Anastasia Lavrentiadis is a passionate vegan with Greek heritage, so it’s no surprise that when she swapped her former day job for a mobile food business she decided to combine the two.
She launched Staazi & Co at the Vegan Festival last year and the van has popped up at numerous events since then, including the Adelaide Cabaret Festival’s Wintergarden, WOMADelaide and regular sessions at the Wheatsheaf Hotel.
“I’m very passionate about veganism and I thought a good way to spread the word or be able to share and educate was through feeding people,” says Lavrentiadis, speaking to InDaily on her way home after taking the van to Byron Bay’s Splendour in the Grass.
“I think veganism is growing and there’s still not a lot of it [vegan food] out of there, so I thought it was worth taking the risk.”
At home, Lavrentiadis prefers wholesome and healthy plant-based meals, but when she launched Staazi & Co she found that most of her customers wanted more street-food-type options, which were also easier to make and serve from the van.
Her most popular menu items include the vegan yiros made with “plant-based lamb” – a TVP (textured vegetable protein) based product which she marinates in Greek herbs and spices based on a recipe developed with her caterer brother – and the AB (hot chips topped with the pb “lamb”, tzatziki and other sauces.
The yiros is served in the traditional Greek style, with pita bread, tzatziki (garlic sauce), onion, tomato and a small handful of hot chips.
“The secret to the success we’ve had with it [the plant-based meat substitute] is in our marinating and preparation of it … a lot of meat eaters have eaten it and not known it wasn’t just a normal yiros,” Lavrentiadis says.
“No one wants a salad or quinoa after a big night… it’s trying to meet that market.
“It’s letting people know you can go vegan and it doesn’t mean you have to go without.”
In the future, Lavrentiadis is keen to add another arm to her business which would perhaps offer meals via a home delivery service and focus more on home-style Greek cooking – “plant-based food from your mum’s kitchen”.
Meanwhile, she’s excited to be able to offer a taste of these types of dishes, most of which are based on her own family’s recipes, at the Adelaide Central Market during a producer-in-residence stint this month from August 7 to 25.
Lavrentiadis says the Staazi & Co stall menu will include items such as yemista: stuffed vegetables, usually tomatoes and capsicum, which are filled with rice and seasonal vegetables, lightly flavoured with herbs such as dill and parsley, good-quality olive oil and sea salt, then cooked in the oven.
She is also planning to serve fukhes (“a hearty warming lentil soup … simply flavoured with salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic and bay leaves”), fasolakia me patates (a classic tomato-based stew of beans with potatoes) and her “personal all-time favourite”, arakas (peas cooked in a tomato-based sauce with olive oil, onion, garlic, parsley and dill).
As for sweets, baklava is a standard on the Staazi & Co food van menu and is likely to also make an appearance at its producer-in-residence stall.
“Thin layers of filo pastry drowned in sugar syrup wrapped around crushed almonds and pistachios – absolutely to die for,” Lavrentiadis says.
Keep an eye on the Staazi & Co Facebook page to see where it’ll be popping up next.
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