Windsor chef Vic Robinson discovered his love of cooking when he was a teenager and became involved in Maine’s punk rock scene.

“The punk and hardcore community is very vegan-friendly,” said Robinson, 35. “There are a lot of politics that are left-leaning, a lot of compassionate ideas.”

Maine’s tight-knit punk crowd “is really good at getting together,” he says, “and it always includes food.”

This year Robinson sold hummus, falafel and chick-un wraps, salads, roasted cauliflower and vegan cupcakes at the 7th annual PunkFest, held Memorial Day weekend in Orono.

It was the first of the festivals Robinson has attended since he and his partner, Ashley Voyles, and their daughter, Kaleigh, moved back to Maine a year ago after living in Atlanta for almost a decade. Now that he’s home, he’s following a passion for food with the recent launch of the vegan catering company Squashed.

He began selling cupcakes earlier this year and last month launched a private chef’s menu for people in central Maine who want an alternative to fast food. Customers are finding him through Facebook and word of mouth, Robinson said.

Lynn Sabine, Robinson’s first customer – and inspiration for the business – works at Central Maine Medical Center with Voyles.

“Ashley would bring things in for lunch, and I thought they looked so good,” said Sabine, who lives in Lewiston. “I tasted some and I liked them. I asked if he could make some for me.”

Robinson’s private chef menu was born, and Sabine placed the first order.

“My husband doesn’t really eat that kind of food, so I can bring it home and make something for him and have my meal,” Sabine said. “And sometimes I work long shifts and this means dinner is all ready when I get there, which is a major convenience.”

The menu does not include tofu, tempeh, seitan or other nontraditional proteins. “I’ve found over the years that tofu and seitan can turn off people who aren’t familiar with them,” Robinson said. “We’re doing dishes that are vegan, but we don’t put it in a context that is vegan.”

Instead Robinson focuses on traditionally plant-based peasant foods from a range of cuisines, such as the current offerings of Brazilian beans and rice, channa masala, ratatouille, gazpacho and chili.

An entree that serves two costs $10, and a jar of soup with enough for two to three servings costs the same. Robinson will deliver locally.

Robinson said his vegan cupcake customers are probably all vegan (or know somebody who is), but Robinson doesn’t think any of his private chef customers are vegetarians. Sabine is a case in point. “I’m not necessarily vegetarian,” Sabine said. “I just like to eat healthy.”

Robinson is exploring several next steps for his company, including a line of plant-based deli meats, which would be a first for Maine.

“We have three deli slices ready to go to market,” Robinson said, “pepperoni, turkey and ham. We also have a seitan-based steak.” But so far he’s stymied by how to package the slices yet keep the price low. If he can’t yet compete on price, though, where Squashed can stand out is that its products are made in Maine in small batches from simple ingredients.

The primary ingredient in the Squashed deli slices is wheat gluten, which, when mixed with water, seasonings and then steamed or cooked, becomes the chewy food known as seitan. The deli slices also include pureed lentils and seasonings, such as soy sauce, mustard seed, liquid smoke, black pepper and nutritional yeast. In contrast, the meat-free deli slices supermarkets have sold for years often contain a long list of highly processed ingredients, such a soy protein isolate and cellulose gum.

Robinson hopes to retail the slices and also sell them to local shops, such as the vegetarian-friendly Bagel Mania in Augusta. Owner Marianne Butak said her customers “are looking for vegetarian and no-meat options.” If a locally made meat-free deli slice were on the market, “I would look at it certainly.”

Fans of Robinson’s food can read about his cooking adventures, find recipes, watch a cooking show he produces with his daughter and get the latest news and menus from Squashed on his blog The Maine Vegan at haymarket8.blogspot.com. To order, food, call him at 242-4302 or email [email protected]

When he’s not cooking or delivering food, Robinson is often hosting or attending a music show, or playing washboard and singing “in a very infrequently playing folk-punk band called Fences.”

Should you find yourself attending one of these shows, don’t miss the cupcakes or any of the other Squashed goodness.

Avery Yale Kamila is a freelance food writer who lives in Portland. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila