Atlantic Canada’s first vegan butcher opens in Halifax
Walking into the newly-opened Real Fake Meats, you might not notice right away, but it’s completely plant-based. The deli case of the North End Halifax shop is filled with slices of cheeze (vegan cheese), coconut bacon and cashew mozzarella while the menu lists classic comfort foods like donairs and grilled cheezes to go. Though the vegan butcher only opened its brick-and-mortar shop in early January, they already have repeat customers due to the success of their subscription boxes.
In the spring of 2018, Lauren Marshall (Top Chef Canada alum and former head chef of Halifax vegan restaurant enVie) started a meat-free subscription service with partner Brandon Levesque. They sold more than 60 boxes of plant-based ‘meat and cheeses’ within the first 48 hours and learned quickly that keeping up with demand was a lot of work. “Even at the time, 60 didn’t seem like a big number, it seemed very modest, but then when we were making it, we saw just how much food for 60 people was,” says Marshall. After five rounds of the boxes, Marshall says they realized they needed their own space, and the idea for a storefront was born. Levesque has since moved back into the kitchen prepping his giant batches of seitan (protein-rich wheat gluten), while Marshall is spearheading the new storefront.
Being a plant-based butcher doesn’t mean hacking up a bunch of vegetables on a fancy cutting board. “I use all the same equipment that a butcher does, I just don’t kill animals,” says Marshall. One of her first purchases with the business was an industrial meat slicer, used to shave paper-thin slices of seitan-bacon. Most of the fake meats produced at the shop are made with seitan. “Essentially it’s like making a really dense dough, so as you would with regular bread, you can flavour it however you want.” The donairs garnering hundreds of likes on Instagram are made with heavily seasoned sliced seitan, a coconut donair sauce, Fancy Lebanese Bakery pita, onion and tomato.
Marshall’s goal is to fill the comfort food hole left by veganism.