Dharma Southern Kitchen founder Shaun Noonan talks about the (r)evolution of plant-based foods


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Chef and entrepreneur Shaun Noonan is the founder of Southern Dharma Cuisine, a rapidly expanding series of Florida restaurants serving plant-based southern cuisine. Yes, you read that right, and he will pit his delicious Southern comfort food against any other. Shaun was raised as a self-proclaimed “army brat” and these trips contributed to an early expansion of his worldview that led him to see food and the food and restaurant industries very differently. .

From growing up in an Italian household that spent most of his time in the family kitchen, his early culinary roots in Orlando, to his training as a professional chef at Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago, Shaun first started out with Michelin stars in the eyes. Immediately after graduating, he doggedly pursued and secured a coveted position under the wing of celebrity chef Graham Elliot. Shaun also worked in the prestigious kitchens of chefs Michael Carlson and Grant Achatz, among others, but even then he felt something was incomplete.

It was while working in various high-end fine dining establishments that he began to notice the lack of attention given to vegetarian diners and the reluctance of chefs to promote vegetables as a viable main ingredient. “Some of the places I worked…we were getting a vegan [customer] at table four, and the whole kitchen was moaning and rolling their eyes, and I was thinking, ‘What’s the matter?’ »

However, it was his travels and experiences behind the wheel of an 18-wheel Big Rig in the southern United States, and his desire to create a unique culinary niche, that led him to first create a very popular vegan hot dog in Orlando, and finally Southern Dharma Kitchen. “My biggest goal is to bring veganism into the national dialogue,” he says. In some ways, he feels it’s a by-product of his encounter experiences with molecular gastronomy in gastronomy that allowed him to reframe vegetable-based cuisine in a more holistic way, while honoring the wealthy. traditions of southern cuisine.

More importantly, he has a fierce desire to resist labels, disrupt conventional ways of thinking about food and where it comes from, and simply make fresh and delicious “fine vittle,” as he refers to his offerings. culinary. He feels that even labeling or pre-designing foods as “vegan” isn’t the most effective approach to attracting new fans or satisfying current fans. “If you’re doing it right and treating food…with the level of respect that not only does it deserve, but the customer deserves, you’re 80% on the goal line.” With a brick-and-mortar location in addition to the original vegan hot dog cart and four current Dharma Southern Kitchen locations, with even more expansion plans underway statewide, it just might be on. something with its delicious ‘herbal ‘beautiful vines’.

Thanks to our sponsors: Seitenbacher and TECO Peoples Gas

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