The myth that vegan food isn’t delicious and the search for healthy vegan options is gradually diminishing thanks to restaurants like Carrots, India’s first vegan restaurant. Recognized as the co-owner of Carrots, an outstanding chef and a compelling influencer, Susmitha Subbaraju has had quite a lot on her plate since she turned vegan to bring an end to the inhuman dairy industry. Let’s know more about her appealing vegan journey.
How did you first get into veganism?
My husband and I turned vegan in 2003. First, he went vegan out of curiosity and then for animal rights reasons. He influenced me to try it too. Initially, I was very resistant to making the switch because I used to love animal milk, curds and desserts. But once I became aware of the cruel practices in the dairy industry, there was no going back. It didn’t make any sense to support all the pain and sadness just to satisfy my taste buds.
Funnily enough, the smell of dairy now physically disgusts me. If I’d been told this back when I used to chug down large glasses of milk, I’d never have believed it.
An important thing veganism has taught me is that even a slight change in mindset can have such unexpected positive impacts on your life.
Describe yourself in three words.
Spiritual Vegan Ladyboss. 😄
What are some of the toughest challenges you have faced while managing your restaurant, Carrots?
Since I didn’t have a background in the restaurant industry before getting into Carrots, there have been many challenges and learnings in the past few years.
The biggest challenge for me personally has been to learn the balance between being a firm leader and a friendly one.
For Carrots, the biggest challenge was to be the first vegan place at a time when there was barely any awareness about veganism out there! We had to put in a lot of effort to change people’s preconceived notions about vegan food in the first couple of years after we launched.
What kinds of vegan dishes do you think are underrated right now?
ALL. All of them. Haha, Each and every vegan dish, when made well can taste way more delicious than its non-vegan counterpart. I’m not basing that statement on my personal preference but on the feedbacks over the years of multiple people (vegans and non-vegans) who have stated this after tasting vegan dishes served by us as well as others.
What's your most memorable meal?
I can’t say there’s just one meal. A number of meals involving my mom’s cooking would qualify.
How would you describe your personal style?
Bohemian (most of the time).
In a restaurant, how important is the relationship between the chef and the manager?
Very! A restaurant can go quite far when both these leaders work in harmony. In the case of Carrots, Chef Ram and I are like two peas in a pod. Haha, We have a good understanding of each others thought processes and have a clear line of communication. Standing united and supporting each other has definitely helped in the growth of our venture.
It’s also important to note that a good relationship between each and every team member is extremely important. Ensuring that everyone gets along and works together as a family makes all the difference in creating a joyful environment.
For us, the measure of this is has been in how long our team members have stuck around with us in an industry notorious for its attrition rate.
Do you incorporate veganism into your wardrobe as well?
Absolutely! To start with, I only buy, own and wear vegan clothes and accessories. I particularly see an opportunity to make a statement at weddings when my cotton sarees/kurtis/ghagras are not just as beautiful as the silk ones people usually wear but also way more comfortable.
For many years before Carrots I used to make jewellery with vegan messages and I still have a collection of those to wear sometimes.
I also have a “Go Vegan” badge that I wear often.
What influences your handbag choices?
Comfort and Compartments! I’m more of a backpack/sling bag kind of person. I don’t actually own any handbags.
What do you love about Broke Mate?
I love that you’re vegan, of course! And I’ve admired many of your products on your website. They’re a good combination of tasteful and modern. The backpack and clutches have particularly caught my attention.
Given you have many challenges, what’s your key to stay connected with the vegan community? What advice would you give to others striving to participate?
Since I don’t have much time/bandwidth to go out and meet the fellow vegans like I would before Carrots, I’ve ensured that they come to me. Haha.
We’ve turned Carrots itself into a community space of sorts. We host events, reward vegan activists with meals and promote other vegan businesses/products as well as other like-minded organisations.
I’m a big believer in mentoring other vegan entrepreneurs, especially women.
Like any other movement or lifestyle, it’s very important to connect with like-minded people. So my advice to all vegans and everyone looking to go vegan is to connect with your local and/or online vegan support groups. It makes a world of difference to find other vegans in this not as yet vegan world.
Follow Susmitha's journey here: