The choice to launch a restaurant in the heart of downtown Oshawa was not one Mathilda Irawan took lightly.
“I still remember what I was wearing that day, and how fast my heart was beating,” she said, “because I was praying hard.”
It was during this time of uncertainty that she sought advice from her husband, who brought years of culinary expertise to the table. His words were clear: “You have to make this decision, I’m not going to make this decision for you.”
Her husband, Jhoni Kusbiantoro, has worked in the restaurant industry for 24 years and owned a restaurant in the Netherlands. The sacrifices he had to make through his career made it hard for him to agree to sign the lease, said Mathilda.
Kusbiantoro, like Mathilda, has maintained a vegan lifestyle for “a long time,” he said.
Mathilda finally found the stepping stone to make the decision to start Mathilda’s after recalling a past meditation session. In that session, she recalled saying she wanted to “serve more people” in her life.
“It was a huge leap of faith. It’s like I was jumping off a bridge, basically,” she said, “so I signed it, and the rest is history.”
Now 40, Mathilda has been at the helm of her vegan restaurant, Mathilda’s, alongside her husband for half a decade. Their vegan-only menu serves foods like soups, sandwiches, and pasta.
According to Mathilda, her day begins early, between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m., dedicated to food preparation before the doors open at noon.
She couldn’t have predicted the traffic she’d get owning a vegan restaurant, and said she had “lineups around the block” from the first day and continued to gain traffic for the first nine months.
“I think we only had maybe a handful of days where we weren’t busy,” she said.
She said the inspiration to open a restaurant in the first place came to her after she failed to find satisfying catering for an anniversary party at the wellness centre she owned at the time, Alam Yoga and Wellness. Instead, she took matters into her own hands and catered the event herself.
She says that “90 per cent of people” at the anniversary party weren’t vegan, but the reception to her food was so positive that many people encouraged her to take a leap into the food industry.
Mathilda learned of a culinary school beneath her wellness centre and asked for a space to cook for people. Within a month of starting her meal prep service, she was tipped off about a café closure, which opened the door for her to step into the space.
Even today, she says her customers aren’t vegan or vegetarian, but have dietary restrictions, such as allergies and food sensitivities.
For Mathilda, her business is more than a restaurant; it’s an extension of her spirituality. Ever since signing the lease to open Mathilda’s, she has always relied on her spirituality to push her forward.
“Because I believe that whatever it is, whatever the problem, whatever dilemma, there’s always a spiritual solution to it, because we’re all spiritual beings,” she said, “we’re only here to have a human experience.”