September 14, 2015

Vegan chef and owner of Idlewild bar and kitchen, Fred Musik hosted us for a day while he cooked up a range of delicious vegan treats for us. From burgers and tacos to pancakes with fresh fruits and syrup, we spoke to Fred about the best bits of having a vegan diet, his worst cod related recipe disasters and hero ingredients.

UO: Can you tell us a bit about your story? How did you come to open Idlewild?

I was a freelance magazine designer for about 8 years before I became very frustrated with the lack of creativity and growing emphasis on revenue being the main factor of each page in a magazine. Around this time, my boyfriend Mark was looking to buy this bar and it was in such a state (brown leather sofas, curly fries, TVs on every wall) it was screaming ‘major project’. So I kept a few of my bigger freelance jobs but slowly moved into this full time.

UO: Walk us through a day in your life.

I wake up at 6am everyday, put grains in my pressure cooker for porridge and walk my three dogs in the woods in the 40 mins my porridge takes to cook. I have breakfast whilst flicking through real-news stories on Instagram.

I go to the gym for an hour or an hour and a half and generally make it to work for 11am where I’ll either work on the floor for a couple hours, get emails and computer work done, or try out a new recipe in the kitchen with our chefs. I usually finish by 4pm and walk around Brighton and get some groceries or go and see my Dad or my brother and sister.

Mark and I don’t often go out for dinner locally as we cook better food at home these days, so I always make three meals a day for us both and that takes a bit of time. I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to cooking for people at home because I get really nervous but I often have people around for food in the evenings.

I rarely go up to my bar to socialise, as I find it hard to chill out there, but it’s by far the nicest place around, so I might get dragged out to meet some friends for a drink occasionally.

Usually though, I’ll go for a swim in the local reservoir or in the sea, read some conspiracy theories and try and expand my awareness a bit regarding what’s really going on in this planet before falling asleep wondering how I can change the world in the tiny amount of time I have here!

UO: What made you want to open a restaurant?

I love restaurants & bars. The combination of food, music, friends, interior design, social interaction and observing weird people has had me hooked since I was 15 and worked in a cafe in Brighton. The chance to open my own place seemed like a dream…but it’s been really really hard work and there have been countless occasions where I’ve found myself on my hands and knees, in new jeans, sweeping up broken glass at 2am thinking “why the hell am I doing this?!!”

We’ve definitely done something positive for our local area though, we get loads of great feedback from regulars and visitors alike. It’s good to know that people appreciate us being here as much as we appreciate the opportunity.

UO: Where does your passion for cooking stem from?

I started to cook more out of necessity than passion really. If I want to be the healthiest version of myself and still enjoy food, I have to be responsible for that part of my life because I’m not rich and I don’t have a personal chef. So I guess my passion stems from my ambition of living an amazing, fulfilled life for as long as possible. I’d love to live well over 100 years old.

UO: What do you love most about having a vegan diet?

This will sound a bit new-age, but being vegan actually gives me waves of happiness. It’s a great feeling to realise I’ve removed myself from the cycle of misery that is the meat and dairy industry. I feel the reality of eating meat and dairy, is that fellow sentient beings are being murdered in their millions every day. Their fear and negative energy is turned into the food we eat. I think modern food is the reason why people are so often ill.

My biggest worry when I went vegan was that I would lose all the muscle I had worked so hard for at the gym. In actual fact, I have put on more muscle, and lost puffiness, and that helped me to see the modern food industry as a fraud. It’s only when you completely stop eating meat that you realise what a terribly apathetic race we have allowed ourselves to become. Get yourselves unplugged from the Matrix, this is the first step.

UO: What is the creation process in putting together new recipes?

Sometimes I find some really fresh healthful looking vegetables or unusual grains in one of the shops I go to or I see something online that I want to know how to make and this starts the process of making a new dish. We have weekly specials at Idlewild that I usually take care of entirely myself, so I’m always thinking about that. And I just get in the kitchen and try stuff out, sometimes it goes straight from the kitchen onto a customer’s table and they give us feedback. Last night I had Mark’s parents over for dinner; they were two of our biggest critics when we first went vegan but they love our food now.

UO: Tell us about your worst recipe disaster

One night back when I ate meat, Mark and I had a group of friends (who are all big into cooking and are all really good at it) over for Salt Cod & Samphire. I didn’t know how to make this dish but I’d read someone glamorous like Nick Mason say it was his favourite dish, so I just covered everything in salt and baked it.

And I didn’t wash the samphire before cooking it so that tasted of the sea.

The whole meal was just salt. And it was awful. None of my friends would say anything was wrong with the meal, but luckily Mark put his foot down before we all died of some salt-related illness and just stopped us eating, we moved onto the cheese course and had a laugh about it, but years later we still talk about it whenever I cook, it was that bad.

UO: What is your hero ingredient?

Seitan is definitely my hero ingredient. It has quite a meaty texture and can be used in loads of dishes, hot or cold. If Tofu is the chicken of the vegan world and Tempeh the pork, then a block of good Seitan is like Wagu beef!

UO: What inspires you?

I’ve found tons of inspirational people on Instagram, from vegan body builders to stay-at-home mums who are cooking amazing food from scratch. Another of my favourite ways to gain inspiration is to spend time in a whole foods shop, really looking at all the products and asking the staff how things should ideally be used. The best wholefoods store in England without doubt, is BigLife Organics in Haywards Heath. They also have an online store (macrobioticshop.co.uk) and I do 95% of my food shopping with them.

UO: What’s been your biggest achievement to date?

My first freelance magazine job was at Vogue, and so that always comes to mind straight away as something I’m proud of but actually I think my greatest achievement is waking myself up from the system, re-educating myself about food.

I feel that so many people are so asleep when it comes to issues such as animal welfare, personal health and nutrition. But I am noticing more and more people are starting to wake up, so if I can be someone who helps people do that, then that’s something I’m proud of.

UO: What advice would you give to an aspiring restaurant-er?

My advice to an aspiring restauranteur would be to have a concept, but remember you have to make money too. Don’t be too cool, because your concept will date quickly and regular people will feel uncomfortable and won’t visit you often…

UO: What’s next for you in 2015?

We change our menu every three months or so. I guess that will be the next thing happening here. We want to put more vegan stuff on our next menu and take away some meat but our concept is to bring the vegan experience to meat eaters, so it’s a fine balance. We don’t want to scare them away! Mark and I will also try and get three weeks away somewhere before the Christmas rush.

And finally…

If I wasn’t at Idlewild, I would be… still living in Sydney working as a waiter and getting to the beach everyday for 3pm!
My ideal breakfast is… what I currently have: Miso Soup with tons of veg and brown rice porridge. There are tons of different types of Miso and other grains to keep it interesting.
My failsafe dinner party dish is… Matchstick vegetables & seitan deep fried in Tempura batter, served with a wasabi & shoyo dip. Everyone goes crazy for it.
My favourite season is… summer. Summer all year please.
My favourite dish is… I have so many, but if I could eat chocolate cheesecake all day long I’d be happy. I make one using vegan cream cheese & tofu.
The best thing about my job is… freedom & creativity
Right now I’m listening to… ZZ Top “legs”
My biggest release is… taking off my clothes, dancing to good music with friends (none of that EDM rubbish).



Makes around 6 burgers
Food processor required (I use a Kendwood)

400g beetroot
1/2 cup brown rice (not cooked)
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 to 4 cloves chopped garlic
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup rolled oats
2 cans black beans
1/4 cup prunes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons horseradish mustard 1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper


1. Heat your oven to 180oc or higher. Prick the beet roots a few times with a fork and loosely wrap in foil, put them on a tray and roast them until they are soft which should be about 30 minutes.

2. Whilst the beetroot is cooking, add the 1/2 cup of brown rice and one cup of boiling water with a pinch of sea salt to a small saucepan with a lid, bring to the boil and then put onto a low simmer and set a timer for 40 minutes. I usually do these two things the day before I make the burgers, so that they are properly chilled, and I’m not hanging around.

3. Chop the onion or whizz it around a food processor for a few seconds and add it to a heated teaspoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Stir the onion around a bit for a few minutes before adding the chopped garlic. Fry the onions and garlic together for about 5 minutes before taking the pan off of the heat and adding the apple cider vinegar. Stir with a wooden spoon until the vinegar has evaporated.

4. Chop the prunes up into little pieces either by knife or food processor. Drain and rinse one of the cans of beans and pour them into the food processor. Add the chopped prunes on top and pulse mixture together until you have a rough mixture – not too mashed up, probably ten pulses. Scoop the mixture into a large bowl and add in the second can of drained black beans.

5. Now the messy bit, make sure you’re not wearing your favourite white T-shirt! In the sink, gently wash the skin off of the beetroot using a new green scouring pad (or whatever works). Shake the water off of the beetroot and using the grater disc of the food processor, grate all the beetroot. You can obviously use a hand or box grater to do this, but just watch out for the mess.

6. Now place all the grated beetroot into a sieve (or colander) over the sink and squeeze as much excess juice out as you can. Otherwise, when you go to make the burgers up, they will be too wet and won’t stick together.

7. Add the squeezed beetroot, brown rice, and onion mixture to the bowl with the beans. Add the brown mustard, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, and thyme and the olive oil and stir all the ingredients with a wooden spoon. In your food processor, whizz the porridge oats into a fine flour and add this to the mixture and continue to stir it all in until you have a big red mound of ingredients.

8. Cover the mixture over, so that it doesn’t now dry out too much, and refridgerate for a few hours, or overnight if possible. Then to make the burgers, get nice big handfuls of the mixture and form into a balls, then squash them into burger patty shapes.

9. To cook, I usually fry each burger for a few minutes each side in a frying pan with a little bit of oil on a medium heat, and then warm them all through each side under a grill. Be gentle with them as they won’t hold together that well once they begin to cook. Serve with toasted sourdough bread, fries, mustard and pickles


2 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs light tahini
2 tbs mirin
200g silken tofu (optional)

Puree all the ingredients together in a blender until you have the consistency of Mayonnaise. The addition of silken Tofu not only gives the ‘mayo’ a nice subtle taste, it also bulks the mixture out to make it go further. You can just use the first three ingredients but just check you enjoy the taste as it can be quite rich as Lemon juice, Mirin and Tahini are all have strong flavours.

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