Shairie Radhika Amaro gave up her prestigious profession as a doctor in South Africa to open an all-vegan bakery, Veganyumm, in her adopted home city of Brisbane. With nothing but passion for baking and a knack for experimentation, she created her own recipes for the perfect plant-based treats and opened her shop to a flood of sweet-toothed support. Though her time spent catering to a critical public hasn’t always been smooth sailing, her message is clear: if you want something enough, it doesn’t matter where you’re starting from; chances are, you’ve got the skills and the stones to make it happen. Find your truth and embody it — especially if that truth involves cruelty-free cake. The world needs more cruelty-free cake.
(Originally intended for magazine publication in 2016.)
Vegan. Cruelty-free. Compassion. Ahimsa. Love.
Whatever the term you associate with, I think we can all agree that food – particularly desserts – taste that little bit sweeter with this added special ingredient.
Shairie Radhika Amaro, who opened Veganyumm Bakery in July , certainly thinks so.
“I decided to create my company under the principle I believe in, which is compassion to animals and human beings,” she says. “I called my shop Veganyumm because I wanted the word vegan on display. I want people to understand that vegans can eat everything, and the fact that there’s no animal suffering in the ingredients means there’s more love in the product, which therefore tastes and looks better.”
Shairie was raised as a vegetarian in her home country of South Africa. She became vegan in 2012 when a friend suggested she make the switch.
“At first I thought sure, whatever, and didn’t think too much about it. But then I began to feel better and more energetic, and my body leaner and healthier. My family then moved to Australia, and I realised the awareness [of veganism] here is phenomenal.
“That’s when my interest appeared. I started reading online magazines and following vegan chefs on social media, and my interest grew into passion.”
Since opening Veganyumm, Shairie’s desserts have won over devoted vegans and skeptics alike. I certainly didn’t need much convincing – although I do take my sweets seriously, and hers are up there with the best I’ve ever tasted. The cupcakes are fluffy, the cookies soft and chewy, the not-buttercream pretty damn buttery, and the scrolls like cinnamon-scented pillows.
And that myth about vegans never getting enough food? Consider it debunked: I ordered waffles with the works and received a portion so large I could have built my own shop out of the leftovers.
“I’ve had a lot of people comment, ‘I’m not vegan, but that was amazing.’ They didn’t know vegan food could taste that good,” Shairie says.
“Still, people come in and request dairy, and we explain why we don’t use it. There’s big money tied up in popularising the meat and dairy industry, and therefore the mistreatment of animals. I’ve decided to set myself apart from those moneymaking giants.
“So far, I’ve not got one complaint from somebody who’s not a vegan, and that really opens people’s minds and makes them aware of their options. That excuse of, ‘But I don’t know what I would eat!’ is going away now.
“You asked me what’s my favourite thing to bake [red velvet cupcakes, FYI], and I’ll tell you our vanilla birthday cake is our bestseller. I’ve had chefs try it and tell me it’s better than non-vegan vanilla cake. That makes me feel amazing because I created that recipe,” she says, with a proud gleam in her eyes.
Not a bad start for a doctor who went from baking at home to opening her own shop in just a few short years.
“I’ve had a passion for food since I was a young girl, and I’d been collecting recipe books and trying out new recipes every week,” she says. “At the beginning of last year, I developed this really big desire to create vegan desserts.”
So how does a doctor with no formal culinary training open her own vegan bakery?
She started by experimenting with ingredients to create the perfect cinnamon roll – a process that took three months – and selling them at markets, and then supplying to Charlie’s Fruit Market in Everton Park, now her neighbouring shop. “Cinnayumm”’s popularity flourished, as did Shairie’s experimentation with baking: every product at Veganyumm is created from her own, or family, recipes.
“There were lots of trips to the supermarket involved, and a lot of effort – but eventually I got it right,” she says.
Though Shairie assures me that opening Veganyumm was no small feat, I’m surprised by the apparent ease with which the 26-year-old describes it all coming together.
“The hard work was no problem; I’d worked 12 to 14-hour days when I was a doctor, so that wasn’t really bugging me.
“What got in the way was opening a business that got really busy, really quickly, and having staff that was unprepared for a pace far ahead of us,” she explains. “We received some constructive criticism in our first week, and all of that was taken onboard.
“At this point, we’re definitely more structured; I’m able to step away and leave the girls alone. I can sit down, decorate my cakes, think about new recipes, and let my creative side come out. I’m not afraid to admit we weren’t ready when we opened; but in one week we were 90% of the way there, and in two weeks, we were 120% ready.”
So, what’s next following the successful launch of Veganyumm?
“I’m ready to be surprised. If I keep putting my love and passion into the business, it’s going to go somewhere,” she says.
“Vegan food is going to get more popular. It goes beyond taste: food affects your body, mind, and soul, so on that deeper level, consuming products containing animal suffering means you take on that suffering, effectively turning your body into a graveyard. Eating food that’s made with love makes a difference in your mind, and you feel peaceful and happier. Whether modern medicine can prove that or not, I don’t know – but I certainly feel a difference!
“Pursue veganism. Don’t think twice – life is too short to think twice. Make positive changes in your life, be nicer to people, do whatever you can to increase your positive output. There is no sacrifice too great for compassion, so just open your heart and do it.”
2018 Update: Veganyumm has expanded their range to include vegan, palm oil-free Nutella — ’nuff said, as well as a bunch more gluten-free treats and savouries.
Keep up with Veganyumm’s drool-worthy posts on Facebook and Instagram. If you’re an Australian vegan and haven’t already (seriously, where have you been?), visit Shairie’s shop at 473 South Pine Rd, Everton Park, Brisbane.