It is always fantastic to see a different sort of café pop up in a suburb where you wouldn’t expect to see it.
Aum Shanti (meaning threefold peace in body, speech and mind) in Frankston certainly fits this bill.
A vegetarian/ vegan café owned by Elka Newall, there is nothing else like it nearby. Not only has it been serving up delicious healthy vegan and vegetarian meals for eight years, they also display and sell local artwork.
“I came on board to help him with the business aspect of things. There were still three years left on our lease and he didn’t want to do it anymore, but I was not prepared to walk away and still be paying rent to someone, so I decided to open a café. Everyone told me I was crazy, especially a vegetarian café!
“I thought this area needed something different. There was nothing and there still is nothing else like this, particularly in terms of vegetarian food. That is how we came about.”
Newall is now a vegan but was a vegetarian when she started the café.
She says that as more vegan customers started coming in to the cafe and told her bits and pieces about factory farming, she couldn’t help but be converted.
In saying that, a lot of Aum Shanti’s customers are not actually vegan or vegetarian, they just like the relaxed, hippy atmosphere and the tasty food and drinks.
“Fair trade is really important to us with the products we sell in the shop as well as the ingredients we use in the kitchen. We use as much local produce as we can, although that is not always possible because a lot of the vegan stuff comes from America. We always try and go organic,” says Newall.
“We concentrate mostly on vegan and gluten free dishes and we always have at least one salad each day that is Paleo, because that is the flavour of the moment. There is a lot of meat in a Paleo diet, so that aspect doesn’t suit us here but the grain free side of it covers people that are gluten intolerant.
“The idea behind Paleo is that you are supposed to eat ethical meat and I don’t think a lot of people do that. It only takes someone like Pete Evans to get behind it and people think it must be good. I don’t think it will last the same way veganism or vegetarianism will. Actually, the latest catchphrases is Pegan, which is someone who is into Paleo but is also vegan.
“I think it [Paleo] is a fad to be honest, but veganism is one of the fastest growing lifestyle choices. We can’t keep going to way we’re going, eating the amount of meat we are eating, there are too many of us on the planet. It takes more resources to produce meat than vegetables.”
439 Nepean Hwy