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CHEF ILONA: Chef and owner of My Plum, My Duck praises plant-based diet

CHEF ILONA DANIEL THE GUARDIAN CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Once thought of as the cuisine solely belonging to a specific set of the population, meatless meal preparation has come to the fore in recent years.  

According to Loblaw’s Canada, 2017 will bring on the rise of the “conscious consumer”.

“Canadians will put the spotlight on vegetables first with smaller portions of sustainably sourced protein. Alternative proteins (think insects and plant-based) will increase.”

I’ve personally eaten insects on my travels to Asia (scorpions), and the prospect of mainstream home cooks preparing insects may be a little tough to swallow, at least for now.

Alternatively, plant-based proteins are increasingly approachable and affordable. Chefs are celebrating vegetables by making them the star of the plate in 2017, and guests are willing and eager to see the diversity of humble vegetables like strikingly coloured root vegetables such as carrots and beets.

One of the newest restaurants in the P.E.I. culinary landscape plants itself firmly alongside the vegetables it proudly serves. My Plum, My Duck, on University Avenue in Charlottetown, is run by owner/operator, chef Sarah Forrester-Wendt, a self-proclaimed “macro-mom”.

Forrester-Wendt is not new to the game of vegetarian/vegan cuisine; it is a diet she was raised on since childhood.

Chef Sarah Forrester-Wendt, left, and chef Ilona Daniel work in the kitchen of My Plum, My Duck restaurant, preparing collard greens to accompany Forrester-Wendt's vegan "crab" cakes.

“I was raised on a macrobiotic diet. My father recovered from stage 4 non-hodgkins lymphoma over 35 years ago by adopting this lifestyle.”

The macrobiotic diet became popularized in the 1960’s and focuses on the mindful consumption of organic grains, beans/sea vegetables and vegetables.

Chef Sarah has carried forward her lifetime of understanding of the balance and vitality meatless eating can bring in her newly opened restaurant. Her menu offers on-trend dishes, like Ramen Noodle Bowls, traditional macrobiotic soups, “Schteak” made from wheat gluten known as seitan and house-made desserts.

What can one expect upon a first visit to My Plum, My Duck? “A bright, cozy restaurant with a wonderful staff and a menu with a variety of choices, says Forrester-Wendt.”

Chef Sarah loves the discovery found in preparing vegetables as she finds it exciting to “see how many things you can make out of each ingredient. I love pickling. I pickle almost everything.”

The name of the restaurant is one with a great story, which is a loving nod to her ties to her family and the inception of Chef Sarah’s lifelong journey of meatless meal preparation.

“The name of the restaurant is a term of endearment. It’s what my dad called my mom when I was a kid. It makes me happy.”

Tempeh "crab" cakes with sugar and gluten free mustard pickles, egg-free remoulade, and sauteed collard greens are prepared by chef Sarah Forrester-Wendt at her Charlottetown restaurant My Plum, My Duck.

When it comes to the benefits of a meatless diet, Forrester-Wendt thinks a plant-based diet is the healthiest way to go.

“People are often surprised that you can eat a balanced meal and get all your protein and vitamins. It’s great for your heart and can lower your cholesterol. Plus it can be really fun and creative.”

Chef Sarah’s recipe for a meatless version of “crab cakes” is an illuminating exercise in demonstrating the diversity of plant-based proteins.

Chef Sarah’s Tempeh “Crab” Cakes

2 pounds tempeh

6 large potatoes (russets are good here)

¼ cup minced onion

¼ cup minced red pepper

¼ cup minced celery

2 tbsp each minced parsley and dill

Salt and pepper to taste

Extra virgin olive oil

Corn flakes

Egg replacer (you can use eggs here if it being vegan is not the aim)

Crumble and saute tempeh for 5 minutes until slightly browned. Peel, boil and mash potatoes. Mix everything together except for corn flakes and egg replacer.

Form small cakes with hands or a mold. Coat in an "egg" wash.

Put corn flakes into a food processor and pulse to a fine crumb. Roll cakes into corn crumb until fully coated. Pan sear in a little olive oil and cook in a 400 oven for 5-8 minutes. 

Vegan tartar sauce

1 cup vegenaise (regular mayo is fine if vegan-friendly is not the objective)

Juice of ½ lemon

1 tbsp pickle brine

2 tbsp dill, chopped

1 tbsp chopped capers or caperberries

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and serve with Tempeh “Crab” Cakes.


Chef Ilona Daniel's food column, Food Seductress, runs on the last Thursday of each month. She welcomes comments from readers by email at or on twitter:


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