After sharing Doug’s much-loved Go Solo Story, we knew our entrepreneur community could learn so much more from him. He’s an inspiration for not only chefs, authors and restaurant entrepreneurs, but all small business owners. He’s got his hands in many honey pots and truly puts his money where is mouth is… and his mouth where it’s delicious.
Hello again, Doug! Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with us again. Tell us about the Doug McNish empire…
Ha, well I don't ever really think of my life or my career in terms of the word “empire” but I do think that as you grow your business you just naturally grow it more and more, and then it begins to snowball. I think this is why they call it an empire. Really though, I am just doing what I do best and that is creating menus and growing vegan/plant based cuisine worldwide. There is a huge demand for it, which will only increase as time goes on.
For now I am part of 2 businesses in Charleston South Carolina, Neon Tiger and Gunnar Made Meal Prep. I have another exciting international project launching this year (more to come lon that), I've written four cookbooks (three of which have been awarded Best in the World!) and traveled and been fortunate enough to create vegan cuisine globally over the past several years.
I've also been doing a lot of product development lately, and I have come to really enjoy that challenge, it is very different compared to the restaurant world!
What is the most important part of your world (business or life)?
Hands down my family. My wife Candice and my son Ewan, they are my everything. After that it is my health, without health you have nothing!
What has the pandemic been like for you?
Great question! There have been a lot of ups and downs for sure. On one hand it has been wonderful to spend so much time with my family, but on the other hand I do not like staying inside, I am built for the sun and fresh air. I am also a guy that likes to travel and inspire people with my cuisine in person. I have always been so much better in front of a live audience rather than avenues like social media. I really missed this aspect when I released my fourth cookbook last year. I had planned to go on tour with it all over and I hoped to wow people in person with my food and cooking demonstrations.
The pandemic though has also been a time to reflect. A time to reflect on what is most important, and what truly brings me gratitude and happiness. I know that since we have all had more time in doors, and less away from “work” it has taught me that everything will always be ok, no matter what happens we are always safer than we think. Life is precious and every day should be treated as such. In the last couple of years I have also started a regular meditation practice, I wake most mornings between 4:30am and 5:30am and meditate before I start my day, it has been life-changing.
What did you see happen to your friends in the food industry?
I have seen so much depending on where people are, what their model is and what changes they made to pivot for their business. I know some have closed their restaurants in favour of mental health and ever-changing restrictions.
Some have actually grown their revenue through subscriptions or delivery, and some are just clinging on by a thread. It has been a really mixed bag. The people I know in the USA are doing really well as there have been so few limitations there.
What advice do you have for chefs and restaurateurs in the aftermath of the pandemic?
I would say stay positive, always keep faith and move forward. One of the things that inspires me daily in business is to always push the needle forward. As long as you get up each day working to push the needle forward you will always be ok!
Also, more and more are looking to purchase larger amounts of food, rather than just one meal. Pivoting to larger portions meant to stock refrigerators seems to be a trend that is not going anywhere.
Define plant-based for us...
Plant based is a way of eating that consists mostly of plants, seeds, nuts, legumes and other plant matter. It does not mean that someone doesn't eat some animal products, but rather it just focuses on the diet itself, and not the lifestyle that Veganism is defined by.
Why did you decide to focus on vegan, plant-based and healthier options?
I began working in kitchens at the age of 15 and instantly I fell in love with everything about the kitchen.
Yeast later when I was around 20 years old I was pretty unhappy and unhealthy. I started exercising and trying to lose weight and feel better, but I did not change my diet. After some time, I was shown an undercover video of animals in slaughterhouses from PETA. What I saw horrified me and I made a conscious decision to stop eating meat. At this point I did not know anything about veganism per say, but I was steadily learning about the animal agriculture industry. On top of the abuse that animals endure, I was learning about the health and environmental causes of growing animals for food. It came to a point where I said, enough is enough, how can I continue to support this! I made the decision to go vegan and that was about 17 or so years ago. I do not judge those that eat meat, but what I saw and what I have learned changed me forever!
What advice would you give a food and bev business owner about adding more plant-based options?
I would say in today's market you have to have them. If you do not have them you are missing out on an ever growing market segment and that is lost revenue. One of the easiest ways to add these options today is to simply make a few changes to the menu and add some plant based proteins. My work with Evviva is a great example of how to make changes to a menu without having to being in a whole host of new things. We simply switched out the mayo for plant based mayo, and the animal based butter for plant based butter, this made such a difference! A vegan option for your main customers, say your subscribers, will also help you tap into a new market of other people with environmental values. Good people to be associated with regularly.
Could we trouble you for one plant-based recipe for our community of entrepreneurs to try at home?
Absolutely, one of my favourite recipes is one from my newest book The Classics Veganized, and it is for Fettuccine Alfredo:
One of the first cooking jobs I ever had was at a busy British Pub. Not only was it the start of my chef life, but little did I know that all that fettucine Alfredo I made back then, would come in handy now! This recipe is creamy, rich, and full of depth of flavour that will keep you coming back for more bite after bite. I love to serve it with grilled Portobello mushrooms and fresh greens such as green peas or arugula, and sprinkle the top with a little nutritional yeast.
½ cup (125 mL) of any cooking oil
1 cup (250 mL) diced onion
10 cloves garlic
¼ cup (60 mL) dry white wine, such as Chardonnay
1 cup (250 mL) raw cashews, soaked (see Tip)
4 cups (1 L) water
1 teaspoon (5 mL) brown rice miso paste (see Tip)
1 tablespoon (15 mL) wheat-free tamari (see Tip)
½ cup (125 mL) nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons (10 mL) lemon juice
1 teaspoon (5 mL) fine sea salt, divided
16 ounces (450 g) dry fettucine pasta
1. In a medium pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic, cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the garlic and onions are browned and golden throughout, about 10 to 12 minutes. deglaze with white wine and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Drain the garlic and onion mixture discarding most of the oil, a little bit left that is fine.
2. In a high-speed blender, combine the soaked cashews and water. Blend on high until smooth and creamy, there should be no pieces of cashew left. Add the cooked onion and garlic mixture, miso, tamari, nutritional yeast, mustard, lemon juice, and salt. Blend again until smooth. Pour into a large saucepan and set aside.
3. Cook the pasta in rolling boiling salted water according to package instructions. Drain, discarding cooking water.
4. Heat the alfredo sauce over medium heat, taking care not to bring it to a full boil, or the sauce can split.
5. Swirl the cooked pasta in the alfredo sauce. Toss to evenly coat the pasta and cook until the sauce becomes thick and coats the pasta, the texture should not be watery but thick like cream.
6. Divide into 4 equal portions and serve immediately.
1. To soak the cashews for this recipe, place in a bowl and cover with 2 cups (500 mL) water, and soak for 30 minutes, or overnight. Drain discarding soaking water.
2. Brown rice miso or any miso that is dark is ideal for this recipe due to its bold flavour. If you do not have brown rice miso substitute with an equal amount of any other miso, but keep in mind the darker the colour the more flavour it will create in this recipe.
3. Tamari has a better, more rich flavour so it is ideal to use but you if you do not have tamari, substitute it for an equal amount of soy sauce.