By Al Sciola
Freshness, elegance, and loyalty are just some of the ingredients found in the Mandy’s family recipe for success and all three are immediately evident upon walking in the door.
Mandy and Rebecca Wolfe are the co-owners of Montreal’s most revered gourmet salad spot. In 2004, the sisters opened the city’s very first gourmet salad bar in the back of a women’s clothing store. They soon became the most popular lunch spot on the block until moving their restaurant to a larger location in the heart of Westmount.
Sixteen years and eight locations later, the Wolfe pack are ready to bring their delicious recipes right into your home with a new cookbook, Mandy's Gourmet Salads: Recipes for Lettuce and Life. The book features over 200 recipes, including Mandy’s staples like the “Shanghai Salad”, “Superfood Salad” and, of course, the “Spicy Smoke Show Salad.”
We sat down with Mandy and Rebecca to discuss their partnership as well as the highly anticipated new book.
Why did you feel it was the right time to release a cookbook?
R: We’ve had so many recipes over the years and, we thought it was a good opportunity to give people the gift of making all their favorites in the comfort of their own homes.
M: We were initially supposed to release the book in May, but because of the pandemic we had to hold off for a while. Even though things aren’t exactly much better now, we decided to honour our promise and get the book out to everyone who pre-ordered and waited patiently.
Which recipe in the book means the most to you?
M: Probably something from the original menu, either the Shanghai or the Mexi Salad. These recipes haven’t changed much over 16 years and that shows us that we’re doing something right.
Can you tell about what the salad recipe creation process entails?
M: Funny you should ask, I was doing that this morning. The process usually depends on what seasonal local produce is available. A lot of our salads are also internationally inspired; we like to research different cuisines from around the world. Some experimentation happens at home and I will usually meet with our head chef so he can scale and modify my imperfect measurements.
Your brand is synonymous with healthy eating. What are some of your favorite guilty pleasure foods?
M: I have a sugar problem [laughs]. I’ve never met a cookie or brownie I don’t love. Also anything with butter since butter is only one letter off from better.
R: I could eat a whole movie-sized pack of Nibs and it’s not enough. I also love croissants from Paltoquet in Outremont. They’re unlike any other. You can’t even find them in France.
You were gracious enough to dedicate a page of this beautiful book to Smoke Show. What was it about Smoke Show that made it a viable ingredient in a salad dressing?
M: When we first discovered Smoke Show, we knew it had to be featured in a salad and it paired perfectly with our Mexi salad, so we combined the right amount of Smoke Show to the dressing to give it that kick. People loved it, so I’d say it was a perfect collaboration.
Can you name me one good thing and one bad thing about the Montreal food scene?
M: A good thing is all the community love and support. Loyal customers have really helped build our business.
R: It’s a great city so I don’t know if I can think of anything bad to say.
As sisters and business partners, are there any difficulties that come with maintaining both relationships?
R: Not really. We both really respect each other’s roles in the company. We also have shared values, so we approach conflict the same way and we fully trust each other. Since we speak about work all week, when we see each other on the weekend or get together with family, we try not to discuss those things.
If you had to sum up the Mandy’s brand in one word, what would it be?
R: As an owner, I’d like to say “Excellence”.
What’s next for the Wolfe sisters?
R: We’ll be opening up in Toronto, so that’s exciting; we want to take Mandy’s everywhere.
M: Aside from that, we’ve also used this pandemic as a chance to stop and breathe and take a step back. Having the chance to examine where we are is also good for helping us grow.
Want a copy of the cookbook?! Buy it on Brunette.