By Gretel Sneath
Leah Franklin is creating her own mini-food revolution in Mount Gambier by introducing locals to vegan eating.
Her solo business just frank is gently dispelling the myth that animal-free is all too tricky – and the proof is in the pudding.
Or rather Leah’s ever-growing range of lentil pies, veggie burgers, chickpea masalas, protein balls, caramel slice and other desserts which are now sold in local cafes, farmer’s markets, and via a weekly home-delivery service.
The vegan venture stemmed from a blog she initially developed as an off-shoot to her gardening business, which aimed to educate people about alternative ways of eating and living.
“When I chose to become vegan 20 years ago, some people thought I had joined a cult, while others thought I had sentenced myself to a lifetime of salads and steamed vegetables,” Leah laughs.
“I was frustrated by people’s perceptions of veganism, and thought that the only way to dispel the myths was by sharing my own experiences and encouraging people to try my dishes,” she adds.
Leah trialled her catering concept with a local real estate firm, and her offer of free staff morning tea deliveries was the ultimate taste test.
“It took them three weeks to realise that it was all vegan and they were blown away,” she says.
The glowing feedback gave her the confidence to put gardening to one side and develop an online ordering system for home-delivered lunches.
Demand was high, and soon Mount Gambier’s busiest cafe also began placing orders.
“Any cook or chef can make a vegan dish, but I think the fact that my food is from an authentic vegan kitchen adds that extra dimension for customers, so this has been an incredible opportunity for me,” she says.
Caterers have ordered just frank desserts for wedding guests, while gourmet grocer She’s Apples is also now stocking Leah’s ready-cooked meals.
“It’s a bit surreal getting phone calls and texts from people looking for your food, and I still think about 80 per cent of my customers aren’t vegan – they are just mainstream consumers who really enjoy the food,” she says.
“It makes me proud to think where this started, and the biggest thing for me is seeing my dream of dispelling the myths coming true – but I also hope that I can in some way inspire others to be brave enough to step out of their comfort zones and follow their own dreams.”