Plabita Florence has long fantasised about printing out and adorning the walls of her restaurant with the images of the dishes she creates. When the busy chef isn't devising and making the innovative vegetarian and vegan courses for her Eden Terrace eatery Forest, she's photographing them. Since she launched the restaurant two years ago, the innovative chef has amassed an impressive collection of tantalising imagery, giving her Instagram fans something to salivate over, whether it's crispy roasted brussels with apple dressed in fermented leek and tarragon brine on a soft tortilla, marmalade bread and butter pudding with salted pumpkin treacle, or simply an image of a humble vegetable or herb, particularly lesser known varieties sourced from Herne Bay's Kelmarna Community Gardens.
It's all part of her mission to introduce diners to the exciting and diverse world of vegetarian and plant-based food. But until recently she hasn't had a vehicle to present her images easily and in high definition. Now with an HP+ smart-printer as part of her creative arsenal, the talented chef is planning on bringing those pictures originally destined for her social media feed to life. "I'm a pretty visual person," says Plabita. "It's cool to show people things that they wouldn't see otherwise. That's what I'm trying to do at Forest — something different." HP+ gives Plabita the freedom to print from her computer, phone or tablet. If something captures her attention that she decides she'd like to keep in hard copy form, it's as easy as simply hitting the print button.
Plabita was raised a vegetarian and worked in kitchens for years, including a role as head chef at Kōkako. But she hankered for more creative control, soon finding a way to combine her creative plant-based dishes with her desire to dramatically reduce food waste and create more transparency around the provenance of food. "Where our food comes from is something that should be important to all of us," she says. "And I feel like it's not really thought about or talked about that much."
She started Forest after a series of pop-ups proved popular. Diners are presented with three carefully considered courses — dependent on seasonality, what's available in the gardens and from local growers, and what she's been able to preserve. The brevity of courses, and the fact that bookings are essential is integral to her no-waste policy. "We can predict what people are going to eat and then how much exactly we need to order. And that really reduces any wastage."
In order to keep up with what's available, Forest's menu changes weekly. Where traditionally she has hand-written her food menu, making alterations where necessary, the introduction of an HP+ printer to her business, along with its smart capabilities, means updating the menu is made "a thousand times easier". There's no need to worry about her supply either, thanks to Cloud-connected HP's economical Instant Ink subscription service that means ink arrives directly to her front door before she's run out.
Meanwhile, if things get busy in the kitchen, and one particular ingredient happens to run out or Plabita finds an abundance of something new, she can make the menu alterations required and reprint them without the hassle of individually altering each one by hand. "To be able to print the menus out daily if we want or need to, or remove them and replace them is so amazing. It allows me to stay flexible."
More importantly, tailoring her menus to what she's doing in the kitchen will also help her to minimise food waste. Already she makes every effort to preserve fruit skins and pickle vegetable cut-offs. During lockdown she has kept busy by foraging around her Mt Albert neighbourhood, transforming cherry blossoms into a fragrant, Japanese-style, salty-sweet pickle that retains a hint of its original pale pink colour. By adapting her menu and reprinting it with the HP+ Smart app from virtually anywhere at any time, rather than seeking out missing ingredients, means she's able to reduce food waste further.
"Sometimes it can feel really limited when something's already on a menu so you feel you've got to try and put together what is says, rather than adapt to what you're doing in the kitchen. I haven't had that resource until now, so it will be extremely helpful."
She can also easily overhaul her drinks menu, a collaboration with her illustrator friend Kallola Brown who provides the classic, hand-drawn vegetables that represent her inventive house-made drinks. These include her kombucha, "Carrot Fanta" made with fermented carrot juice and orange leaves, and "Chaff Cola", made with Kōkako coffee husks, spices and citrus, each of them a healthy non-alcoholic option that the chef felt was important to offer. The drinks menu is updated every two months or so, and the collaborative process with Kallola, who is also a graphic designer, will also be streamlined thanks to her newfound ability to edit and print straight from InDesign with HP+. "Printing allows me to turn my digital creativity into something tactile," says Plabita.
She appreciates that HP shares her climate-conscious ethos. Just as Plabita composts any food waste, the scraps of which are collected, HP's recycling programme allows her to easily return used ink cartridges via the post as part of her HP Instant Ink subscription.
Ultimately, the printed images — whether they're on the menu or on the walls, photographic or hand drawn — are a tool for inspiration, both for her own creativity and for her customers, even those who might feel out of their comfort zone. As a lifelong vegetarian, this kind of food is second-nature to her but it's not always the case for those who dine at Forest. Carnivore diners are often encouraged to come along by others. While they sometimes arrive sceptical, Plabita says they'll leave with a greater appreciation for plant-based ingredients, and resourceful ways of using them.
"I like to think that it blows open the way people think about different ingredients and different types of foods. As a society, we just have a huge list of rules that we don't even realise we operate under. We throw it away or we won't use it in a certain way, just because it's how we've always done things."
Sticking to just three dishes means she can play with ingredients and dishes that might not sound appetising on paper, like her "vege scrap cavatelli" for example. Everything from the cast-off ends of asparagus stalks to onion skins was ground into a flour and transformed into a pasta, served with a broccoli butter made using the whole vegetable, stalk and all. It's something Plabita isn't convinced diners would select off a menu, yet when served as part of a degustation-style meal it gives her the opportunity to add her signature culinary flair and broaden her customers' culinary experience. And, of course, she says, "it's really tasty. The crucial element is that it needs to be delicious."
Plabita can also print off her ordering lists and adjust them easily. She'd also like to continue to capture single ingredients in photographic form, and print them as part of her ongoing fascination with the beauty and artistry of plants. "How the restaurant looks is pretty important to me," she adds. "I like for it to appear creative and free."
To find out more about how HP+ can be used for your small business and at-home printing needs, visit hp.co.nz/plus