After Vegandale held its annual vegan food and culture festival last year on Randall’s Island, selling out immediately and bringing over 15,000 people to the small location, New Yorker’s knew a change was in the air. With many well-establish restaurants opening their palates to vegan foods (including White Castle, which is now boasting new sliders using the Impossible Burger), customers just can’t seem to get enough of the plant based meat.
The Big Apple’s newest vegan restaurant is run by a non-vegan chef. It’s not as surprising as it may seem — approximately 33% of the U.S. population report eating more vegan foods despite not being or identifying as vegan themselves. Champ Jones has a simpler goal: to “spur interest in what you can do without animal products.”
He admits that cooking without animal products (particularly butter) is challenging, he relishes the opportunity to have more intimate relationships with his ingredients, really experimenting with the flavors he can create.
“It’s allowed us to explore different combinations of uncommon ingredients to create intensely savory and satiating food that we want to be serving people.”
For example, one of Jones’ dishes requires the use of smoked olive oil to replicate the taste of bacon. Other recipes include soft-set tofu with demi tomato and golden beet, and the famed “TV Dinner”: a take on meatloaf with peas, carrots, and potato — all with vegan meat substitutes or plant based beef substitutes.
Food isn’t the only thing changing people’s minds and reducing the stigma surround veganism; in an effort to encourage comfortable, honest conversations about veganism and its related politics, ethics, and culture, Brooklyn-based writer Alicia Kennedy launched her first podcast, titled Meatless.
“I started Meatless because I didn’t see a space for comfortable conversations about this topic that people are usually uncomfortable discussing or bringing to the fore. Not everyone I interview is vegan or vegetarian, but everyone I bring on can have an honest conversation about the role of food in our cultural and political lives while holding space for the notion that animals deserve to live good lives.”
New York City is known for its rich culture and good food; next time you take a trip down, consider stopping at one of the many plant based meat, vegan restaurants while you’re there.