Proper vegan sushi? That’s just how Veganatomy rolls
It was soy rice – sorry, so nice – to catch up with Zoë Newman, the creative culinary genius behind all-vegan Asian-fusion outfit Veganatomy (who you can now find at HWKRMKT, fyi)
In Partnership with Veganatomy
Dreaming of dumplings, a banging bânh mi or sinking your teeth into some sensational sushi, maybe washed down with a cheeky pint or a cool glass of prosecco, all while looking out over the river this Summer? Us too, hun.
Luckily, we can now make that dream a reality – and all the veggies among us need not politely excuse themselves, either. See, Veganatomy is an Asian fusion outfit with a difference: their sushi is 100% vegan. In fact, they’re the first and only fully vegan sushi specialist in Newcastle. And they’ve just bagged themselves a stall at By The River Brew Co.’s esteemed street food market, HWKRMKT, in time for 2021’s big summer blowout.
We caught up with the genius behind the gyozas, Zoë Newman, to find out more about somewhere we highly suspect is going to be one of our new favourite hangouts…
What’s Veganatomy all about?
Veganatomy combines everything that I’m passionate about: healthy, creative food and anatomy art. The name comes from the combination of these two things. I’m also an anatomy illustrator and I’m fascinated with how the body works and the intricacies of our building blocks. So, naturally, I want to put this across in my food by offering clean, healthy choices on my menus that also look appetising by adding my creativity into the mix.
You only started Vegantomy last year – how difficult was it to keep your new business afloat during the pandemic?
It’s been incredibly difficult. After quitting my full-time job as Head Chef at Little Green, I invested everything into my new venture in January 2020 and started booking my Veganatomy Street Food Pop Up at events and venues for that Spring and Summer. But obviously, by March, all of those plans were cancelled. So I had to reinvent my business model or face losing everything I’d created.
I started offering a small local delivery service, which really took off but was hard to maintain from my home kitchen. So I moved into graze boxes and sushi platters for collection, which proved much easier to manage. This led to me doing a pop-up in Fenwick’s Food Hall last November, which really pushed my vegan sushi into the limelight
Now you’ve taken up a stall at HWKRMKT at By The River Brew Co. – what does this opportunity mean to you?
Yes, I’ve become a resident trader. It’s an amazing opportunity and it’s meant that I can offer way more variety on my menu, alongside my popular vegan sushi. Looking ahead, I feel that this residency is really going to put Veganatomy on the map as a destination for great vegan food in the region.
You’ve worked in hospitality for 19 years – what attracted you to the industry?
I was a student at Newcastle Art College when I took on my first bar job at 18. From then on in, I always worked in the industry – whether it was in a bar, restaurant or kitchen. I just loved the work and meeting new faces every day, I felt like I was in my natural environment.
I’ve pretty much done everything from KP [kitchen porter], working behind the bar and waiting tables to becoming a chef and then, ultimately, a Head Chef. Between all of this, I studied a Hospitality Management Degree, too. The hospitality industry is definitely where I’m at my best.
You’ve been a plant-based chef for five years now. What made you decide to focus your creativity specifically on vegan cuisine?
It was actually when I took on a job at The Ship Inn – the pub had just reopened as a fully vegan establishment, so we had to create a vegan menu that would appeal to our customers. I was brought up vegetarian and I’ve never really been too fussed about cooking with meat, so it felt like the right time to go fully vegan and put everything I had learnt into this new menu. It spiralled from there, really. My world just opened up to the many new techniques and ingredients available and I found it all very exciting.
And why Asian fusion cuisine in particular?
I was brought up in the West End of Newcastle, which has a predominately Asian culture. The food and local traders I was surrounded with really influenced my palette. I’d have sleepovers at my best friend’s house and would enjoy some of the most amazing authentic food, which we’d have a hand in making. Learning to make chapatis and spice blends were my favourite. I’d come home and beg my Mum to go up to the local Asian food store at the top of our street to get ingredients so we could make it again at home.
I happily travel to the very same shop now to buy my saffron and talk to the owners about their produce, or just to walk around the aisles taking in all of the smells and letting myself become inspired. The Brighton Food Store and its staff taught me so much growing up.
We love giving shoutouts to other amazing local businesses, so if you were going out for a meal in the North East, where are you most likely to go?
Definitely River Beat – it’s right across the road from By The River Brew Co. Their food is also Asian fusion and served tapas style. The vegan menu is top-notch, the staff are incredible and always make you feel so welcome. I adore that place!
And for a drink?
You’ve been offering Sushi & Graze boxes throughout lockdown, but they’re temporarily on pause while you focus on HWKRMKT. Can we expect these boxes to return in the future?
Yes, absolutely! As soon as I’m settled in and feeling confident that we’re set for the weekends, I’ll be bringing them back. They were so popular and are such a great sharing food for a picnic or as a gift for a birthday.
What would you most like to achieve by the end of 2021?
Ultimately, to be happy and feeling like I’ve made an impact on the local vegan food scene in my city. I’m so passionate about what I do – I just want to make good food for you all to try!
And what are your ultimate ambitions for the business?
I want to keep on growing and creating new and exciting menus. Long term, a deli would be great! But I’m keeping my options open – I’m still a young business and I’m learning every day.
Or drop in and say hello at Veganatomy’s new stall in HWKRMKT every weekend: Hillgate Quays, Gateshead, NE8 2FD