Dharma Southern Kitchen seeks to bring vegan food to the masses

ORLANDO, Florida. – A former girlfriend first introduced Shaun Noonan to the idea of ​​going vegan, but it’s a lifestyle that has come to define his job.

“That (relationship) was young in my teens, so I had never really formed that classic negative view of vegetarianism,” Noonan recalled. “I grew up playing ice hockey and martial arts and things like that – and I also ate vegetables. So, I never really understood this classic male thing that vegetables equal weakness or anything like that.


Noonan now owns and operates Dharma Southern Kitchen, a vegan restaurant chain aimed at transforming Southern-inspired foods into completely plant-based meals.

“One hundred percent plant-based and Southern cooking was the most ridiculous thing I could tackle,” Noonan said. “Back in the day, plant-based foods — everyone was trying to sell you carrot sticks and hummus and convince you that those cabbage wraps were food, and I’m like, ‘Man, come on . No one has to eat this garbage.

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Noonan wanted to bring people vegan dishes that hit all the high notes of cooking – sweet, salty, salty, spicy and umami. He points out that many dishes commonly associated with Southern cuisine are already vegan to begin with.

“Much of it is accidentally vegan in the first place, like mashed potato is mashed potato until you pour cheese and milk into it,” Noonan said. “You know, it’s just something the dairy industry forced us to do. Fifty years ago we were all told that if we didn’t eat dairy, one way or another, our bones were going to liquefy or we weren’t going to grow properly or whatever.

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Noonan said he also naturally turned to Southern cuisine for his “warmth.” The chef has lived around the world and the country through his work in the culinary world and even before that as a self-proclaimed “army kid,” including stints in central Florida.

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“I was raised mostly in an Italian family and I love Italian food. I just thought Southern food was gaining such a reputation for being meat-driven that I wanted to be a disruptive brand,” he said. -he declares.

Ultimately, Noonan said he didn’t expect to turn the masses into vegans. He also said he didn’t want to shame people into eating and enjoying meat.

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Her real goal is to make vegan food part of the conversation.

“I just want it to be part of this dialogue, where it’s like, ‘Man, I haven’t had good vegan food in two weeks, let’s go vegan,'” he said.

As he seeks to expand this dialogue, Noonan recently secured funding to expand Dharma’s footprint across Florida. Noonan hopes to open three new sites by the end of 2022.

In the latest episode of Florida Foodie, Noonan talks about his plans for expansion and his goal of franchising Dharma. He also shares his love of Bulgarian cuisine and why he is encouraged by fast food chains that add plant-based options to their menu.

Please follow our Florida Foodie hosts on social media. You can find Candace Campos on Twitter and Facebook. Lisa Bell is also on Facebook and Twitter and you can check out his children’s book, “Norman the Vigilant Gnome.”

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Florida Foodie is a bi-weekly podcast from WKMG and Graham Media that takes a closer look at what we eat, how we eat it, and the impact it has on us here in Florida and for everyone, everywhere. Find the new episodes on apple podcast, Spotify or wherever you download your favorite podcasts.

Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All Rights Reserved.

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Tanya S. Norvell