It’s only natural that the spring and summer bring a fresh bounty of plant-based options alongside opportunity for renewal and growth.

Australia native Donna Fitzgerald Vannan opened Maximum Zen in May in the hope of providing vegan, vegetarian and plant-based options to her customers. Her eatery at 318 Davis St., Clarks Summit, serves a variety of fresh juice, smoothies, baked goods and other items that are either vegan- or vegetarian-friendly. Vannan also is considering starting a weekly supper club.

“I plan on having some of the dishes I am known for from different restaurants, such as Vegan Cashew Cheese Lasagna, Hazelnut Vegan Ricotta-Stuffed Eggplant and a vegetarian take on my Popcorn Grits with Vegetarian Sausage,” Vannan said.

Chef’s Table recently chatted with the business owner.

Q: What is the history of the restaurant?

A: I have been working as a chef for many years, always with a focus on vegetarian, vegan and farm to table-style cuisine. I had not planned to open a place now, but after the pandemic restrictions, I found I needed to completely change the ways I had been working and try and find a more manageable work/life balance with my family. Hilary Steinberg of Jaya Yoga and I had often spoken casually about opening a café/tea room at the yoga studio. Then the opportunity to do something arose, so I went for it.

Q: What kind of food do you serve, and what is available for people with special diets?

A: I do vegan/plant-based and vegetarian foods. Lots of cakes, cookies, pastries and sweet treats. I also do pies, savory pastries and will be doing salads, sandwiches and more entrée options as I go along. I also have tea, coffee from Electric City Roasters, freshly made daily juice, smoothies and sodas from the Beekeeper’s Daughter. I feel that there is a really growing audience for plant-based and healthier options these days. I have always included vegan and vegetarian options in all my menus at various restaurants I have worked in in the area, and I am finding that people are responding really enthusiastically to everything I have. I want my food to be inclusive to everyone, and I would like to think people will enjoy my food regardless of their personal eating choices.

I am also working on adding more gluten-free and sugar-free menu items. I have been influenced by so many different people, places and cultures, and I love to reflect that in my food. I also think that there is more awareness about what ingredients are in food now, and I try to be very aware of what ingredients I use and where they come from. I also try to use vegan and non animal-tested cleaning products and compostable and recyclable containers, cups and straws where I can. There are great vegan and vegetarian places in this area, such as Eden in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, and I just want to provide some more options here in Clarks Summit.

Q: What are your most-ordered menu items and why?

A: At the moment, people are trying a bit of everything. The freshly made juice blend is very popular. I usually do a combination of fresh fruits and vegetables with fresh ginger juice in there too. All the cakes have been very popular, and the vegan sausage rolls (an Australian-style snack) made with an Impossible burger are also very popular.

Q: How did your menu come to be?

A: I am still growing my menu, so it changes daily. I intend to have some permanent items and other dishes, such as Quiche of the Day and a daily juice selection. I want the freedom to be creative and work with what inspires me and what is seasonally and locally available. Australia has a really diverse cuisine and access to all kinds of beautiful, fresh ingredients. At the moment I serve Lamingtons, which are a sponge cake rolled in chocolate icing and coconut, filled with whipped cream and raspberry jam; Pavlova, which is a whipped meringue filled with whipped cream and fresh fruit; Vegan Sausage Rolls, which are made with an Impossible burger and spices in a puff pastry casing. I also plan on having Vanilla Slices, which are a kind of custard-filled Napoleon, and a lot of filled cookies (which we call biscuits in Australia) as well as more savory and sweet things that remind me of home.

Q: How would you describe the restaurant’s atmosphere?

A: Beautiful, light, airy, peaceful.

Q: What type of seating do you offer?

A: Until the restrictions are lifted, it is grab-and-go. Hopefully, in the future, we will have some outdoor seating where people can take their food and enjoy it, and inside as well. I do not have table service, as it is grab-and-go style for now.

Q: What kinds of promotions do you offer?

A: I will be having daily combination specials, i.e., coffee and cake or juice and sandwich, but I am still getting myself situated for now.

Q: Do you offer catering, event space, etc.?

A: Yes, the space is available for rent as an event space, and in the future, I will offer more catering options. I intend to start a Friday Night Supper Club with a small menu of entrees that people can order from and pick up Friday nights.

Q: Are you offering delivery, takeout or curbside pickup?

A: Only pickup and curbside pickup options for now.

Q: Where do you see the restaurant headed in the future?

A: I would love to see Maximum Zen become part of the community with people coming to try a bit of everything, maybe sample some unique Australian dishes and healthy options. I want to appeal to everyone and make a lot more vegan treats, snacks and dishes available in this area.