For Masterchef finalist Simon Toohey, where there’s smoke there’s plenty of fire.
The Footscray foodie has wasted no time in striking while the iron is hot, plunging headlong towards his dream of opening a vegan smokehouse.
Toohey is launching a pop-up smokehouse venture in Williamstown this Friday, firing up the coals at Peachy Keen, an open-air container bar hidden just off Ferguson Street.
“People would know from Masterchef that a vegan smokehouse was always a big dream for me,” he said.
“I’ll be opening Fridays and Sundays over October. The focus is testing the waters, I’m really hoping people love the concept and the good food.”
Featuring familiar vegetables cooked in creative ways, Toohey said the menu will reflect his mission of shifting people’s idea of cooking over coals requiring big slabs of meat by showcasing the overlooked qualities of slow-cooked vegetables.
From leeks and carrots to beetroot and eggplant, each dish is built around a different carefully-sourced ‘hero’ vegetable.
Toohey wants to open people’s minds to new possibilities and move away from the idea that a menu that is vegan must be limited in its scope.
“It’s a challenge, but chefs love a challenge. This is getting back to how people used to eat – historically we haven’t eaten that much meat.”
Promoting sustainable practices is also high on Toohey’s agenda, making Peachy Keen’s repurposed shipping containers and furniture made from pallets and other cast-off materials the perfect setting to share his food philosophy.
“Everything is reconditioned and rebuilt, so it really represents everything I believe in,” he said.
By crafting a dinner party style menu of communal sharing plates at his pop-up venture, Toohey is also able to better manage his other passion – reducing food waste.
His next step will be releasing a cookbook, all while he continues scouring for somewhere to open a permanent smokehouse, with a proper kitchen and garden plot for growing his own vegetables.
In the meantime, Toohey is pleased at the thought his love of vegetables has inspired people of all ages.
“I get stopped by parents who say their kids want to eat their vegetables because they are cool,” he said. “I’d love this to really keep having that flow-on effect.”
Further details and bookings via www.obee.com.au