The Right Mix: Q+A interview with Herbidoor

One of the biggest changes to someone’s lifestyle when they go vegan is the way they cook. While some find it easy, some may struggle. That’s when a vegan meal delivery service like Herbidoor comes in handy.

I spoke to Amanda, part founder of the Australian vegan meal delivery service Herbidoor, about her journey into veganism, how her family business started and what customers can expect when they place an order.

Herbidoor vegan ready made meals

Amanda, why did you and your family decide to go vegan?

“I have been vegan for a long time, over 14 years. I was vegetarian prior since I was 16. I thought that was enough to avoid animal cruelty. I was wrong. When I learned the truth about the dairy and egg industries, I realised I could no longer contribute to that suffering also. Coincidentally, I wanted to scrap dairy out of my diet for health reasons (arthritis, inflammation, acne, fatigue) so it was like the universe gave me a double reason to ditch animal products.

Matt went vegan six years ago. He suffers from hemochromatosis and after having issues with that over the years, he made the decision to go vegan. We also were having discussions about having children and how we would raise them. I said I would have to raise them vegan, and that him eating meat might be confusing for them. He agreed that us being vegan as a family would make the most sense.”

Veganising favourite meals is one way to help someone transition to an all-vegan lifestyle. What are some of your favourite meals to veganise?

“Veganising meals is one of Matt’s favourite things to do. That’s one of the reasons we created our business Herbidoor as we wanted to make vegan food accessible and familiar (without the animal cruelty).

Making a vegan steak, and his vegan pepperoni are definitely two things that Matt is proud of making vegan versions of.

When you first transition I found it easier to start with veganising things like curries, soups and stir fries. Just start with the same usual sauce (provided it has no milk/carmine etc), veggies and rice or pasta and omit the meat for tofu, tempeh, edamame, chickpeas, beans or lentils. That was what I did when I went vegan.”

Herbidoor vegan ready made meals
Photo credit: Jane @veganonthegc
What draws you to cooking? What do you love about it?

“I am actually not that great at cooking. I am the most basic cook and have actually gotten worse since having Herbidoor! I have a great team of chefs in the kitchen who do all the preparation and cooking (including Matt) and so I live off our meals. I also have two small kids at home who are both going through the ‘fussy’ eating phase and will live off baked beans, plain pasta and broccoli if I let them.

Matt is the cook in our home and loves expressing himself through food, and creating food that is familiar and comforting. He’s got a pretty intuitive sense in the kitchen of what flavour combinations will work. Seeing people enjoy your cooking, he says there is nothing better.”

Herbidoor is Vegan Australia certified and the business started during the COVID pandemic. Why did you decide to start an all-vegan meal delivery service during such a volatile time?

“We actually started in 2018, two years before the peak of the pandemic. We did spend the first two years mainly delivering locally throughout northern New South Wales and Queensland and had just started branching out to other areas just prior to COVID.

COVID was tough, but I actually find now more challenging as the economy has slowed, prices of everything keep increasing and it is challenging trying to juggle it all.

There will always be imperfect times, you just have to do your best. Whenever I am feeling overwhelmed by it all, I remember that I am trying to make a difference in the world and for the animals and that helps give me some perspective.”

Was it tough to find chefs to join your team who were willing to cook all-vegan meals?

“We have been pretty lucky with our team; most are vegetarian or vegan themselves. It has certainly made it easier. We tend to have people reach out to us because they are looking for a role that they can just cook vegetarian or vegan food as there are chefs who get stuck at a restaurant cooking meat when they don’t want to.”

Herbidoor vegan ready made meals
Photo credit: Jane @veganonthegc
What were some of the challenges you faced when you started cooking and developing menu ideas for Herbidoor?

“In the beginning we offered a weekly menu, which worked and was fine at a smaller scale. But coming up with new recipes each week and then having regularly develop ‘favourites’ made it challenging as we grew. That’s when we switched to a more consistent menu with some monthly and seasonal changes.

It’s also a fine balance between being experimental, but also giving people what they expect. It’s tough when you are delivering food to someone’s door, you don’t ever get to see a reaction. That’s hard for a chef because that reaction can help gauge if you got it right.

You also have to convey what a meal is and create a broad base for each meal, as a lot of people have sensitivities. It can’t have too much salt, too much pepper or too much spice.”

Herbidoor’s meals are influenced by a number of cuisines. Have you travelled overseas in the past and, if so, how have your travels influenced your menu development?

“We actually haven’t been overseas since we started Herbidoor – one of the joys of having your own business, having small children and a global pandemic.

Before that Matt and I did travel regularly and loved tasting the vegan menus in different countries. We also have had chefs of different backgrounds work with us, which helps bring the authenticity of the dishes to life.”

Fitness is another driver for Herbidoor’s menu. What can customers expect from Herbidoor if they are training regularly and want to order meals to fill the hunger gap? What are the best meals to order if someone trains intensely and regularly?

“Matt and I both train hard and love fitness! I have competed as a vegan bodybuilder and also competed in a sprint triathlon (coming fourth in my first ever race with a beat up bike). Prior to the pandemic, Matt regularly did Spartan Races including the Ultra Beast 42km.

As someone who trains hard, I always pick the high protein options from either our Signature Series range or our Active Meal range.”

Do you have a mix of vegan and non-vegan customers? Do you have any new vegans who are trying to transition?

“We do have a lot of non-vegan customers, surprisingly, and we have a lot of repeat non-vegan customers. They love incorporating more plants into their diet, but they don’t necessarily want to learn to cook more vegan meals.

It’s also like having a back-up while you are testing out the recipe waters on your new vegan journey. If a meal doesn’t work out and has to go in the bin, at least you have a meal in the fridge you can enjoy!”

Herbidoor vegan ready made meals
Photo credit: Dane Tatton
Herbidoor is non-registered NDIS provider. Why did you decide to become a provider?

“To create meal accessibility for everyone. When I speak to our NDIS and Home Care customers and they tell me how our meals make their life easier, it reminds me why I do what I do.

It’s easy to come from a position of privilege and being able-bodied and forget the struggles people go through.

From having difficulty preparing meals due to arthritis in their hands, to feeling good from minimising their food waste because they’d buy fresh produce in hope of cooking, but not have the energy to do it. It really highlights to me why we do what we do.

So often it can be difficult for vegans on the NDIS or Home Care program to find someone who will provide vegan meals. To know that we can support them in their ethical choices, while providing them with a nourishing solution, it lights us up.”

For someone who hasn’t tried Herbidoor yet, which meals would you recommend?

“I always say to choose a variety of seven to ten meals. That way, you get a good feel for the menu and our offerings.

I personally love the Chick’n Fajita Bowl, Buttered Tofu (I add steamed broccoli), Vegan Frittata and Dal Makhani. But not everyone has the same tastes. That’s why it’s best if you do pick a variety and then you can work out which ones are your favourites.”

What would be your advice to someone who is considering going vegan and if they feel overwhelmed by the transition process? Do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to add?

“When I went vegan, the internet wasn’t what it is today. That’s a good and a bad thing. There wasn’t as much information and support, but there also wasn’t as much judgement and gatekeeping.

If you feel like you’re already at your maximum capacity and you can’t change everything today, that’s ok. Start the process, don’t let imperfection (or the fear of imperfection) hold you back. I’ve been vegan a long time now and I’m still learning. Products change and things that didn’t have milk solids sometimes now do.

Give yourself grace and know that you are on the path to a better future for yourself, for the animals and for the earth.”

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