t skimp on quality. “For the last
six months, we’ve been working on a vegan éclair, cakes, tarts and quiches,”
says the chef. “We try to replicate or put our twist on anything you would find in a normal pastry shop.”

Baking without eggs or dairy was once a challenge, but has now become much
easier thanks to the number of substitutes available. Rigby’s croissant took more
than nine months to nail, and the right butter alternative was a critical factor.
“They make margarines specifically for croissants; it’s not a new thing,” says the
chef. “They are shelf-stable, manageable and you know exactly what the end
product is going to be. We used them for a couple of years and it was fine, but
there has been a trend of moving away from unhealthy plant-based options including poor substitutes such as margarine.”

The solution was to switch to an organic vegan butter called Naturli’ which is made in Denmark from shea. “They were the ones who first made spreadable vegan butter and then pastry blocks,” says Rigby. “We tried to find the best vegan butter we could find and it’s changed our business.”

Rigby also switched to organic wholegrain milled flour from New South Wales, which went on to lead to other creations such as cake. “There’s a lot of people in the plant-based world making really interesting ingredients,” he says.

Egg is a key component in many cakes, and while most vegan recipes go without, there are alternatives for bakers to choose from. A common vegan substitute is aquafaba, which is a liquid by product of chickpeas, but Rigby opts for Panacegg
and potato protein for his eclairs and meringues. “The [Panacegg] comes in a powder that is hydrated by whatever medium you use,” he says. “It’s a substitute for protein and fat. The potato protein doesn’t have the same structure as egg
white but it whips like egg white, so we can make Italian meringue. It’s what most vegan macarons are made of.”

Most vegan baking replacements such as butter can be used in the same way as non-vegan ingredients, meaning the fundamental techniques remain the same. “You’re still laminating when you make a croissant, but you have to find ingredients that give you fat or protein for a better mouthfeel,” says Rigby.

Temperature, baking and proving times are key touchpoints when it comes to working with vegan butter. “Because the butter is not stable at room temperature, you have to keep it really cold, so we bash out our sheets and then we chill them
quickly,” says Rigby. “Once we start laminating the butter, it starts warming up and seeping. You have to keep everything cold but not so cold it becomes fragile and snaps.”

Rigby and his team allow for longer proving times to ensure a high-quality end product. In the first stages of development, croissants were proved at 38 degrees Celsius at 85 per cent humidity, but adjustments had to be made. “We had to drop the humidity by 6 to 8 degrees so the butter didn’t leak out during baking,” says
the chef. “Because the temperature is so low, we prove for much longer.”

Rigby has worked tirelessly with his team to create vegan baked goods that are just as good as what you’d expect from a standard patisserie. Coming from a non-vegan cooking background, the chef has had to readjust his approach. “There are known outcomes with full dairy and egg products,” he says. “I had to tone down my
expectations when we were testing recipes. The head baker [David Bobby] pulled me right back and was like, ‘It takes a lot longer and a lot more time to get a vegan product’. Consistency is the hard thing.”

Although it has been a challenging process, the venue has been a hit with vegans and non-vegans alike. “We were kind of scared people would shy away from us,” says Rigby, “but it has probably gone even better than we expected.”


Alternative proteins were once limited compared to the status quo. The market
for meat substitutes has changed considerably due to high consumer demand, and it’s now much easier to find replacement proteins for animal products.
There is a spectrum of plant-based proteins for chefs to consider, with brands offering everything from chicken and fish to beef. Impossible Foods is lauded for its burger product, which ushered in a new chapter for the category, while widespread innovation within the sector has led to a range of plant-based proteins made from legumes, grains, soy and chickpeas, insect proteins and lab-grown meats. There is evidently a large playing field for plant-based alternatives, which provide a plethora of options for venues looking to expand their offering.

Naim Head Chef Vince Estacio is serving up a selection of plant-based
Middle Eastern and Mediterranean inspired dishes in Brisbane’s Paddington.
While the offering isn’t entirely plantbased, the restaurant caters to a wide
variety of dietary requirements thanks to its use of alternative proteins. “It’s as
if you were buying meat,” says Estacio. “There’s cheap, free-range and organic
options. It needs to work with us on a textural and flavour level.”

Naim utilises various alternative meat brands in the kitchen including 100% Not
chicken, vEEF meatballs and Suzy Spoon’s Sunday herb sausages. The restaurant
also works with Fable, which uses foraged shiitake mushrooms to make its products. Each brand has varying textures, flavours and consistencies when it comes to cooking process. “Some of the fake meats tend to have added sugars, so they burn faster,” says Estacio. “You have to talk to your supplier about the quality and texture of what you’re buying. I may be a bit obsessed, but I call the manufacturers or distributors.”

When it comes to developing dishes with alternative meats, Estacio adds his
own spices and marinades to enhance the flavour. ‘Chicken’ shawarma has been
one of the most popular dishes at the restaurant. “The chicken product we use
marinates beautifully and cooks well,” says the chef. “It has a really crispy skin
that feels like real chicken skin. We use it for a chicken shawarma paella which
has rice with tomato and saffron. We marinate the chicken in coconut yoghurt
and shawarma spices.”

Estacio has also created a vegan pot roast. “There’s nothing that can replace a
whole chicken or a whole lamb shoulder, so we made a lentil loaf which was really
good, but it was really time-consuming,” says the chef.

Estacio has recently used seitan, a wheat-based protein, in the roast. “I saw a dish
called a festive roast where you take a sheet of seitan and [add] mushrooms,
cranberries and nuts in the middle and wrap it in tofu skin,” says the chef, who
featured it on a vegan banquet menu.

As the number of alternative proteins continues to rise, restaurants are coming
up with new ways to deliver top-notch items. For Estacio, the market has
created an opportunity to appeal to a broader customer base and to exercise his
creativity in the kitchen.

Cold-pressed juices

Juices are inherently plant-based and have played a significant role in the health and wellness movement. Cold-pressed juices are currently a popular option for both businesses and consumers and have versatility behind the bar and in the kitchen.

Unlike other methods of juicing, cold-press juice machines extract the nectar from fruits and vegetables through a hydraulic press. Most juices are made using centrifugal machines with spinning blades that can cause ingredients to oxidise and lose nutritional value.

Gary Dowse is known as a master juice chef and has penned more than 52 different cold-pressed juice recipes. The juice chef says there’s much to think about when it comes to creating an unrivalled creation including selecting the right piece of equipment. “A cold-press machine squeezes and presses so you don’t get the oxygen and heat and you have more nutrition left in the juice,” he says. “It also tastes and looks better as it has a more vibrant colour.”

Other than delivering nutritional value to customers, cold-pressed juices are a convenient beverage option for businesses as they can be pre-bottled. “Most venues sell two to three times more volume if the juices are pre-bottled,” says
Dowse. “You can dedicate an hour outside of service and make 30–50 bottles of cold-pressed juice a day that customers can grab and go.”

When it comes to creating recipes and juice combinations, Dowse recommends taking a seasonal approach. “You’re obviously not going to be juicing watermelon in the winter, but in summer it’s fantastic,” says the chef. “You can use citrus fruits in winter which are great because they’re high in vitamin C. Add in a bit of ginger and it’s a warming, nutritious and healthy winter drink.”

Dowse suggests combining a water-heavy fruit with herbs or root ingredients. “Normally, you use one ingredient with lots of water such as apple or cucumber and then add lemon, ginger, mint or parsley for flavour,” he says. “The thing to be aware of is not mixing red and green components because you end up with a brown-looking juice.”

Working out the right ratios is also a must. Dowse starts by making a 1-litre batch of juice before scaling up to larger quantities. “Then you just times it by two, five or 10,” he says.

Although cold-pressed juice is often consumed by itself, it can be used in other applications such as cocktails. “They’re extremely beneficial for bars,” says Dowse. “They have a vibrant colour and a really concentrated flavour, so you can use a lot less product.” There is no doubt cold-pressed juices play a crucial role in the plant-based sector. “People are looking to get more plants into their diet and one of the ways of doing that is having cold-pressed juice.”