When you think of sustainable plant-based food, Impossible Foods comes to mind. Of course, as nearly 300 restaurants in Singapore have already incorporated Impossible Meat into their dishes. One of the pioneering local food establishments that advocates Impossible Foods is Potato Head Family's Three Buns. Creations such as Impossible Chedda, Can You Dig It?, and Vegan Seagal are popular with its burger-loving diners.
This month, Three Buns launches an entirely sustainable menu as a tribute to Earth Month, in efforts to contribute to the cause of sustainability and cruelty-free eating. Besides Impossible Foods, Three Buns' culinary team has introduced other sustainable brands like Just Egg, SimpliiGood, and SeedFuel. The latter's ingredients are just as yummy as their replaced counterparts. *smacks lips*
The extensive menu will offer nine plant-based burgers, salads and sides. All either vegan or vegetarian friendly. In addition, this launch coincides with the announcement of their new 12-month partnership with ACRES, a Singapore-based wildlife charity dedicated to ending animal cruelty. Three Buns pledged to donate a dollar for every item ordered from the new menu throughout the month of April.
We caught up with Chef Adam Penney, Potato Head Family's Executive Chef, on his advocation of sustainability and discovering an ideal dairy butter replacement.
ESQ: What were your initial impressions when using plant-based ingredients as meat replacements like Impossible Foods and Just Egg?
Adam Penney: When I first heard about Impossible™ Foods back in 2017, I was intrigued by the idea of the product, and when I first got to try it, I was really blown away! Compared to ground beef from a cow, the Impossible Burger uses 96% less land, 87% less water, and generates 89% less greenhouse gasses. Couple that with the fact that it handles, cooks and tastes just like ground beef, and it’s a win-win for the consumer.
As with our other brand partners for this Earth Month menu – SeedFuel, SimpliiGood, Just Egg and Miyoko’s Cashew Butter, what drew me to these brands was not only the fact that their products are unique and of high quality, they also share the same passions and ethos of the Potato Head Family, and so was naturally a great fit for Three Buns and our values. It’s also not just the positive environmental impact, but the fact that we’re being kinder to our bodies. Plant-based ingredients are definitely paving the way for the future of food and how we consume it.
ESQ: Why do you advocate on being sustainably conscious?
Adam Penney: We all have a choice and we all have a responsibility. With the growing popularity of our Impossible Foods dishes in the past 12 months, it felt only natural for us to extend our plant-based offering here and create an entirely sustainable menu from scratch for both restaurants. We are responding to our customers — delivering bloody good burgers made with minimal impact on our planet. Most importantly, we are raising funds for our new charity in the process. We will be donating a dollar for every dish ordered from our new menu throughout April for ACRES — a Singapore charity dedicated to bringing an end to animal cruelty.
Sustainability is in our DNA. It’s even behind our mantra, “Good Times, Do Good”. We take a lot of care in everything we do, from the building materials we chose for our Quayside restaurant, to the ingredients that we use in our menus. While sustainability and traceability are key for us, there is always room for growth and we are always learning, collaborating and experimenting.
In fact, Potato Head Bali has now turned completely sustainable, using, for example, only locally produced, untreated coconut sugar and raw Balinese honey in their drinks.
ESQ: Have you been involved with sustainable food efforts prior to your stint at Three Buns? How does Singapore fare in this compared with the UK culinary scene?
Adam Penney: Yes I have. Back in the UK, locally sourced produce is a lot more accessible, with a variety of farm to table dining using seasonal produce. It is also easier to work closely alongside suppliers to minimise overall food waste.
Getting a hold of sustainable foods in the UK, although generally easier than in Singapore, is also dependent on where you live. For example, most villages have their own greengrocers, fishmongers and butchers, so with these being more readily available, it is naturally easier to operate daily changing menus, and using up all the stock in the chillers in the process!
ESQ: Tell us some interesting discoveries when devising the Earth Month menu and using the plant-based ingredients.
Adam Penney: Miyoko’s Cashew Butter was an amazing discovery. It is one of the best plant-based products that I have tried as it is so close in taste and texture to dairy butter. I believe that if it were thrown in a taste test, it would beat a lot of commercial butter out there!
ESQ: How is it challenging to keep prices competitive while supporting transparency, farm-to-table, and fair-trade businesses?
Adam Penney: It can be extremely challenging, especially as so many people are used to cheaper and mass factory-farmed and grown produce. Trying to use traditionally farmed and reared produce is definitely more costly, mainly because traditional farming is seasonal and will take longer. Also, since the animals aren’t fed antibiotics or growth hormones, they are healthier and a natural choice, but consequently more expensive.
Our Vintage Tasmainian beef and Sakura chicken are testimony to the quality of the natural reared produce we use. To add, most plant-based ingredients are still relatively new and more costly too. We make a lot of Impossible Foods-based burgers at Three Buns, but due to the nature of the product we use 100% of it when doing so, so there are some cost-savings there and no food waste which is great. I think the prices of plant-based products are slowly coming down, and when this happens, we can look at converting this into savings for our customers.
ESQ: What is your favourite dish from this menu and why?
Adam Penney: I have a few favourites! First off, the “Impossible Hombre” because the flavours are rich, smokey and slightly spicy, and the Impossible chilli is a great textural addition. I also really like “Le Big Mock” – our cheeky vegan ode to a famous burger and definitely one of the biggest burgers we have done.
The 'Impossible Sleaze' is a great moreish and loaded cheesy fries dish which goes really well with a cold beer. 'Beets by Dre' has been one of my favourites on our menu since we launched it in our first year – it’s a colourful salad with lots of flavour bombs and textures.
On the sweet side, 'C.R.E.A.M', the cashew ice cream is my new favourite, it was a labour of love to get it just right, but I think the hours and the number of cashews paid off.
ESQ: Have you considered using 'ugly' food, which is perfectly edible but not visually appealing in appearance as most ingredients will be refined by chefs anyway?
Adam Penney: Most of the raw ingredients—especially the vegetables—would be considered ‘ugly.’ To me, as long as the quality and flavour are there, they don’t all need to be uniformed and pretty.
What’s more, is that we pretty much make everything on our menu from scratch, so I focus on consistency in flavours rather than the aesthetics of the ingredients. For instance, our burger buns are all hand handmade by our bakers and so naturally there are bound to be slight blemishes and misshaping. I feel like that's really part of the charm and authenticity of our products at Three Buns!
ESQ: I realised there are elements of music associated with some dishes. How did that come about and what defines the characteristics or description suitable for a particular dish?
Adam Penney: Each and every item on the menu comes from the heart, and has its own unique flavour and texture inspirations. Almost every burger that we have made over the years is an ode to musicians, actors and characters that we’ve taken inspiration from.
When I was coming up with the first-ever Three Buns menu, I felt that each item deserved its own identity and name. Some just felt right and came naturally when we thought about the properties of the dish, and others came about as they were a play on a specific ingredient.
Growing up, I loved music and movies and so, we named the Baby Huey after James Ramey, an amazing and inspirational soul singer from the 60s. We came up with the Rambo burger when we were thinking of a name to describe the Dorper lamb we used in it. We started with ‘lam’ and soon came ‘ram’ because they rhymed, and given it is the word for male sheep. We quickly landed on ‘Rambo’ after the movie which starred the legendary Sylvester Stallone since the burger packed such a punch!
'Kool Herc' was chosen for our classic burger as DJ Kool Herc was considered the father of Hip Hop, originating Hip Hop in the Bronx in the 1970s. 'Funboy Three', which was named after the 80s band of the same name, is our souped-up take on a mushroom swiss.
Funboy, being a play on ‘Fungi’ and the words ‘Fun Guy’ became Funboy. What we’ve also taken great pride in is our tribute series which pays homage to music and culture legends.
For example, we have our ‘2Stac Shakur’ burger that was named after Tupac Shakur, American rapper and actor with the stage name 2Pac, while our Back In Black burger took inspiration from one of the most famous rock bands in history, ACDC.
Even dishes on our Earth Month pay homage to music and film, whether it’s 'The Roots' burger – a nod to the American hip hop band of the same name – made with seasonal vegetables, cheese fritter, coleslaw, lettuce, pickles, Big Poppa’s hot sauce and mayo in a toasted mango flour bun, or 'Can You Dig It?' – a reference to cult 70s classic movie, The Warriors – an Impossible™ meat patty, truffled aioli, Brie de Meaux, ketchup, Heritage tomato, lettuce and pickles in a toasted demi brioche bun, and both are vegetarian friendly.
ESQ: Lastly, anything exciting planned up for Potato Head Family in terms of sustainability food-wise for this year and beyond?
Adam Penney: We’re always on the lookout for the latest trends in the food industry, so I wouldn't rule out a completely plant-based offering in the future at Potato Head Singapore and Three Buns.
Plant-based ingredients are getting better and better all the time and people are more conscious than ever when it comes to what they are consuming; but for now, all of our current meat offerings are available alongside our Earth Month menu!
We’re all very excited about what new products Impossible™ Foods’ might launch in the future (watch this space), and as locally-grown produce becomes more readily available in Singapore, we look forward to experimenting with more plant-based offerings at both restaurants. It’ll be interesting to see what we can come up with!
Three Buns' Earth Month menu is available from now till end April 2020 via Deliveroo.