Down to Earth with Fable
Being part of the Netflix show, Down to Earth with Zac Efron and Darin Olien and sharing our mission and plans to eliminate single-use plastic for the planet was definitely a highlight for us last year. The show brought together some of Australia's leading and most innovative people and organisations — all with a shared mission to live better and more sustainably. Check us out: Down to Earth with Zac Efron on Netflix, Season 2, Episode 8.
We sat down with CEO Michael Fox and Chief Science Officer Jim Fuller from Fable (fellow Down to Earth guests) to find out even more about their forward-thinking innovations and their experience being part of the Down to Earth series.
Great Wrap: Can you tell us a little about Fable and what led you and your Co-founders to start the company?
Michael: “At Fable, our mission is to make food healthier and more sustainable by making delicious meaty food from mushrooms. We leverage the nutritional benefits and natural umami flavours of mushrooms that help make meat so appealing. By doing so, our delicious meaty mushroom products are minimally processed and made with all-natural plant-based ingredients.
I have been vegetarian for seven years and have since become vegan for a mix of health, environmental and ethical reasons. From speaking with my friends and family, I knew that lots of people want to reduce their meat consumption for similar reasons, but they find it challenging because they love the taste and texture of meat and giving it up is hard. So I wanted to find a way to make it easier for people to transition to plant-based food by giving them the delicious taste and texture of meat but making it from plants and mushrooms.
I’m also a very healthy eater eating a mostly whole food, plant-based diet. So I wanted to develop a meat alternative that fit with my own healthy diet — using whole food, all-natural, minimally processed ingredients.
My two co-founders are Jim Fuller, who is a fine dining chef, chemical engineer and mycologist (mushroom scientist) and Chris McLoghlin, who co-founded Australia’s largest organic mushroom farm and was 2018 Australian Organic Farmer of the Year.
In 2019, I was exploring ingredients to make a whole food, all-natural meat alternative and some chefs I’d been speaking with had put me onto the idea of using mushrooms as the base ingredient. As I was exploring and learning more about mushrooms, several people said I should meet Jim and Chris as they’re mushroom experts, passionate about mushrooms and were in the process of developing great meat alternatives using mushrooms.
When we met, we realised we shared the same values and goals and had complementary skill sets. We shared a common desire to help end industrial agriculture and wanted to make our food system more ethical, healthy, sustainable and lower its greenhouse gas emissions.
So we teamed up to co-found Fable to create delicious, meaty food made from mushrooms to help reduce the world’s meat consumption.”
Great Wrap: What was it like sharing Fable's mission with Zac and Darin on Down to Earth?
Jim: “It was absolutely surreal and a real blast sharing what we do at Fable with Zac Efron and Darin Olien on Down to Earth. The travel documentary series follows Zac as he travels around the world with wellness expert, Darin, to explore healthy and sustainable ways to live and eat, and when they approached us to appear on the show, to say we were excited is an understatement.
We make delicious, meaty food from mushrooms, and our mission is to help end industrial animal agriculture — a mission that it seemed the entire crew of the show appreciated, even eliciting a few cheers when we mentioned it.
We began our day in the forests of Mt. Macedon in Victoria. We started off on a hike through the woods and talked about all kinds of fungi, including some folklore about mushrooms. Zac and Darin came with a genuine interest in the mushroom expertise and experience that we had to share. It was inspiring that these guys were really out here to share a message of respect for nature. We were on the hunt for the “zombie fungus” that is native to Australia, Cordyceps gunnii — these are in the same genus as the Cordyceps fungus at the core of the new HBO series The Last of Us, an adaptation of the video game of the same name.
We were fortunate enough to find some Cordyceps mushrooms that day, something which Darin was ecstatic about, especially because he had never heard of them growing in Australia.
After our foraging adventure, we headed back to my place, aka the Fable Research & Development Kitchen, to cook up and serve Fable's mushroom products to the whole crew for lunch. It was pretty special to have that opportunity and showcase the flavour, texture, and versatility of our Fable products with Zac, Darin and their whole crew. We even had some special cognitive-enhancing medicinal mushroom ferments that I made into non-alcoholic ginger beer to help us intensify our focus for the on-camera cooking that was still to come.
We filmed the cooking segment for the episode, and we were able to showcase the versatility of Fable in a number of plant-based dishes I cooked up for Zac and Darin on-camera. I made Fable Brisket Burger with Texas BBQ Sauce and Coleslaw, Breaded Fable “Steak” Nuggets with Country Gravy, Fable Cheeseburger with our Mushroom Patty and Fable Spaghetti Bolognese.
I was (and still am) in awe that what we are doing at Fable is getting the attention that it has, all of which will certainly go a long way to helping us achieve our mission. Overall, we had a ton of fun, our message was very nicely delivered, and the producers were thrilled with all the great content we gave them.
You can check out Fable’s feature in Season 2, Episode 2 of Down To Earth with Zac Efron on Netflix. Or, here is a short clip of Zac Efron enjoying Fable’s Meaty Mushrooms!”
Great Wrap: What do you see in the future for Fable?
Michael: “We specialise in making delicious meaty food from mushrooms. We currently use shiitake and agaricus mushrooms for the products we have launched into the market. We are focussing our R&D efforts in exploring new species of mushrooms we can turn into delicious meaty food and new ways of cooking mushrooms to amplify their meaty flavour and texture and make their incredible nutrition even more bioavailable to us.
We want to inspire the world to make more sustainable food choices. We truly believe that eating more delicious, meaty food made from mushrooms will help the world reduce global meat consumption. We’re really excited about exploring different mushroom varieties and harnessing their power to bring more of our delicious, clean-label, and sustainable meaty mushroom products to every market in the world.”
Great Wrap: Can you tell us something surprising about Fable or an interesting anecdote from the Fable journey?
Jim: “It’s no secret that we are passionate about mushrooms at Fable. But many people have asked why we chose the name “Fable” for our business. Instead of opting for a trendy new age, techy-sounding clever manipulation of the alphabet, we knew that the only appropriate name for our company, which transforms mushrooms into delicious, meaty food, was Fable.
The decision to use this name was inspired by the mystical and magical qualities that both fables and mushrooms possess. Fables often feature talking animals or other imaginative elements, accompanied by visual representations that enhance their fantastical qualities. The Oxford Dictionary defines “fable” as a short story, typically with animals as characters, conveying a moral. Storytelling is a big part of what we do at Fable, but we use animals as characters in our stories, never in our dishes.
In addition, mushrooms have long been associated with magic and otherworldly powers, often depicted in art and literature as mysterious and fascinating objects of wonder. Many cultures hold rare mushrooms in high esteem, akin to the reverence they have for their myths and fables. Using mushrooms as an ingredient in cooking can almost seem like magic, as the meaty characteristics of both flavour and texture can really be highlighted and expressed in the way they are prepared.
Overall, we believe that there is no better ingredient than mushrooms to create meaty, delicious food, which is why the obvious choice for our company name was Fable. By blending the qualities of fables and mushrooms, Fable is able to create a sense of magic and wonder in our food that is both unique and delicious.”
Hearing the stories of Australian businesses like Fable proves that we have the opportunity and ability to reimagine day-to-day living.