and Meredith Erickson
From the sisters behind Montreal’s sensational gourmet salads comes the cookbook of the summer. An overwhelmingly gorgeous book, packed with simple and delicious recipes for salads–and much more!
There’s nothing a Mandy’s salad can’t fix. Want an explosion of colour, texture, flavour and fabulousness? Look no further. Inside the pages of this stunning cookbook (and the Mandy’s restaurants it’s named after) lies everything you need to take your salad game from a meh-maybe, to wooooah, baby!!
Mandy’s gourmet salads are a jewel of Montreal’s (jam-packed) food scene. What started as a 3ft counter at the back of Mimi & Coco clothing store is now an 8 location success story, with ongoing expansion in every direction. Behind Mandy’s are the irresistable Wolfe sisters, Mandy and Rebecca. Mandy is in charge of menu inspiration and creation; Rebecca leads the design of all their restaurant locations. More is more is the mantra for both: more colour, more texture, more vibrancy, more life!
In Mandy’s Gourmet Salads, Mandy and Rebecca talk you through how to create their coveted salads at home, including easy prep steps for essential ingredients, how to mix their famous dressings, and how to combine flavours and textures to create a salad masterpiece. Also inside are recipes for Mandy’s nutritious, filling and fantastic grain bowls (for those who want a bit more sustenance) as well as chapters dedicated to smoothies and sweets (sharing Mandy’s famous chocolate chip cookie recipe for the first time…). Perfectly timed for fresh summer living, Mandy’s Gourmet Salads is a feast, for the eyes as well as the tastebuds!
Mandy and Rebecca Wolfe held no aspirations about heading into the culinary world. They held even less thoughts about heading up a chain (eight as of now) of restaurants the euphonious Mandy’s. So why not top things off with a cookbook that was never planned? (Full disclosure: I’m a fan of Mandy’s salads after having eaten there many times. And their chocolate chip cookie is about as good as it gets.) Mandy herself was kind enough to talk with us about her wonderful new book…Mandy’s
Booksaboutfood.com (BAF): How did this idea come about for the book?
Mandy Wolfe: It’s something we’ve always wanted to do. And, it’s something that our very loyal customers that often ask us for recipes and you should write a book and they would do so well. Over the years we had a lot of repeat customers and we still do. Some of the same people come in today that were coming in 15 years ago. And, it’s a fun story to tell. I mean, we think anyway. It was never a big business plan or a traditional success story. It just kind of happened organically. And, there are a lot of people along the way, and it’s a family run operation. And, we wanted to share some of that authenticity with the readers.
BAF: You mentioned it wasn’t part of the business plan. You didn’t say we’re going to open up a restaurant or a chain of restaurants?
Mandy Wolfe: No. It was like, we were both post university, a little bit lost, coming from St. George’s (School) and more of an artsy background and both very creative, always have been, and-
BAF: That’s St. George’s…
Mandy Wolfe: … leaning more towards the food angle. My sister, Rebecca, more towards fashion and design, and we put our talents to best use. And, I came up with the menu, and she came up with the design. And, we set up in the shop of her boyfriend’s store to begin with. And, they’re married now with three kids, and we’ve got eight locations.
BAF: Montreal being the city it is with so many wonderful places to eat, what gave you the inspiration to actually go ahead? Or, maybe what niche did you see that gave you the inspiration to go ahead and go for this in an already pretty crazy food market?
Mandy Wolfe: We wanted something that we couldn’t find ourselves to eat. And, a lot of people think salad is a diet food, or as a very restrictive calorie intake. And, we disagreed, and we were we’re craving, colorful, healthy food that you can take out with you. There are definitely healthy options and maybe more sit down healthy places, but we wanted to offer something that’s quick, on the go. We came up with an internationally inspired menu with these kinds of bowls and salads with all kinds of ingredients in it. And, I guess we were the customer, and we couldn’t find what we were looking for. We made it.
BAF: What sort of hiccups did you have with the restaurant and start getting this project underway?
Mandy Wolfe Hiccups? Well, it was a huge learning curve for us. Neither one of us were trained in business management or marketing.We had to learn a lot about just real hard truths, like signing leases and getting everything in contract form and not necessarily going into business with friends. We had to learn about food costing and scaling the business and HR and accounting and legal matters with landlords. I mean, there’s so many things that you learn just by getting your hands dirty and doing it.
BAF: It sounds like for better or worse, you took a leap of faith and lept.
Mandy Wolfe: Yeah. Yep.
BAF: The important question is why the name Mandy’? No offense. I’m just curious, because there’s two of you.
Mandy Wolfe: It’s a great question. My sister, Rebecca was a huge fan of the food that I was making. And, whenever somebody would come in, even though we had maybe one or two other staff working for us, she’d always say, “Mandy has to make your salad. You have to eat a Mandy salad.” And, she just was convinced that a name like so many successful businesses, whether it’s Tom’s Shoes or Stacy’s Pita Chips, but when there’s a real person behind the story, it’s a more relatable, intimate experience. And, she was convinced that it should be called my name. And, at the time we were serving maybe 20 people a day, I didn’t really think much of it. I said, “Sure.” I’m pretty laid back. And, here we are, and it’s kind of too late to change it.
BAF: Okay. At the time, I think if I remember correctly, you had about five restaurants, five or six restaurants going?
Mandy Wolfe: Currently. We’ve got eight.
BAF: Okay. I guess my question is, so you have hypothetically, you have half a dozen restaurants, and where did you find the time to do this book?
Mandy Wolfe: Well, we were really lucky enough to have a light bulb idea. We met with our friend Meredith Erickson, whose the coauthor, to ask her some tips and tricks on how to write a cookbook. Because, she had written quite a few at that point. And, after talking with her during the sort of consultation session, we all concluded, “Hey. Why don’t we do this together?” She’s done this before. She’s paved the way. And, she can sort of help us flatten that learning curve a lot. And, we all did it together, and it was wonderful.
BAF: How do you know Meredith, just from the scene in Montreal?
Mandy Wolfe: The scene in Montreal, the food scene. She’s been a long-time customer. Montreal is a pretty small town, especially when you’re an English speaker.
BAF: Yeah, as we know.
Mandy Wolfe: Yeah. Meredith yeah. We’ve always had a lovely relationship with her and watched her success and her cookbook success too. It just seemed like a natural fit. She’s amazing. She’s great.
BAF: For people who don’t know the restaurant, is this the best of Mandy’s or is it from the menu items?
Mandy Wolfe: It’s the best of the spring and summer menu? We swap it in the fall and winter when we lean more towards hardier salads. We’re actually working on cookbook two right now.
BAF: I was going to ask. Is there a part two?
Mandy Wolfe: That covers the dark cold season here. We have a ton of soups that we offer in the winter, and we swap out some of the lighter fruitier hot summer day salads for farrow and buckwheat and more satiating meals.
BAF: And for people who haven’t been what do you hope they get from the book?
Mandy Wolfe: That’s a good question. Not really. I mean, I think I hope that having flipped through or read the book to a certain degree, you get the feeling. We hope that there’s a feeling behind the book. There’s a lot of recipes and cookbooks that just list the food and how to make it. And, we wanted people who haven’t had a chance to come to Montreal or into the restaurant to hopefully get that feeling that it’s a very warm experience. There’s family photos everywhere. Becca and I are usually in the restaurants. We love chatting with people. So much of our world has become so disconnected, and we wanted to make places where people feel reconnected through food and through ambiance and all that.
BAF: Well I’m pleased that your cookie is in the book. I’ve eaten a few of those. The famous cookie. It sounds like you’ve almost answered my other question. It’s what’s next? I mean, you’ve got a book.
Mandy Wolfe: Cookbook two….February, 2020, we were in Toronto about to sign a lease to open up there now. That’s all been put on hold, but that’s still in the pipeline. COVID’s not going to be around forever. The plan is still to move out of province and open up in Toronto and then hopefully across Canada and maybe South of the border as well.
“The Montreal salad shop’s first cookbook isn’t just about how to artfully compose the perfect salad: it’s the story of two sisters and a shared love of good food.” — Chatelaine
“With brightly coloured photos of greens, bowls and sweets practically popping off the pages, Mandy’s Gourmet Salads will inspire summer picnics, BBQs and much more.” — HELLO!