Guest interview: Krisanga Cowen of Vivapura! »
I have a history of awesome vegan roommates (see: Vegan Myths Debunked creators Jonathan and Ivory). My new roommate here in Patagonia, Ariz. is the awesome Krisanga Cowen. Krisanga (far right) took a break from grinding sprouted raw nut butters and making coconuts delicious to tell Vegansaurus readers about how much he loves promoting a health-conscious, plant-based lifestyle through Vivapura, the vegan superfoods company he co-owns here in Patagonia. Here’s the skinny on this fit and loving veg guy and his approach to incorporating superfoods in a plant-source diet! Hope you enjoy!
Vegansaurus: How did you get into veganism?
Krisanga Cowen: My best friend since kindergarten Todd got me into the Smiths. At 16, we dyed our hair blonde to look like Morrissey and kind of idolized him. In 1985 Smiths came out with “Meat is Murder.” That song opened our eyes to what actually goes on in this country and factory farming and how animals are mutilated. We went vegan overnight. Later, I read John Robbins’ Diet For a New America, and I actually went to vegan restaurants, which I’d never done before. I studied with yogini Kali Ray for seven years on and off, taking classes [and] workshops, [being] among other teachers, and really admired her way of eating plant-source-only, mostly live, all-organic foods for health and yoga.
How did your previous business, Cocopura, which sold only coconut products, become Vivapura, which sells an extensive line of superfoods?
I had one product in four different sizes: coconut oil. My quest for developing more products was moving to Patagonia in 2007, renting a 6,000-square-foot warehouse. I met Chris Whitcoe, and he and I were both master’s students. I had connections for superfoods. I had just built a commercial kitchen for coconut products and I started selling gogi berries and Incan berries and nori sheets and Monukka raisins, basically out the back door. I mainly sold to guests and people working at the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center. That’s how Vivapura was born.
When did Vivapura officially take off?
We formed Vivapura in September 2008, and got into Whole Foods and other stores in 2010, in addition to our online and in-store sales. The idea behind Vivapura was to create raw vegan products that haven’t been seen or available on the marketplace—unique, hand-crafted products like coconut crème that’s stone-ground, our chaparrel coconut oil, our soaked and dehydrated nut butters…. Sourcing products that are heirloom varieties that are unique to different regions of the world. Styrian pumpkin seeds are only grown in Austria in that region, and heirloom variety of pumpkin seeds that are robust and GMO-free and high in zinc and protein and chlorophyll. Our products were designed to be eco-friendly, vegan, non-GMO, and delicious. We hope Vegansaurus readers will enjoy them!
Is most of the Vivapura team vegan or vegetarian?
We support local people and give them a voice inside our company…we open a space for people to transform. A lot of people become vegetarian or vegan after working with us; we accept the mainstreamers and teach them about gogi berries and how to eat vegan and feel great on superfoods. We expose people to ways not to need processed foods, in a healthy, supportive environment where your voice matters and is taken into account for decisions the company makes. That really impacts an individual. They shift, grow, expand and become more open and expressive. Naturally, that often leads to vegetarianism or veganism.
Interview with Vegan Author/Model David Raphael Hildebrand! »
David is a vegan model and author from Philadelphia living in Brooklyn! Just like me! Except the model and author part! AND GUESS WHAT: We have the same birthday (February 25th and I love Edible Arrangements)! So we are both Pisces by popular understanding. It is hard being a Pisces so we are naturally bonded and new best friends.
David was kind enough to do an interview for us! We love to interview
attractive interesting vegans! Without further ado:
First of all, how cool are people from Philadelphia?
D. R. Hildebrand: Very! Put it like this, on a scale of one to two we’re definitely a two.
Next of all, why are you vegan?
D. R. Hildebrand: Why am I vegan? Because the moral of life is not to take but to give; and I’m not willing to take what I wouldn’t otherwise be willing to give.
How long have you been vegan?
D. R. Hildebrand: I was raised pesco-vegetarian. My oldest sister was on a class trip to a farm when I was still a toddler and she came home a changed lady. The whole house went vegetarian and that, as a result, was the way I came to know the world. When I graduated from college I lived abroad for two years, in Germany and Israel. Almost as soon as I arrived in Germany I met a spunky Aussie sheila named Sarah who was running rootsofcompassion.org and was a vegan chef (Sarah has actually cooked for Sea Shepherd. Pretty cool, no? If you’re ever in Melbourne, definitely visit her). Anyway, Sarah introduced me to vegan pastries, vegan activists, and to a little thing called—are you ready for this?—conscious consumerism. It’s wild, I know. That was about eight years ago and I’ve been clean ever since.
D. R. Hildebrand: Are you kidding? Camels! They have this warmth, this air of aplomb. They’re so gracious.
Got any companion animals? Pictures!
D. R. Hildebrand: I don’t. I travel too often and that would be unfair.
D. R. Hildebrand: That’s a tough one. Call me extravagant but I really enjoy rice and beans. I make a mean tuna melt (chickpea and soy) and a pretty kick-ass sweet potato kugel. This might sound over the top, I know, but I love a freezing cold apple with peanut butter. Am I glutton? [Ed. note: I love apple and peanut butter too! I’m all about Pink Ladies right now]
D. R. Hildebrand: Hmm, another good one. I tend to get new ideas straight off the web. Vegan with a Vengeance is pretty much an obvious necessity though.
Favorite vegan restaurant?
D. R. Hildebrand: Oh, you’re killing me, I’m starving! A few way up on the list are definitely Sacred Chow, Pure Food and Wine, Angelica Kitchen, Wild Ginger, Gobo, and Counter, but really that’s just not a fair question. I’ll tell you there’s this tiny, really tiny place called Terri at 23rd and 6th that’s maybe a year or two young. The Thanksgiving sandwich is insane. The meatball sub, the cupcakes… And they keep stacks of The China Study front and center for sale. Love that little joint. [Ed. note: that’s up the street from my work! I go there all the time! The chickpea tuna melt is out of sight and when the omnis are good on Meatless Monday, I get them apple cider donuts from there]
Who’s got better vegan food: Philly or NYC?
D. R. Hildebrand: Please don’t hate me Philadelphia… [Ed. note: they are not a forgiving people]
Vegan celebrity you want to bang?
D. R. Hildebrand: Now that’s just shocking. I assumed we were both advocates for non-violence.
D. R. Hildebrand: When PETA’s at its best—stealth, savvy, brazenly creative—they rock. When they get all puerile and lose their cool—pie throwing, blood slinging—they rock less. The celebrity campaigns have been great. What they need to do is connect more with kids. We all need to connect with kids. Compassion needs to be a lifestyle and a culture. Children already seek it so why not bring it to them and cultivate it?
D. R. Hildebrand: I don’t see the humor in belittling personifications, but that’s just me…
So, you model, are you super into fashion? Who’s your favorite vegan designer?
D. R. Hildebrand: If jeans and T-shirts count as fashion, then yeah, I’m into fashion. I have a lot of respect for Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart (former model by the way) of Vaute Couture, MATT & NAT, Olsen Haus, Dalia MacPhee. I have a lot of respect for Stella McCartney, too. She fights a much more rigid status quo than most people realize.
Are a lot of models vegan or what?
D. R. Hildebrand: You know, I’ll show up for a shoot in New York and the catering company will bring almost no meat or dairy. It’s amazing. My guess is the number is pretty high. Of those who do eat and drink non-vegan meals, many probably do so rarely. I’ve definitely never heard of a model on an Atkins or South Beach diet. Those are just a crock of shit and everyone knows it.
What’s your book about? Is the protagonist vegan? Any overt or covert vegan messages?
D. R. Hildebrand: I thought you’d never ask! It’s called Walking Marina and it’s a straight-forward look at the male modeling industry. The protagonist journeys through a gauntlet of experiences and does, along the way, gravitate to veganism. Yes, there are covert and overt vegan messages throughout, not because I am, but because it jives with the plot. You can find the book at my site, www.drhildebrand.com, or on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
[Can’t see the video? Watch it on Vegansaurus.com!]
Do you have any amazing nicknames I should know about?
D. R. Hildebrand: None that I can think of. Got any suggestions? [Ed. note: we’ll be taking suggestions, audience!]
Are you willing to have Vegansaurus over and cook us a vegan feast? If so, what day?
D. R. Hildebrand: Absafrickinlutely! Why not tonight? [Ed. note: OMG no one ever says yes! I don’t know how to respond!]
Any questions for Vegansaurus? Anything!
D. R. Hildebrand: Yeah, how’d you get so darn vegalicious?
There’s actually a recipe!: 1 part Earth Balance, 2 parts vegan chocolate chips and a half ounce of sunshine!
Interview with a San Francisco rockstar: Cafe Gratitude’s Gregory Manitsas »
San Francisco resident and dessert-maker extraordinaire Gregory Manitsas has worked at Cafe Gratitude for three years, as the bakery manager and head pastry chef for the last year and a half. He is not only an amazing creative force, but an inspirational vegan as well. Gregory has been a vegan for 13 of his 28 years! Rumor has it, he’s about to go take L.A. by storm.
Vegansaurus: How long have you been vegan? What inspired the lifestyle?
Gregory Manitsas: In August I will have been vegan for 13 years. August 1 is my vegan birthday that I recognize every year and feel very proud of. I was vegetarian before vegan. When I was 10 years old, I stopped eating read meat, then came chicken, then came fish, and by 14 I was totally vegan. I don’t even remember why I stopped eating red meat; it just seemed like a natural thing for me to do. When I discovered how tremendously those we eat for food suffer, I wanted nothing to do with it. When I committed to a live a completely vegan lifestyle at the age of 14, I was extremely motivated and activated about being a voice for animal rights and raising the bar on how humans treat and relate to our fellow earthlings.
Are you raw?
I consider myself a raw foodist, but cooked food is definitely part of my diet. I have experimented with different ways of being raw. I’ve done 100 percent raw here and there. I usually do this for cleansing or to inspire myself. Eating all raw foods is really energizing and exciting for me, and sometimes I will do it to inspire myself and motivate my body. Right now my diet is about half raw and half cooked. I eat more raw in the summer than the winter. The more fresh, raw foods I eat, the better I feel.
What do you see as the benefits of a raw food diet?
There are so many benefits to eating raw foods. For me, raw foods mean fresh foods. The closer the food that we eat is to its natural state, the better it is for our bodies. The Earth has created a bounty of amazingness that grows right from the soil in perfect balance to nourish our bodies. As we cook, process and manipulate our foods, we actually deplete its nutritional value and diminish its ability to nourish our bodies. The impact of eating unnatural foods is profound and should not be disregarded.
Raw foods are often seen as time-consuming and expensive. What do you think of this? Which tools and tips are crucial for the budding home raw food chef?
Yes, raw foods can feel laborious and expensive. This was my experience when I began, but then I realized I was approaching it wrong. Keep it simple: raw foods is about eating fresh, natural foods that come directly from the Earth. Have fun! Go to the farmer’s market or grocery store and be amazed by the gorgeous fruits and vegetables. Try things you’ve never eaten before. Appreciate the colors, textures and smells. Start slowly and build. You’ll learn a little bit more every day. Just start exploring and have fun. Read up on raw foods. There are some amazing raw foods educators and chefs out there; I recommend David Wolf and Dr Gabriel Cousens. Knowing about the foods you are consuming is extremely empowering.
What goes into the process of creating new raw desserts and tastes?
When I develop new recipes, I go with what I’m excited about. What do I want to eat? What would I love to serve at a dinner party? What ingredient do I want to use? Sometimes I try a dish or see a recipe that I am inspired by, or a painting, a film, or an experience. Sometimes at work I will create a recipe based around something really practical, like, “We have a lot of grapes from the farm; what can we do with grapes?”
What kind of sugar alternatives do you use in a raw dessert?
The main sweeteners I currently use are medjool dates and agave nectar. There are also other sweeteners out there like yacon, Jerusalem artichoke syrup, coconut nectar, coconut sugar, raisins, fresh fruit, dried berries, and fruit.
As someone who has lived in both New York and San Francisco, could you recommend your favorite vegan restaurants to Vegansaurus readers?
In New York, my favorite thing to do is eat falafel sandwiches. I love them! They got me through college. There are some great places to get falafel in New York—I recommend Mamouns near Washington Square Park, and Chickpea by Astor Place. Every falafel sandwich is different and it is so fun to discover new ones. Falafel sandwiches are essentially deep fried chickpea patties in pita bread with fresh salad and tahini sauce. Simple, delicious perfection! Some places use yogurt sauce instead of tahini, so double check that they are using tahini, which is standard.
My favorite place to eat in S.F.—honestly I don’t eat out very often. When I do it is usually some little hole-in-the-wall, ethnic kind of place. I love Japanese food. Soba noodle soup is my favorite, or yam tempura rolls. Since I live in the Mission, it’s super easy to go to a taqueria and grab a vegan burrito; rice, black beans, lettuce, salsa and avocado wrapped in a tortilla. Delicious and satisfying, all the time. I’m getting hungry. Good thing there’s a taqueria on every block in my neighborhood!
Thanks Gregory! I’m hungry now too. Hungry for Cafe Gratitude’s tiramisu, the best dessert I have EVER eaten.
Interview: raw vegan superstar Lydia Kindheart! »
If you haven’t heard of Lydia’s Organics, Loving Foods or Kitchen, then (a) you must not live in the SF Bay Area or (b) you live under a rock. If it’s the latter of the two, get yourself to Rainbow or your nearest Whole Foods, stat! I recommend her raw nori crackers, mint chocolate truffle, a slice of raw cheesecake and some kale chips— you won’t be disappointed! Every time I scout the raw and prepared-meal sections of those stores I see more of Lydia’s products! She’s taking the Bay Area vegan scene over with her amazing vegan, raw, gluten-free and organic snacks, meals, soups, spreads, appetizers and desserts! I am so jealous of those of you living in Marin County—you can just shimmy into her cafe! That’s it, road trip to Fairfax!
I was extremely eager to pick Parisian-turned-Californian/creative vegan force in the Bay Area/successful business owner Lydia Kindheart’s brain.
Lydia’s daughter Sonya—who’s 20 and never eaten meat!—and Lydia Kindheart at a festival
Vegansaurus: How long have you been vegan?
Lydia Kindheart: Off and on. On for mostly 30 years.
What inspired the lifestyle?
Girlfriends in high school, reading lots of books, asking questions and experimenting on myself. I started fasting at a young age and saw the direct effect of foods and well being.
Are you raw? How did you make the transition from cooked foods to raw foods? What do you see as the benefits of a raw food diet?
[I am] 98 percent [raw], mas o menos. I turned vegetarian at 16, then raw very quickly by 17. Raw foods are simpler, closer to their source, holding their vitality and life itself. Raw foods are alive, cooked foods are not. They use less resources, fossil fuels, etc.
How do organic foods play a role?
I am into health and well being for myself, all people, animals and life forms. Organic is the only way to work with the Earth, as opposed to poisoning life itself.
Do you have any advice for the beginning raw foodist?
Focus on your intake of greens and water; watch your sugar and nut intake. Use dehydrated crackers to help with transitioning—for that ‘bulk’ that one is used to.
What are the the most important tools?
A Vitamix, one’s teeth.
What are some raw foods to live by?
Kale, herbs, seaweed, sunflower seeds, lemon, watermelon and figs.
Your raw foods are absolutely amazing and taking the Bay Area by storm! What goes into your creative process for recipes/products?
Spending lots of time in nature, being in my heart, caring for people to serve them healthful alternatives.
Can you tell us the story behind Lydia’s Organics?
Since I was a little girl, I have always loved making food for people. As I learned about what foods can do and how they can affect people, it stirred up a passion and way to care for people and connect with the Earth through simple living. I had the opportunity to take over a smoothie shop in Fairfax and opened a raw food cafe—it then continued on this journey. I had never thought of creating a a business like this, it has led me to where it is now—to nourish as many people as I can with healthful, loving foods. My daughter, Sonya, and mother, Jacquie, have been integrative parts and support to this creation. Were were all three serving food at the first raw food event in San Francisco.
As a small, vegan, business owner, do you have any advice for budding vegan entrepreneurs?
Get some professional advice for logistics and unknowns. There is heart, dedication and hard work, but it takes practical logistics to implement our dreams.
Any favorite raw recipes you’d like to share with the Vegansaurus readers?
Pâté—Equal parts carrots and soaked almonds. Some celery, lemon, green onions, dulse seaweed and dash of salt. Grind until semi coarse in a food processor. It’s great in rolls and as a spread, especially with avocado. I’m not very good at recipes, I just kind of make dishes up, but it’s about playing and experimenting and creating what you personally like!
Thank you, Lydia!
Guest post: An interview with Mihl of Seitan Is My Motor! »
Seitan Is My Motor is not only a cute reference to a clever song by Cake, it’s also an amazing food blog by vegan maven Mihl. She’s been blogging for over three years and has amassed quite a collection of recipes in her blog’s expansive index. And she doesn’t sacrifice quality for quantity, not a bit of it. Her photos are light and stunning (how does she do that? She has mad skills), and her prose is clear and unassuming.
Take a look at her beautiful photo of this mouthwatering Pflaumenkuchen (plum cake), which has ENTIRE PLUMS baked into the top of it. I’ve been dreaming about this cake ever since she posted, and only the cruelest tricks and whimsies of fate have prevented me from making it.
If you’re still not convinced, because you’re a total freak, know that the lovely Mihl lives in Dresden and posts selected recipes on a version of her site that is entirely auf deutsch. You have been looking for an opportunity to practice your German, haven’t you? How is she so amazing? I’ll let her explain for herself:
Vegansaurus: When did you start Seitan Is My Motor?
Mihl: Right away when I went vegan back in April 2007.
What inspired you to start a food blog?
The correct question would be “who inspired you?” When I thought about making the switch from vegetarianism to veganism, I started to read vegan food blogs. They provided so much information and since they were packed with awesome vegan recipes, they made the switch to go vegan very easy for me. I talked to my boyfriend about how awesome these blogs were and he suggested to start one as well. He even bought a digital camera. That’s how I started my blog.
What motivates you to keep blogging?
Several things. First of all, my readers, all the people who leave comments or just read my blog. Right from the beginning I got wonderful feedback and I met some awesome people through blogging. People from all over the world stop by my blog and I feel like I am part of a huge international community. It helped me to feel confident about my veganism right from the beginning. At that time I didn’t know any vegans in real life, and I still knew there were many like-minded people out there. Second, if you have access to the internet, blogging is an easy and cheap way of sharing ideas and information for free. And I probably wouldn’t think about cooking and baking that much if I didn’t have a blog. The blog documents how I developed some of my cooking and all of my baking skills. If it wasn’t for Seitan Is My Motor, I would probably still bake from cake mixes.
How would you describe your blog?
It’s a recipe blog that documents my experiences with vegan cooking, developing recipes, trying out new ingredients or flavor combinations.
Any advice for aspiring food bloggers?
Just start! A blog is a great place where you can post whatever comes to your mind. There are endless possibilities.
In a desert-island scenario, what three food items would you bring with you?
A loaf of whole rye sourdough bread, a bag of potatoes, a can of chickpeas.
What do you like best about being vegan?
I am vegan for ethical reasons. I am very glad I made that decision and I try to live my life as cruelty-free as possible. Knowing to have made the right decision and not having to make excuses anymore for consuming animal products is what I like best about being vegan.
What is your least favorite defensive-omnivore question/argument?
I don’t get that much negative feedback. Most people are curious about my lifestyle and their questions are honest. I’ve not always been vegan and I remember that I asked the same questions and made the same excuses. Using animals is such a huge part of our culture that it is really difficult for most people to look behind the scenes.
Now, just TRY to restrain yourself from holing up in your apartment for a week, baking all of her recipes, and slipping into the happiest carb-induced coma the world has ever seen. Photo by Mihl, of course.
Vegansaurus interview: Lindy Loo of Yeah, That Vegan Shit! »
Lindy Loo wants you to read her funny-as-hell food blog, Yeah, That Vegan Shit. Perhaps you’ve already heard about it. Just maybe you’re already one of her 660+ followers, a list that has steadily swelled since she started her blog in 2006. Her blog was even featured as one of the ten best vegan blogs by Vegansaurus’ Laura at VegNews. Once you’ve had a steady dose of Lindy’s suggestive and delightfully scatological humor, you will doubtless want to read some of her other stuff, too. She blogs regularly at several sites where she talks about, among other things, being vegan in Cleveland, and “Things that Make [Her] Heart Go Squish.” And did I mention she’s hilarious? And an awesome vegan cook? Her posts are sweet and raunchy and full of useful information for an enterprising (and maybe a little slutty) vegan cook. The archives are an especially good source for everything from recipes (Black Bean and Chocolate Chili…WHAT?) to musings on food that looks like poop. Just click the link titled “Recipes to Make You Scream with Unbridled Pleasure—OH OH OH OH YES YES YES!!!!” Lindy Loo agreed to indulge me in an interview, which I submit for your reading pleasure
Vegansaurus: What inspired you to start a food blog?
Lindy Loo: I thought, “Hey, how can I get laid more often? I know! I’ll start a potty-mouthed vegan food blog!” I mean, who DOESN’T want to immediately shag a chick who’s a vegan, a blog nerd, and likes to talk about poop a lot? I also started the blog because I wanted a kind of self-support that would help me keep on track while I transitioned to vegan. I work better and am more motivated when I have a bit more structure and a constructive way to funnel my energies. Posting and testing out recipes regularly made the transition to vegan much more fun. It also does a world of good to regularly have people post comments because it reminds you that there IS a community out there that loves and supports one another, even if they’re not in your immediate area. So yeah: all that. And the getting-laid thing.
How would you describe your blog?
John Waters meets Robin Swoboda meets vegan cooking?
What motivates you to keep blogging?
The community. I appreciate so much the support and comments from people, and I like the constant reminder that there are like-minded folks out there. I also like to know I’m helping explode the stereotype of the uber-serious, stuffy, judgmental, humorless vegan, and that my blog and recipes have helped make the transition to veganism more enjoyable for newbies. Blogging also keeps me motivated to constantly try out new recipes, which is good ‘cause otherwise I’d probably just eat pizza all the time.
What is your favorite food blog?
To be honest, I haven’t been keeping up with vegan food blogs since my editing job ended last year. BUT that being said, I have always loved Don’t Eat off the Sidewalk. Katie is MAD sassy and funny as hell, and she takes gorgeous food pics. She also likes zombies and horror flicks. I guess I mostly just kinda wanna make out with her and then have her cook me dinner. She’s kind of the vegan Betty to my Don Draper.
In the infamous desert-island scenario, what three food items would you bring with you?
Ha ha ha. This seems like the most futile question ever since they’d get eaten immediately and then you’d still have to resort to sucking the juice out of coconuts. But nonetheless…avocado sushi. For sure. Nothing quite makes my heart pitter-pat like a perfectly constructed bite of avocado sushi. Pesto pasta of some sort would be among my survival gear. I can eat LOADS of that stuff. And then something desserty. Hm. Maybe the Vegan with a Vengeance chocolate chip cookies. Definitely one of my go-to dessert recipes.
What do you like best about being vegan?
I like blowing people’s minds with it. It’s so much fun creating delicious meals or desserts and serving them to unsuspecting folks and then being like, BLAM! YOU’VE BEEN VEGANED!!! It also does a world of good in helping make people realize that eating vegan isn’t all iceberg lettuce salads and raw carrots. That it’s also ooey gooey decadent caramel fudge pies and sexy seitan piccata. I also just really like how being vegan has made me a much better cook. It makes me more resourceful and inventive, and I love the challenge of it, especially when it comes to vegan baking.
Do you have a least favorite defensive-omnivore question? If so, what is it?
My least favorite, defensive-omnivore ARGUMENTS are actually just the ones that omnivores leave on my blog all the time, essentially consisting of a completely disorganized, verbal diarrhea of non-factual vegan-slamming where you can tell they have no ACTUAL idea about the statistics and information they’re spouting off about. I don’t even make an effort to respond to these folks because it’s not worth MY while or their while. Those kind of omnivores make my brain short circuit and make me have to get off the internet immediately so that I don’t randomly start shouting things like “Your mom is a omni-whore” and “If I wasn’t vegan, I’d eat your baby’s face off.”
Any advice for aspiring food bloggers?
When I first started blogging, I had a concerned older female blogger send me an email telling me that maybe I should change the name of my blog and not be so foul-mouthed because I was alienating my readers. Obviously I didn’t take her advice, and my blog has since had more than a million hits, has over 650 followers, and got a nod in VegNews as one of their VegWebmistress’s favorite blogs [Ed.: That’s ME! I love Yeah, That Vegan Shit]. So my advice would be: Write in ways that are true to you and your heart. You’ll be surprised as to how many vegans like a good poop joke.
Marla Wick lives in Sebastopol, a small community in Sonoma County, California, where people never change out of their yoga pants. She spends her time cooking, baking, knitting, and raging about politics when she’s not working as a freelance editor and writer. She blogs about food, animal ethics, cultural politics, and horror movies at Vegan-Squared and Bully Pulp. Photos by Lindy Loo.
Interview with Susan from The Breakroom Cafe! Plus, they’re serving VEGAN BRUNCH!! »
Have you ever wondered how one of your favorite vegetarian restaurants got their start? Here’s the story of The Breakroom Cafe in downtown Oakland! Susan, a 10-year veteran of working in bars and restaurants (and a kick-ass, awesome girl), and her partner Jason, a former department store manager (and all-around really cool guy), dreamed about opening a vegetarian restaurant and went for it! Coming up on the fourth anniversary of The Breakroom, Susan and Jason reflect on starting their veg business.
Vegansaurus: What was your opening date?
Susan: July 14, 2007. You were there, Anne! I think you just happened to be walking by or something, and you saw we were finally open. I remember us forcing all these free pastries on you.
What made you want to start a vegetarian restaurant?
While living in Cleveland, I always fantasized about moving to another state and running a vegetarian restaurant. After moving to Oakland, I served at a vegan restaurant for a few years, where I learned that there was definitely a market for vegetarian food out here. While browsing Craigslist, Jason found a space available, and voila! To be honest though, I thought this place would be more of a coffee shop that sells veg sandwiches. It turned out to be a sandwich shop that sells coffee.
Where do you draw inspiration for your menu items?
I guess it’s different for each menu item. I remember loving Sloppy Joes as a kid. Remember that Manwich stuff? Loved it! And since becoming vegetarian at 16, I had a craving for it, so I knew we had to have a vegan Sloppy Joe on the menu.M ost of the menu items are veg versions of familiar standard American sandwiches that people may miss eating since becoming vegan/vegetarian.
What’s your most popular dish?
It’s a toss-up between the Meatball, Club and Turkey/Bacon.
If your Sloppy Joe sandwich was a song, what song would it be?
Maybe "Cool It Now," that New Edition song—for those that think it’s too spicy!
Tell us a funny story about an unwitting omnivore who ordered one of your veg sandwiches.
None specifically comes to mind, but there are those that just don’t understand the imitation meat concept. We’ve had people say, “So when it says bacon, it’s not really bacon?” We say “nope,” and the next question is, “But what about the Ham & Swiss sandwich? That’s real ham, right? We answer “No,” and then they move on to questioning the “turkey.”
I noticed that there’s a cock on the front of your building, what’s up with that?
I guess the owner of the previous business Zodiac Desserts put it there. I didn’t even notice it until a few months after we bought the business, a friend and I were walking by the shop and we both noticed it at the same time. I was like “Where the hell did that rooster come from?”
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to start a vegan business, what would it be?
Make food that NON-vegan/-vegetarians will like, and make them believe they could survive not eating meat.
This is Laura here and I just want to chime in because Breakroom just started doing Sunday brunch! It’s from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and it’s the BOMB! A huge plate of potatoes, veggie ham, tofu scramble, fruit, AND french toast for like 10 bucks! You’ll be full for days! MORE VEGAN BRUNCH IN THE EAST BAY, Y’ALL!!! Oh, and here’s a shitty camera phone picture because I love you:
Uh, and you can check out their Facebook page for more updates and better photos!
Breakroom Cafe: 300 13th Street, Oakland. (510) 836-3864. Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Anne Martin is an eater of free pastries and a lover of veg restaurants. She is a Ph.D. Candidate at UC Berkeley’s City & Regional Planning department, and is a member of the Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy. When Anne is not researching or eating vegan Hearty Bagel sandwiches at The Breakroom, you will find her volunteering with Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary.
Happy Veggie Kids: Logan! »
Logan is seven (almost eight!) and he lives in Fresno, CA. He just celebrated his one year vegetarian anniversary! Go, Logan! A note from his mom: “He is vegan several days a week, but he tells me he is not ready to give up cheese all the way (as you can see from his favorite food).”
What is your favorite food?
Logan: Cheese tortellini.
What is your favorite kind of birthday cake?
Logan: Carrot cake.
Why are you vegetarian?
Logan: Because I saw the video with the chickens and they cut their heads off and I don’t want to be a part of the team that kills animals.
Do you like being vegetarian? Why?
Logan: Yes. Because there is good food.
Is it ever hard to be vegetarian?
Logan: Yes. Sometimes at Mimi’s [grandma] house they eat steak and I remember that I really liked it cause it tasted good. And I miss chicken nuggets. [Ed. note: Logan! You’ve got to try the Gardein crispy tenders!]
What do your friends think about you being vegetarian?
Logan: One boy at school tries to force me to eat meat and tells me they let the animals live a long happy life. But I say that’s not true.
What is your favorite animal? Why?
Logan: Dogs and cats. I have a dog and a cat and I really like them. [Ed. note: Ditto!]
Do you like pink dinosaurs? Can you draw one for us? We would love it!
Logan: If there was such a thing I would have to say yes. [Ed. note: I’ve seen them! On the internets!]
Another Happy Veggie Kid! Thanks, Logan! Happy anniversary!
Happy Veggie Kids: Rowan! »
Rowan is four years old and lives outside of Chicago (if you couldn’t tell). He’s vegan! And his mom says he’s the WORLD’S CUTEST vegan kid! He’s pretty darn cute.
Vegansaurus: What is your favorite food?
Rowan: Vegan cheese sandwich.
What is your favorite kind of birthday cake?
Blueberry and strawberry train cake.
[Mom note: I have no idea!]
Why are you vegan?
Because I don’t want to kill animals.
Do you like being vegan? Why?
Yes. And because, just because.
Is it ever hard to be vegan?
What do your friends think about you being vegan?
They like to see what I have for lunch at school.
What is your favorite animal? Why?
Leopard! Because they are friendly.
Do you like pink dinosaurs? Can you draw one for us? We would love it!
No, because they’re not friendly.
[Mom note: He did draw a picture though] [Ed.: Yay! And the pink dino is friendly, I swear!]
Another Happy Veggie Kid! Thanks, Rowan!