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In Conversation with Lentil As Anything Chef, Dipesh Mainali

A much-loved and iconic part of the Abbotsford Convent site, Lentil As Anything has been providing delicious and nutritious meals under the pay-as-you-feel model for years. Helping to create a vibrant community in our backyard, we speak with Lentil As Anything Chef Dipesh Mainali about how their kitchen is warming people’s tummies this winter.

What’s your favourite dish at Lentil As Anything right now?

My favourite dish at Lentil As Anything right now is the mushroom, soy and ginger noddles.

How long have you been a chef with Lentil As Anything and how did you come to work there?

I have been working at Lentil As Anything for the last eight years. I got to know about Lentil from one of my friends while I was desperately looking for a job.

Is the sense of community at Lentil an important part of why you work there?

Yes, the sense of community is very important for me. One of the reasons for being at Lentil is that it has a positive vibe, which makes everyone happy and encouraging of people to be supportive, regardless of the situation our customer is in.

What’s the best time of day to visit – breakfast, lunch or dinner?

Lentil is always ready to serve customers all the time, breakfast, lunch and dinner, however it is up to the customer as to what they prefer. Our breakfast and dinner are a la carte with fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables and lunch is a buffet with six different dishes each day.

You source some of your ingredients from a veggie patch at the back of the Convent site and you use fresh herbs from its heritage gardens. How does this influence your menu?

It is always exciting to go to the veggie patch to create a dish for a special during the lunch and dinner service. We plan our menu according to what we have in season and available in the veggie patch. It is a luxury to be able to use some of the fresh herbs from heritage garden.

How else do you source your ingredients? Do you rely on donations at all?

About 95 per cent of our ingredients have to be purchased though different suppliers and rest are through donations. We accept donation from anyone who is ready to help.

What are some of the highlights of the winter menu? What are your favourite ingredients to work with at this time of year?

Highlights of the winter menu are the lasagne, roasted veg salad, curry of the day and the spiced beans with corn fritters. I love using kale, beetroot, pumpkin, turnip, broccoli and oranges at this time of year.

What’s the trick to making vegetarian food feel hearty and rich for the wintertime chills?

The trick to making vegetarian food feel hearty and rich is by using fresh seasonal vegetables. Grilling and roasting vegetables adds extra flavour to the dish. We use lots of different lentils, beans, mushrooms and tofu to have enough protein in our meals.

What’s on your plate (pardon the pun) for the next few months as we churn through winter and slowly enter spring?

We will have lots of new hearty and soups, stews, pies and roast veg for winter. When the spring starts, we change according with lots of salad, pasta, pizza and curries.

Lentil As Anything is open seven days a week from 9am – 9pm, with breakfast served 9 – 11.30am, lunch from 12 – 3pm and dinner from 5 – 9pm. For more information, contact