I am ProVeg
Jay Mac: #IamProVeg
July 24, 2018
Our #IamProVeg interview series is kicked off by Jason McNamara (aka Jay Mac), owner of the Kind Kitchen in Cape Town.
Muriel Argent: Tell me about yourself…
Jay Mac: I would say that I am a vegan activist, a chef in the making – definitely not there yet, every day is a new learning. And a spiritual warrior I guess!
MA: How would you say you’re “pro-veg”?
JM: Being ProVeg is a lifestyle for me, I hate the idea of hurting any living being. All beings deserve the basic life essentials – freedom, shelter and food. Our animal friends are no different and they deserve our respect and a chance to enjoy these basic rights, so I’ve made it my life’s mission to avoid any industry that doesn’t support this mantra. Plants are living beings too, but eating them is the least harm one can do. It’s called Ahimsa: do no harm.
MA: Who or what inspired you to go vegan?
JM: Back in 2008 my ex-wife was doing her teacher training in Johannesburg, and as part of the training they asked them to go vegetarian for three months. We were already vegetarian so they said, well, take it a step further: try go vegan. I was dead against it at first because I knew, as a South African man [cue macho voice] I needed eggs, I needed cheese, I needed milk… So I pushed back quite a lot in the beginning, until finally we went to Bali that year. And in Bali the food was just amazing. I was on my journey to becoming a chef in the making, and I just said “I’m done, let’s do this vegan thing”. That was 2008, so it’s about 10 years now. And then from there it was just such an easy transition to figuring it out. Long-story short, I did a teacher training in 2012 in Costa Rica, where they’re very much all animal activists and vegans since the late-80s. And in that month-long intensive, they just make the food every day and it’s all vegan and ayurvedic, some of it was raw, and people just kind of fall in and enjoy it. So I would say from 2012, it really started to click in.
MA: What’s the hardest thing about being vegan?
JM: Other vegans! [laughs] Other vegans can be so judgy, and I say that without trying to irritate my fellow vegans – it’s just, sometimes I go onto the vegan advocacy groups [on Facebook] and there’s a lot of hate, and I don’t understand why that has to happen. So, that’s the hardest part about being vegan sometimes – vegans themselves being a little bit pushy. I don’t think non-vegans or vegetarians are actually such a problem, they’re all very curious…
MA: What’s your biggest interest or passion outside of veganism?
JM: I have two main focuses at the moment: my first focus is cheffing, and trying to make the world a kinder place, not necessarily in the things I say, but in the way I present myself. And that comes across in my food. The second part to that is making conscious videos and documentary films. Those are my two passions, but my main focus right now is definitely cheffing and cooking for people with the Kind Kitchen brand – that was a great way for me to kick-start my cheffing career.
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MA: What do you eat for breakfast?
JM: Generally I’m quite a lazy breakfast vegan, it’s avo-toast most days and a coffee – that’s my go-to breakfast, but lately i’ve been trying to go a bit healthier for breakfast, and making quinoa granola.
MA: What’s wrong with avo-toast?!
JM: I know, right! It’s a classic, it’s a good one, with sprouts on top. And a fresh made juice… obviously coffee to kick-start the day!
MA: Tea, coffee? Black or with milk?
JM: Coffee. Milk. No sugar.
MA: Which milk?
JM: At the moment my favourite milk is the organic rice milk from Woolworths. But the go-to milk is almond milk – sweetened [laughs] not the unsweetened! I wish Almond Breeze would bring the vanilla one from the States!
MA: What do you get asked the most often by non-vegans?
JM: “What about cheese?” “Don’t you miss eggs?” I think those are actually my most common questions. And my answer’s no… I’ve been playing with tofu a lot in the kitchen, trying to get a fried egg right, with the yolk, and that’s coming out better and better each time, you know it’s actually just tricking the brain a lot of the time – flavours. Just add that black salt, kala namak salt, and you’re good to go!
MA: So most people probably don’t know what black salt is…
JM: Black salt is a sulfurous salt from the indian region, and the deposits are salt beds that are close to sulphuric deposits, which gives it an eggy smell – it’s pretty good stuff and it comes in big crystal chunks at Atlas.
MA: Really? Atlas? That’s amazing!
JM: Yeah! It’s like 20 bucks for rocks!
MA: What’s your go-to restaurant?
JM: Hmm good question… Indian I would say – Vintage India. Mister John. He’s a character – he knows, every time he sees us, “Hello, vegan, perfect!” and the food is great. Indian’s my go-to. And I’m a fan of El Burro. Mexican. That whole new vegan menu they’ve got!
MA: Tofu or tempeh?
JM: Tofu, just because it’s more readily available. And I haven’t found a tempeh that totally agrees with me in South Africa unfortunately. I don’t think we’re there yet with tempeh. So that’s something I’d like to master in the Kind Butchery. Some of the stuff I’ve tried just comes literally as that beany block and people are like “what do you do with this thing, how do you make it taste better?” So i think… tofu. Organic tofu, from Whole Earth Kitchen. They’ve made a great product.
MA: Tell us a bit about the Kind Butcher
JM: So Kind Butcher is a concept that is maybe very new to South Africa: in a nutshell, it’s going to be a herbivorous butchery: a space where people can come and explore different plant-based meats, cheeses and milks. Plus a lot of the brands that people already know that are on the shelves, but also artisanal stuff that I hope to make myself. This space will have three parts to it. The first part is the butchery: if you can imagine going into a butchery as a kid – where you walk in, there’s a deli space, and you see all the different plant-based products… that will be the first aspect to it. The second aspect will be a cafe which takes what I’ve currently been doing with the Kind Kitchen and creates a space where people can actually come and eat and enjoy the food (whereas before it’s just been on UberEats, or if I’ve come to your house to cook for you or if you’ve come to one of the dinners). The third and final space will be a continuation of the dinner concept that I’ve been working with, but to have it more consistent where it’s every week, we come together as a group and try the latest and greatest ideas in vegan culinary arts. And it won’t just be from my side – I’d like to get involved with a lot of people that are doing these pop-up dinners around Cape Town and just have more of a space that people can rely on, and come and try things.
Cape Town the time has come for The Kind Kitchen to offer you even more. From our inception our plan has always been to open South Africa’s first Herbivorous Butchery. We’d like to introduce you to The Kind Butcher, which will continue to offer you the wonderful vegan meals you’ve come to love on Uber Eats A new experience in Cape Town to explore, taste and buy new and innovative plant based ‘meat’ products, cheeses and milks. Attend weekly interactive plant based workshops to learn from experts on how to prepare meals, evolve to a plant based diet, vegan advocacy, make alternate ‘meats’, cheeses, milks and so much more. Enjoy the amazing meals and ambiance of a cafe style environment. Be invited to enjoy exclusive monthly vegan dinner events to showcase the latest trends in plant base cuisine. We’ll be going live this week with our own Thundafund.com crowdfunding campaign, so watch this space. What we need and how you can help: We need support in the form of social media interaction and of course a large capital investment to make our dream a reality. Our modest prediction is that we require at least R450 000.00 to realise our full potential or at the least R150 000.00 to get started. You can Share and tag this campaign with your network. You can Invest in the campaign by purchasing a reward. You can Assist us with an ideal location in the Cape Town CBD / Harrington street or similar with a minimum of 100sqm. You can donate deli equipment, tables, chairs and fridges. Contact our team to donate your expertise. #TheKindButcher ProVeg International Vegan SA
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MA: So you’re crowdfunding this, right?
JM: Yes, on Thundafund. The deadline is the 11th of August, just a 30-day run. From my experience with my previous documentary film, longer than that and people just lose interest and focus, so the quicker the better. Our tipping point target is R30,000 to meet three months of running costs – which doesn’t sound like a ton of money to get something started, but we’re gonna do it really cleverly, starting small…
Readers: support the Kind Butcher project on Thundafund!
MA: I’m really looking forward to seeing the success of the Kind Butcher! Tell me a bit more about your thoughts on the vegan movement – what would you like to see change?
JM: I don’t think I have an answer for that.. I think it will change on its own… Maybe just as I mentioned earlier, less hatred and anger… because everyone’s trying, right, even if you’re not vegan. Just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean you’re better than everyone else. Maybe this is the right path, maybe it’s not, who knows but it feels right for me, so I think that’s the best answer I can give is.. Try to be a little bit more open-minded, because people are being open-minded to you in your weird ways – it’s strange for people, to ask for avo-toast instead of bacon and eggs!
MA: Who is your biggest inspiration in life generally?
JM: I definitely would say, my mom’s my biggest inspiration. It might sound cliched but she’s been there through thick and thin, as moms would be, and all my apparent weirdness, weird diets, music choices, and life choices… so I’d say my mom… She had me at a very early age, at 16 so I take my hat off to my mom. We have this 16-year difference between us, so we’re pretty much best friends, we speak every day. I have a lot of music influences, food influences, but you know they’re all superficial to some degree…
MA: What music do you listen to?
JM: It varies depending on the time of the day, but I would generally start off with some mantra in the mornings while I’m cooking, then it moves down the line depending on how agitated I’ve got during the day to something a little bit heavier, to maybe some classical in the evening. I think classic rock is my go-to music. Whenever I’m not sure, I just put on some good old Pink Floyd, some good old Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Hendrix, it keep me grounded most of the time.
MA: What do you do on the weekend?
JM: So generally on the weekends, to the markets to check out the latest produce – even though things are seasonal, they do still swing. Like artichokes should be in season right now but there hasn’t been a lot yet, that’s quite interesting and I think it’s the weather patterns… I like to go to the Oranjezicht market, and the Biscuit Mill (although it’s really busy). I like to go and check out the different produce, then definitely practicing, taking a walk on the mountain if it’s a good day. No real set plan, but generally I like to go explore markets. The colour of food, the texture of food excites me.
MA: Is there any one thing you can’t live without?
JM: My cat! Mister Mugatu. He’s a real beast. He’s a 9kg cat – he’s massive, but he’s my guy. He sleeps on me every night. He’s a mixed maine coon and siamese, he’s a strange, beautiful looking boy.
MA: Sweet! Is there anything else you’d like to add before we end off?
JM: I’d just like to say to anyone that backs us or that has backed us, I just want to say thank you – I really appreciate it and I know that economically times are tough and it’s not easy.
MA: I can’t wait to visit the the Kind Butcher when it opens! Thanks Jay for your time 🙂
Interviewed and transcribed by Muriel Argent for ProVeg South Africa, edited for clarity and brevity. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of ProVeg International.