”Written byNicholas Trethowan
“Although we aim to make the best plant-based sushi in the world, this would be an empty achievement if we didn’t make the world a better place along the way.”
In a world full of fast and convenient food, technological advancements and a culture based around decadence – the question that is reverberating around the world right now is not where we go, but How we go. We got up close and personal with one of our favourite emerging young kitchens in Cape Town to find out more about them and to get an understanding of what they are doing and why.
CCC: First things first: we absolutely love you and are so stoked to shine a spotlight on one of our favourite kitchens in Cape Town. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Plushi is an online, zero-waste, plant-based sushi restaurant born from a love for sushi, experimentation and sustainability. Well, that is the quick generic answer anyways and although it ticks all the boxes, it doesn’t tell you an awful lot about us.
Plushi has 2 co-founders – Connor & Carin. I (Connor) turned vegan at the beginning of 2020 and endured about 3 weeks of eye-rolling, sarcasm and sly comments before Carin eventually came round, tail between her legs, and joined the train.
Bottom line is neither of us are life-long vegan veterans. However, for pretty much our entire life we were both blissfully unaware of the negative environmental impact we were contributing to by not choosing a plant-based diet. Meat was never the same again, and to our surprise, neither were we. We felt better, food tasted better and living life was just better knowing that we weren’t contributing to all sorts of things from animal rights abuse to excessive land use and water wastage. It added a welcomed positive spin on the day-to-day, and there was just no going back. All-in-all: would recommend.
Anyways, back to Plushi. From the outset, we had two main focuses: The first was to show people that vegan alternatives could be more exciting and arguably more tasty than their traditional counterparts – with this we hoped to win more people over to the light-side by showing them how great it could be, whilst contributing to building a bigger base of sustainable-eaters. The second was to use the platform to showcase and challenge sustainability, within the food industry but also beyond it – although we aim to make the best plant-based sushi in the world, this would be an empty achievement if we didn’t make the world a better place along the way.
Why go into plant-based sushi?
Prior to our vegan-awakening, we did indeed both enjoy a good sushi binge, and I personally never gave avo maki a chance to fill that void. So perhaps it was a slow-burn craving that led to the idea eventually emerging in my subconscious, close to 8 months dry; however, I have lots of crazy start-up ideas, all with a self-proclaimed legendary status, but I often forget them a week later. So the lack of exciting vegan sushi options is not why we went into plant-based sushi.
Locally there are multiple 100% vegan/vegetarian restaurants dotted around, most of which revolve around smoothies, smoothie bowls, wraps, salads and the sort of things that are either vegan by nature or made up of primarily plants – so removing the animal product can be done without raising too much suspicion from your daily carnivore.
Sushi, on the other hand, is a dish that traditionally revolves around raw fish. Even though the word ‘sushi’ actually means ‘sour rice’ people associate raw fish as a fundamental ingredient that makes sushi, sushi – and they wouldn’t be entirely wrong. So we thought if we could remove the fish completely and start a sushi restaurant based on the concept of omitting this perceived fundamental ingredient, and then go on to receive a positive response, we’d have a pretty good chance of grabbing the attention of some people, forcing them to ask themselves: Why? Thus, setting the stage perfectly for us to go on and tell people exactly that. Allowing us to use the platform to raise touchy topics, share important information and (hopefully) instigate positive change.
So the decision to go into plant-based sushi came with the realization of the statement we could make and the impact we could have.
One of the things we love is not only is your food delicious, ethical and sustainable (a modern-day culinary triple threat) but it’s also just so beautifully presented. Everything in the Plushi-experience feels elegant, familiar and friendly. From contact point to delivery, presentation and taste, there is a thoughtful and unique consistency that makes your meal feel happy.
“One of the things we love is not only is your food delicious, ethical and sustainable (a modern-day culinary triple threat) but it’s also just so beautifully presented.”
Can you tell us about your customer experience and why creating an almost artistic experience is so important to Plushi?
The Plushi experience is an integral part of our brand and we knew we wanted it to be this way from the get-go. It was evident to us for a few reasons:
We wanted to create a product that was cool, trendy, different and most importantly – exclusive to the vegan community (or those willing to give it a go). Not a politely made vegan option thrown together to keep everyone happy or to extend the potential target market; but something the vegan community could have of their own. A sort of warm hug, in the shape of a refreshing and desirable product offering, to say thank you for being around and reaffirm that we are growing and moving in the right direction. At the same time, it acts as a means of watering the grass, out of the hopes that more might pop across to see what it’s like on the other side.
We also started on the 1st Of August 2020, mid-lockdown. So where most restaurateurs express their personality through everything from décor and crockery to lighting, music and a warm friendly smile upon arrival – we were limited to a box and a menu.
The artistic presentation is how we set the tone for the meal and can be easily explained through a combination of design freedom due to having to custom-make the box to ensure it was 100% plastic-free, mixed with a ‘slight’ – OCD induced – obsession to detail and a deep love for minimalism and perfect symmetry. As for the menu, we knew we wanted to make it multipurpose to showcase a zero-waste mindset so we used it to hold the chopsticks and keep the serviettes untouched (instead of a paper bag). Then lastly, we are both suckers for a little bit of ambiance, so adding in the playlist and incense stick was a no-brainer.
Recently you put out your first, should we say conceptual, advert called ‘Think Conscious’ in collaboration with musician/artist/creator Paz Shina and our very own Nicky T:
Tell us a bit about that.
In the modern world of marketing, there is a lot going on. We are constantly inundated with all sorts of content on social media and it’s really hard to be heard and even more difficult to be remembered. It’s also tricky for any brand to say anything about their core values without sounding like the latest Verimark advert in disguise, which is why, before this, we had never really highlighted much about Plushi outside of our literal product offering.
‘Think Conscious’ was created with the intention of being able to tell people exactly why Plushi exists without actually saying anything about Plushi at all. We wanted to create something which cut through the bullsh*t and said exactly what it needed to whilst simultaneously creating a sense of community with like-minded individuals. Community is important. If you’re someone who really cares about saving the planet, then we’re one and the same, and it’s important for us to think and live our lives this way. We grow in numbers by the day, but unfortunately at this stage, we are still the minority, so our greatest strength lies in togetherness and supporting one another where we can.
Plushi is here to simply lay our coat down so that it is no inconvenience whatsoever, for anyone to cross the puddle and make the sustainable choice.
At the end of the day, apart from delicious sushi, we’d rather people support us because they believe in what we believe in and not because they feel inclined to due to all the great things we have said about ourselves online. ‘Think Conscious’ was our first step to establishing a real connection and making this a reality.
“It was a time of discovery and growth at all costs – but at what costs they did not know.”
Why is environmentalism and conscious thinking so important?
Many (if not all) of the environmental issues we face today (fossil fuel dependence, overfishing, single-use plastics etc) begun in a time when the instigators were not entirely aware of the long-lasting impact of their actions. It was a time of discovery and growth at all costs – but at what costs they did not know.
We are fortunate enough to be growing up in a well-informed time where, thanks to science and research, it is very clear what our mistakes are as a species, where they began and how we need to go about solving them. The generations that were the first to make these mistakes were reckless but when it came to knowing of long-lasting consequences, they were, for the most part, none-the-wiser. If we continue to make their same mistakes, knowing what we know now, what does that make us?
We know that our intense dependence on certain things makes it extremely difficult to just stop certain things, however, because of what we know today, it is our duty to begin the process of returning to a sustainable way of life. Albeit small, baby steps every day.
How can people start making an impact?
We could probably talk for hours on this. But I think the most important headline would be to educate yourself on different topics within environmentalism and continuously open yourself up to uncomfortable conversations around them – with yourself or with others. We’ve just created a FB group called Plushi People where we would like to encourage people to talk about uncomfortable things within a local sustainability context: what they are struggling with, where their frustrations lie etc, out of the hopes that we can not only bring these issues to light and make people understand them better but also provide a place where people can share potential solutions and instigate positive change across our community.
Next month is also Plastic Free July – we would encourage anyone and everyone to sign up and take the challenge at www.plasticfreejuly.org
We’ll also be running an amazing competition for the month of July which encourages you to buy your first plastic-free starter kit – breaking some important plastic habits and giving you that nudge to begin your plastic-free journey. It’s small steps like these that can make a real difference.
Lastly, what is the best way to go about getting Plushi for the first time for those out there that want to try?
Orders can be made online via www.plushi.co.za/order – simply select your delivery area and follow the prompts. If you have any issues we also accept orders via WhatsApp – 0724880578. We are delivery/pick up only!
Follow them on Instagram for more tasty alternatives – @plushiplatters
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Watch Their Conceptual Advert Below!