Emma Moignard grew up in Mornington on a family farm with her father, mother and brother, and at the age of 7, became a vegetarian after walking in on a skinned lamb hanging from the barn roof one afternoon. This was the spark of change for Em, and after qualifying as a chef at the age of 19, created Soulful Vegan Food (SVF). About a stone throw away from where the café sits now, Em’s SVF market stall at the Mornington Wednesday market was a huge success, setting the scene for a more impactful and accessible way of showcasing delicious vegan food with the café’s recent opening.
Welcome Emma, thank you for taking the time to share your story with us, can you introduce yourself to us as a chef?
My name is Emma Moignard! I am a chef currently living in Melbourne Australia. I started my chef apprenticeship at 17 and qualified at 19. I started my business Soulful Vegan Food at 19 with the aim to show that vegan food is delicious and fun. Whilst learning the trade I realised that my morals weren’t aligning with my current profession, having been vegetarian at 7 and then vegan at 17 – cutting and preparing animals was truly awful. I had to finish my training as I didn’t do year 12 and would feel like a complete failure if I didn’t complete my apprenticeship. So with many up and downs I man, aged to finish and began the journey of making market food at the local Wednesday market in my town.
Can you give us a little back story on your journey so far and how/why you launched Soulful Vegan Food?
I spoke to my mum one night and said, “I cannot keep working for cafes/restaurants day in and out while feeling sad for the food I was preparing for people”. I started to come up with other ideas of having my passion for animals and profession align. SVF was born and I was super excited to cook happy wholesome food for the local people. The little stall was super popular and had regulars, I couldn’t handle the demand and I was supplying food to a café saying yes to catering jobs all whilst preparing food in my registered kitchen in the garage, the space wasn’t great so I had to think of another way of doing this- a café! The café is on the same street as the market was, just a few metres down. The street is super important to me, I was born in the hospital there and did my markets, and now my first ever café! I opened it with my mum and brother, mum is the front of the house face and my brother was doing coffee, juices and smoothies, it was such a special funny crazy time.
How are you aiming to drive change for the wellbeing of animals and the environment through your current activism?
The café has been my activism for animals and has made me have a purpose in life so I’m extremely grateful.
What has been the most challenging yet rewarding barrier you faced and how did overcome it?
The café has been a humungous challenge I had no idea what it would be like, each day is another day of learning and growth. Managing staff has been super intense, trying to make sure everyone is happy, loving work and producing the high standards you have comes with a lot of challenges. Making sure that customers are happy and adhere to their demands for example super hot coffee, extra toasted bread etc. It is all apart of the journey and you keep going and getting better every day. Remembering why you’re doing this is super important, for me I can wake up super happy knowing every meal and drink that gets sold is one that doesn’t contain meat/dairy.
What vegan networks/events/group do you personally love that you can encourage others who are vegans to become part of?
There are many great vegan networks and groups around, there are heaps on Facebook you can join to meet other vegans and ask questions in relation to veganism. Depending on what location you’re in, there are always great vegan events being held at restaurants/cafes like trivia nights, degustation nights etc.
One hard lesson in life you have learned so far?
The hardest lesson so far would be that everything takes its time. You can’t look at the top of a mountain and say “I want to be there right now” without facing all the challenges of hiking your way to the top. The hike to the top is what makes you the strongest version of yourself, where you gain your life experiences, how you decipher what you truly want, at what lengths you will go through to get there.
In which areas are you looking to grow and expand Soulful Vegan Food throughout the rest of 2019?
In 2019 I would love to open the café Friday nights and Saturday nights with a special dinner menu. Fresh summer menu, lots of exciting new specials and drinks. Basically fine tuning staff and menu items and making sure the customers are super happy always!