All about making dishes bursting with the flavour of home and nostalgia: Lisa Terauchi, owner of Confusion Plant Based Kitchen

Lisa Terauchi, owner of Confusion Plant Basked Kitchen.

1. What sparks your creativity when thinking of the menu or dishes you make available at Confusion?

We run a tight ship here at Confusion. We are a small team, and everyone has their talents that contribute towards making the food taste the way it does. We don’t have time to waste. We work flat out from the start of our shift to the end. Time management, dishes that are time-conscious when it comes to prep – and that are also pleasing to the senses – have helped us structure the menu the way we have.

The Confusion team

I’m Asian. Growing up half-Japanese and half-Indian in a large family, food was always a beautiful experience of sharing and togetherness. In Japan, food isn’t purely about taste. It’s about how it looks, how it smells, how it tastes and, in the end, how the whole experience makes you feel satisfied, and also, knowing that attention was paid to detail. My goal was always to make dishes that weren’t fussy, but that would be difficult to create at home. I wanted us to do our own take on home-cooked food that was hearty, delicious and nutritious, with no particular need to be pretentious because the food should speak for itself.

2. How did you transition to the vegan lifestyle?

How I came to a plant-based diet was a very gradual process, to be honest. I grew up in a family of meat eaters. My father is Indian, from Kerala, and my mother is Japanese, from the Kansai area in Kobe. After learning more about healthy eating, I moved more towards eating meat only on special occasions, while our everyday meals were very much plant-based with meat as a “condiment”. We moved past the “meat as the main” many years ago, but it wasn’t until I had a health-related problem that I took to a fully plant-based diet, after much research and a sense of urgency about taking my health into my own hands.

MY GOAL WAS ALWAYS TO MAKE DISHES THAT WEREN’T FUSSY, BUT THAT WOULD BE DIFFICULT TO CREATE AT HOME – LISA TERAUCHI

It’s been nearly three years since I went plant-based and I haven’t regretted it. As a matter of fact, what struck me as most surprising was that I found it easy and almost regretted not making the switch sooner. All my research and education on plant-based nutrition is thanks to Dr T. Colin Campbell. I also studied for Dr Caldwell Esselstyn Jr’s Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate, an online course from Cornell University, which made me aware of the environmental impact of our food choices, and also the impact on the human body and how it functions in this age of diseases of affluence, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

3. What is an average day at Confusion? I know you are immensely proud of your team.

This makes me smile. Thank you for taking the time to acknowledge my team. For me, this restaurant, this whole project, wouldn’t be possible without my team. I had many false starts before we opened our doors – people who had committed to being part of the team but who, when push came to shove, backed out. I am truly blessed with the team I have managed to put together, this band of brothers and sisters, who care about each other and the food we prep. I’ve worked in restaurants before and I have witnessed how haphazard management styles can be, how staff never get acknowledgement, how ideas are stolen or not given due credit. I wanted to create a place where the team was the focus, not the individual.

When people can give up their ego, flow is achieved. I am proud of each and every member of my team and what they bring to the table, literally. We’ve been running for five months now, and as we grow together, we encounter the idiosyncrasies in each individual’s personality. We are experiencing more than just a “clock-in, clock-out” experience. We are, for lack of a better phrase, the most functional dysfunctional family of odds and ends you can find, from different cultures and different backgrounds, but somehow we mesh. I wanted to create a place where we each felt a personal pride in the plating and a camaraderie that fosters loyalty.

Hong Kong’s The Green Platters – which specialises in producing cheeses – offers bespoke, eco-friendly vegan grazing tables platters and boxesHong Kong’s The Green Platters – which specialises in producing cheeses – offers bespoke, eco-friendly vegan grazing tables platters and boxes

Creating sustainable, delicious, plant-based canapés and cheeses: Bhawna Shetty, The Green Platters

Bhawna Shetty of The Green Platters

1. What is the natural-only ingredients philosophy behind The Green Platters?

It’s so easy today to find “convenient” food. Many a time in our hectic day-to-day lives, we forget to read labels and double-check sources. This is totally understandable, as I know how fast-paced we live these days.

This was exactly the reason why we emphasise going back to our roots – to find the best organic and natural ingredients, to make our sun-dried tomatoes ourselves, to make that mango chutney in the traditional way (albeit vegan!), the way my grandma made it. It means when you order from us, you know how much love, care, effort and thought have gone into each table and platter, and will be sufficiently nutritious to take us through our busy days.

BEING PART OF AND GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY IS ONE OF THE CORE VALUES THAT THE GREEN PLATTERS IS BUILT ON. – BHAWNA SHETTY

2. Can you also tell us more about the philanthropic initiatives that you are currently supporting?

A selection of food served by The Green Platters, which offers bespoke, eco-friendly and sustainable grazing tables, platters and boxes

Currently, we support the following initiatives: child education in India, animal charities and related events in Hong Kong (keep a lookout for some upcoming ones!) and charity organisations that support health and other issues close to our heart. In October, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we supported Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre. Here’s hoping we can support even more initiatives in the near future!

3. Can you tell us a little more about your transition to a plant-based diet?

I come from a vegetarian family that won’t even have eggs. My parents always emphasised the importance of the love for animals, nature and everything around us – yes, including fellow humans. Destiny had it that I would marry into a meat-eating family. However, that didn’t stop my husband from supporting the ethics I stand for.

Over time, he has turned vegetarian and fully supports our shift to veganism. We as a family are now shifting to nut-based milk for our kids. I make vegan cheeses and spreads for my family which are just delicious. When it’s nothing but the best for us, it’s the same quality that goes to our clients.

Keeping the smoothie bowl scene fresher than it’s ever been: Leo Tam & Jacqueline Yu, Bear’s Lab

Leo Tam, of Bear’s Lab

1. Tell us about Bear’s Lab. In a market saturated with smoothie bowls and superfood concoctions, how do you set yourself apart?

We set ourselves apart by offering products that are of higher quality than our competitors, and at a more competitive price. We developed our recipe from scratch and we pioneered proprietary techniques, which give our smoothie bowls that ice-cream-like texture and the best flavour.

Our smoothie bowls have the firmest texture in the city (I welcome my customers trying out our competitors and comparing). Unlike other smoothie bowls or drink shops that will add ice to the blend – so their smoothie bowls and drinks are icy enough, but get more liquid-like as it starts to melt – we pack our ingredients and have them frozen beforehand. So no ice is added, keeping that firm texture and making it less prone to melting.

Furthermore, we have fresh fruit delivered to our store each day which we carefully examine to ensure it is all fresh and of great quality for our customers. We immediately return any fruit that is not up to standard. Therefore, each day the fruits used as smoothie bowl toppings are different, depending on what’s available in-store that day. We want our customers to enjoy smoothie bowls or drinks that are of the best and freshest quality.

2. You spent over a year working on the menu – can you share your journey with us?

Leo: My journey began when my fiancé (Jacqueline Yu) always complained she wanted healthier meals. While we were working in Central together [Tam at “major real estate developers”, Yu at accounting firm Deloitte] we realised there was a lack of affordable healthy food restaurants in the area. I began making her healthy meals and snacks and realised what I made wasn’t that bad at all, and it went on from there.

WE DEVELOPED OUR RECIPE FROM SCRATCH AND PIONEERED PROPRIETARY TECHNIQUES, WHICH GIVE OUR SMOOTHIE BOWLS THAT ICE-CREAM-LIKE TEXTURE AND THE BEST FLAVOUR. – LEO TAM

I treated it as an opportunity for research and development. A year later, after a great deal of trial and error, we were confident I was good enough to set up shop. Each product’s formula is specially created – after we have repeatedly tried combining different types of fruits, vegetables or superfood for the best taste. For example, we figured out a way to minimise the dirt-like flavour of beetroot that some people don’t enjoy. Therefore, you may find some unique concoctions available at Bear’s Lab.

For example, our matcha spirulina latte is created after we tried pairing spirulina with all kinds of ingredients. Eventually, we found that matcha can help reduce the unusual flavour of spirulina that most people are not used to. Also, our detox bowl, which comes in a lovely green colour from the avocado and spinach in the smoothie base, is also now one of our bestselling items.