Suzy Spoon: Suzy Spoon's Vegetarian Butcher
When you think of a butchery, you think of hearty red steaks, cleaver wielding staff and animal carcasses hanging in the cool room out back.
But at Suzy Spoon’s Vegetarian Butcher, you’ll find healthy vegan sausages, handmade products and the warm smile of Suzy Spoon, the owner of Australia’s first and only vegetarian butcher.
Suzy came up with the idea to create a vegetarian butcher after discovering a similar concept exists in Amsterdam. “I had no idea it was a thing and I was really excited about it” she explains.
Starting out as a humble stall at Marrickville Organic Farmers Market, unparalleled success saw Suzy Spoon’s Vegetarian Butcher claim a throne on King Street, Newtown within four months of starting. Holding the title as the ‘go-to’ place for vegetarian dining and meat-alternative products, Suzy’s business has grown impressively for over four years and continues to do so.
Purposely using a provocative name to attract attention, the opening of Suzy Spoon’s Vegetarian Butcher was met with confusion, notoriety and above all, controversy.
“If I had opened a café called ‘Suzy’s Vegan Café’ or ‘Suzy’s Little Corner Café’ no one would know about it"
Vegetarians were horrified at the cruel connotations of the word, while traditional butcher’s felt it dishonoured their craft. Sparking a large social media reaction, the name has been the subject of Facebook posts, blogs and online commentary.
What was outrage though quickly diverged into curiosity and respect, with vegans and carnivores alike intrigued to sample the food Suzy Spoon’s had to offer.
If you’re wondering what you can expect from a vegetarian ‘meat’ product , indulging on the soy sausages, polenta burgers and seitan schnitzels served at the cafe is only a taste of what the business has to offer.
“Some of the things we make are really ‘meaty’ and suit people who have recently given up meat and are missing it, and some things are more vegetable-based so they suit people who don’t like the taste or the texture of meat.”
Having grown up in a farm environment, Suzy’s decision to change her diet and lifestyle happened at 16 when she experienced first hand, the conditions faced by chickens reared for meat.
Sheltered from the ways in which chickens were farmed, Suzy was shocked and horrified when exposed to their conditions. “They are kept in huge sheds and a lot of them get trampled by other chickens or break bones because they grow too fast in confined spaces.”
She has had an ethical approach to food ever since.
“Everything that we do at Suzy Spoon’s is a political decision because food is political for me.”
Here’s Suzy’s recipe for success:
Suzy picked Newtown as she understood the area possessed a vibrant and strong vegan and vegetarian community that were likely to support her business. “The area attracts open-minded people who are reasonably planet conscious. In other suburbs it would have died” she tells us.
Word of mouth
The influence of recommendations from Suzy’s loyal customers and vegetarian community have been paramount in the business’s success. Suzy highlights “people often request our products in pubs and restaurants, so word of mouth has been important for us. The internet has been a big push in vegan culture too.”
"When people say ‘you’ll have to work hard’ you have to triple what you think that is, and then you may be close to imagining what’s involved in starting a business. Perhaps in three years things will be a bit easier and I’ll be able to have a weekend off or something!”
Australia is a famously meat-orientated nation but going against a well-established trend has paid off for Suzy Spoon’s. “People can work hard, but without an original idea will end up copying something someone else has done and fading into the crowd.” Suzy says.