Renae Smith MeatandVegReviews Interview
Dane and Renae met on the set of the top 50 for Masterchef 2014. With a very similar cooking style, Dane and Renae became friends and when back in Sydney, the pair would discuss the latest food trends and restaurant openings. This love of food with a definite lean towards a healthy lifestyle led Dane and Renae to obtain and compare new products with each other and to then subsequently offer their findings to those who follow them on social media.
This created a loyal following for each of them – Dane takes a holistic approach to eating and believes in learning all aspects of food production – from farming to butchery and everything in between. Dane's reviews focus on sustainability and a healthy mind/life balance. Renae is a vegetarian and leans strongly towards a vegan lifestyle. Renae's reviews focus on cruelty free products as well as venues and companies which offer vegetarian or vegan products which stand up to the -mainstream' competition.
Together, the pairs -reviewing' began to gain traction, with their followers coming to them for advice on everything from the best place to buy vegetables to the best place to dine out with friends. Dane has been featured in magazines such as Women's Health and is a regular on healthy lifestyle blogs whilst Renae's articles have published in media such as Broadsheet, Concrete Playground, Backyard Opera and several parenting websites.
Dane and Renae decided to take their love of produce and their ability to share the knowledge they gain in their day to day lives to create #MeatandVegReviews – a concept that is gaining traction on a daily basis.
The pair have already been engaged to review many of Sydney's dining venues, local artisan products and produce driven events across New South Wales. Their commitment to only working with companies they truly believe in assures their followers of genuine reviews and honest product information.
MEAT - Dane Ellevsen @thehealthytradie
Dane was raised on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland before moving to Sydney in 2008. After embarking on an electrical apprenticeship, Dane fell into the all too common habit of -making ends meet' which often meant choosing cheaper, packaged and heavily processed foods. After a selfanalysis, Dane realised that unhealthy eating and un-nourishing foods were failing to -fill him up,' therefore costing more money as well as negatively affecting his overall wellbeing.
Dane reacted to this discovery by going on a severe dietary program and cut out all gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, and many vegetables. After 2 years of self-diagnosing and a -perfect diet' Dane's orthorexia style approach to food was failing, and Dane realised he needed a more holistic approach to health.
Now focussed on a more balanced life of healthy eating, healthy mind and everything in moderation, Dane supports the ethically raised, nose to tail approach and overall sustainability. After gaining experience with top catering companies and working alongside Darren Robertson, The Healthy Tradie (created to stand out as an oxymoron) began when Dane saw a lack of information in the market and believed that leading by example is always the best approach. He now passes his experiences onto others and offers inspiration for those looking to live a more wholesome and fulfilled life.
VEG – Renae Smith @renaesmithmc
Renae was raised on the Central Coast of New South Wales before moving to Sydney in 2008 with her two daughters. Running two businesses often saw Renae gaining quick energy fixes by consuming several packets of lollies, chocolate and up to six coffees per day. After a diagnosis of generalised anxiety disorder and chronic insomnia, Renae realised that her diet was having a detrimental affect on her wellbeing and began to focus on wholefoods, healthy eating and local produce.
In late 2013, after encouragement from her children, Renae applied to become a contestant on Masterchef Australia. Her successful audition eventually saw her place 8th overall in Series 6 where she became known for her love of healthy vegetarian and vegan food with many of her dishes being credited as -perfectly balanced."
Since leaving the program Renae has worked closely with Barnardo's Australia and created the 'Cooking From The Cupboard" concept whereby she teaches children to create healthy, affordable meals with whatever ingredients are in the cupboard. Specialising in vegetarian and vegan food, Renae is consulted by companies all over the world who seek to increase interest in the versatility of their products.
Interview with Renae Smith
Question: What inspired the creation of #MeatandVegReviews?
Renae Smith: Dane and I met on the set of the Top 50 of Masterchef and we were both from Sydney and had a mutual friend. When I finally got out of Masterchef, we used to talk a lot about healthy food and how hard it sometimes is to eat out. Both of us have a unique following on our social media who are interested in different things - so we thought it would be great to start a review tag where people can get a pretty rounded view of a venue from two unique perspectives.
Question: What is #MeatandVegReviews?
Renae Smith: MeatandVegReviews is basically the tag we use to review things from both Dane and my perspective. Dane, being a meat eater - gives the 'Meat" side of the review. Talking about the sustainability of the food and the -nose to tail' approach etc. He also discusses sourcing and the methods used in farming the meat. I do the 'Veg" part of the review and focus on the whole food, and the vegetarian/vegan side - also the ethical or cruelty free side etc. We believe that together, these are the aspects that are often not covered in reviews.
Question: How do you go about combining your two passions for #MeatandVegReviews?
Renae Smith: Although Dane eats meat and I am vegetarian, the concept behind what we do and believe in is similar. We both like ethically sourced, local products and we both care about ensuring the produce we have is sustainable. Although one is meat based and the other vegetables - as a whole, it's a more conscious way of looking at what we eat and that fact ties us together.
Question: Can you talk about why it is important that your approach to food is healthy?
Renae Smith: Food is the only thing that sustains us regularly. We need lots of other things - but whatever we put into our bodies in the way of food will affect our overall wellbeing. I used to be addicted to sugar and I was tired all the time, and had constant headaches and felt very -vague'. I ate really healthy meals, but snacked on bags and bags of lollies. It's only when I tried to be conscious about what I put into my body that I noticed a huge difference. Dane is a lot more strict than I am with food, I eat my pizza, lollies and chips when I want to - but what I do is make sure that when I am eating these types of foods - it's a conscious decision. I think about what I eat so that I don't mindlessly shove stuff into my face.
Question: What inspired your love of whole foods and local produce?
Renae Smith: Moving to Sydney from the Central Coast was very eye opening. There's no such thing as farmers markets there, I had never even seen a fig or -organic' produce and I was very uninspired in the kitchen. Moving to Sydney, there was a movement that I loved and this was being more in tune with what you eat. From that, I developed a love of whole foods. I actually prefer the taste of healthy food now and can't eat processed sweets without feeling sick. Living just near Eveleigh Farmers Markets means I have access to fresh produce every week and I also get a lovely guy dropping me a box of veggies every Tuesday. I use this as the only ingredients I cook with and it's exciting. I get to do my own Mystery Box every night and make the most incredible vegetable dishes with fresh, local produce.
Question: How long and why did you become a vegetarian?
Renae Smith: I have been 100% vegetarian for almost a year now, although I did cook meat for a while mid last year (for my daughter who isn't vegetarian). Since about November 2014, I have been 100% vegetarian and our home is 100% vegan. I only eat dairy and eggs when I am eating out at a restaurant.
Throughout my life I have been vegetarian on and off, but I don't see myself ever going back to eating meat now that I live in Sydney and have the options around me of such incredible produce.
Question: Can you talk about your focus on cruelty free products?
Renae Smith: There are some amazing products out there that are cruelty free and if we all took the time to just think a little before we bought something - we could EASILY wipe out animal testing or cruelty. For example, cosmetics and toiletries are simple to get vegan and they're AMAZING. 'Duck down" blankets/coats/pillows are AWFUL and if you knew how they were made, you'd think twice before you bought them. Leather is something we can easily live without as well. I think just 'thinking" before you buy is the biggest thing.
As for products we eat - I've found it very simple to go vegan at home. People often say 'Oh, but I couldn't live without cheese…" - You can. And if you THINK before you eat and have a moral stance, it gets easier. I don't like to preach, and I'm not perfect at being 100% vegan - and I don't claim to be - but I do think about EVERYTHING and make a choice based on my thoughts. There's no mindless consumption here!
Question: What and where are your favourite places to eat?
Renae Smith: Nel Restaurant in Surry Hills has a vegetarian degustation that BLOWS my mind. It's incredible. I go there once a month. Apart from that, I love Asian food so Thai Potong in Newtown is great, and I do love Tamana's Indian as well. Places I really respect and love are Lentil as Anything which is 100% vegan, and Lord of the Fries which do amazing vegan burgers and fries etc. Places who are making a difference demand my respect and support.
Question: How important is it to you, when reviewing food venues that offer vegetarian or vegan products, that they stand up to the -mainstream' competition?
Renae Smith: Vegetarian is NOT a normal dish without the meat. If we ate like that, we'd die. Vegetarians and vegans are used to cooking for themselves because we have to! When I go to a venue and the vegetarian and vegan dishes are balanced, full of fibre, protein and healthy fats - I am delighted… THAT is what I love. Balanced, healthy food - it just tastes like heaven! A good example of this is Lentil as Anything - a full vegan restaurant that knows exactly how vegans love to eat!
Question: Can you share with us the details of Cooking From The Cupboard?
Renae Smith: When I went on Masterchef, my goal was never to be a chef. I just don't have the time. I wanted to help people cook and especially teach children those skills. I worked with Barnardos and we started 'Cooking From The Cupboard" where I basically do a mystery box with the kids. We have some really cheap ingredients and we learn how to make simple, but healthy meals. This is an example where I DO cook with meat. When you're living with minimal wages, I understand that sometimes a packet of mince is the best choice for your $5. So I teach the children simple, cheap meals they can make for their families with very minimal fuss.
Interview by Brooke Hunter