Vancouver’s Plant-Based Pioneers

May 25, 2019by vanvegsociety

They have found their niche in the city of green, glass, and endless rain. Vancouver is undeniably home to vegetarians and vegans aplenty, yet where do they go to eat and be merry? Once upon a time, dining out plant-based meant a depressing fate of ordering fries and a side salad. This unfortunate scenario no longer has to be your reality, not with so many cutting-edge individuals paving the way to a new lifestyle: one that’s sustainable, compassionate, and delectably delicious.

Erin Ireland, To Die For

The entrepreneurs, activists, and community members that have contributed to making Vancouver a plant-based heaven could not be contained in a single blog article. For a relatively small city of 600,000 residents, this city certainly punches above its weight when it comes to veggie options.

In celebration of our city that embraces sustainable, ethical, and innovative living, let’s recognize some of the pioneers that make this lifestyle possible and even exciting.

Your world will never be the same after you try Erin Ireland’s banana bread. Maybe that’s why her company is aptly named “To Die For”. We’d surely consider trading our souls for an endless supply of that chocolate-y, decadent quick bread. Existential dessert crises aside, Ireland’s origins may surprise the most avid proponent of these plant based pastries. Before going vegan, Ireland worked as a full-time food reporter who strictly followed every food trend, whether it be “bacon everything” or Epic Mealtime style feasts.

After she watched some life-changing documentaries, the lens with which she looked at the food industry was completely shattered. She yearned for the broken system to improve, and so she shifted her professional focus to businesses that were making positive changes. Ireland believes it is her personal mission to spread sustainable and healthy living through the community, whether that be by baking banana and lemon loaves with love, or highlighting superstar local businesses who are making a positive impact on the world.

Zack Berman and Ryan Slater, The Juice Truck

The adventure travel buddies stumbled into the juice business in quite the unusual way. While trekking through Nepal, Berman and Slater happened upon a village that thrived off sea buckthorn berry juice. This inspired their joint idea of superfood juices, and they spent the rest of their trip collecting unique juice blends to bring home to Vancouver.

Their plan to open Canada’s first mobile juice business has been wildly successful. One need only ask the loyal customers what an impact the juices and smoothies have had on their health. Berman and Slater aim to “push the boundaries of what can be juiced or blended” to have a positive impact on the health of their community. Stress seems like an unavoidable peril of our modern lives. When we can’t make time for healthy meal prep, we can take comfort in the fact that all the nutrition we need is in a humble truck of juice.

Jim Vesal, Virtuous Pie

The founder of the legendary Chinatown hotspot, Virtuous Pie, had an unlikely entrance into the culinary world. Jim Vesal spent 6 years pursuing a law career before resolving that cooking was his greatest passion. Formerly the executive chef of Cocktails and Canapes, Vesal is now blazing his own path towards affordable, sustainable, ethical and delicious food.

Many guests are surprised to learn that the menu is entirely plant-based, but carnivore and vegan alike have difficulty tearing themselves away from the indulgently delicious pizzas and ice creams of Virtuous Pie. Vesal is dedicated to providing options that excite the least flexible of diners, while supporting local food ventures. Virtuous Pie features local craft beer and kombucha, and sources as many recipe components as possible from community partners. Any diner with a hardworking sweet tooth ought to try the cookie sandwich for dessert. The homemade chocolate chip cookies stuffed with a generous amount of the customer’s choice of ice cream flavour absolutely steal the show.

Karen McAthy, Blue Heron Creamery

Venture down the fork of Kingsway and Main on a Saturday afternoon, and you’re sure to spot the lineup of dedicated Blue Heron customers, patiently waiting for their weekly fix of artesanal plant-based cheese. Karen McAthy is a long-time vegan, and knew that it had to be possible to make better cheese alternatives than what was already on the market. She had worked as Graze Vegetarian’s executive chef for several years, and found herself wishing for tastier additions to vegan charcuterie or antipasti platters.

McAthy takes a leap ahead of the pack by mixing conventional dairy knowledge with responsible ingredient sourcing, along with professional expertise and plant-based values. She tested the fermentation and culturing process on her unique cheese blends that incorporate cashews, coconut milk, herbs and spices, and eventually ended up with several star recipes that are now more than capable of stealing the show at any charcuterie board.

Linda Antony, MeeT Restaurants

It’s the one restaurant that every vegetarian in Vancouver has been to. They’re running out of awards to win. The restaurant industry veterans’ project employs a humble strategy for dazzling results. Linda Antony is a French culinary school-trained chef, but her education was hardly employed in the development for MeeT’s menu. Rather, Antony credits 12 years of cooking for a vegan husband, Jason Antony (along with business partner Ibo Staiano the three founded the restaurant in 2014), as her inspiration.

Although everything on MeeT’s menu is plant-based, 70% of its guests are not. This is a bit of an anomaly in the world of vegetarian restaurants, but it’s a great sign for the future of the movement. MeeT caters to the indulgent, comfort-food driven, burger connoisseur in all of us. For the typical meat eater that sees vegetarian food as nothing more than wheatgrass shots and kale salads, plant-based spins on pub classics throw a wrench in the system. Sometimes it’s even difficult to distinguish plant from animal, as with MeeT’s introduction of the Beyond Burger. Rather than guilt people towards vegetarianism, the owners of the restaurant hope to tempt them into it, making healthy and compassionate food more accessible to everyone.