Wilmington Vegan was featured in the Wilmington Star News! Food reporter Paul Stephen came to one of our board meetings and interviewed all of us about our soon-to-be-released dining guide, our Earth Day tabling, and the rise of veganism in Wilmington. Below is the complete text of the online Star News article and here’s a nice PDF version of the actual paper article.
While speaking with Paul, we all agreed that Sealevel City Gourmet was our new favorite restaurant in town. He headed over there next to interview local vegan chef Emily Lyons. Take a look at the fantastic Star News article about Emily and Sealevel.
As vegan lifestyles become more popular, the list of dining options grows
By Paul Stephen
Published: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 8:00 am
The Year of the Vegan. Cultural observers at high-profile publications like New York Magazine and London-based The Independent have posited that 2014 could deservedly fly that banner. But you don’t have to be in a global metropolis to find a good lentil burger these days.
A quick glance around the Port City finds a rapidly expanding roster of options for vegans, clear signs of mainstream acceptance. Whole Foods Market opened nearly two years ago, Trader Joe’s just behind. But the selection, one group says, goes far beyond those well-known retailers.
Wilmington Vegan, an educational and outreach organization founded by longtime adherent Sue Cag in 2011, boasts more than 300 members in its active Facebook group. Along with seven other board members, Cag and team have just put Wilmington’s first Vegan Dining Guide to bed, in time for release during the city’s Earth Day Festival at Hugh MacRae Park April 26. “We’ve been going crazy trying to work on this thing, it’s been a lot of work,” Cag said. “But it’s going to be fantastic when it comes out.”
Featuring 60 area eateries that group members nominated for inclusion based on personal dining experiences, the guide also includes vegan-friendly health practitioners, community organizations and businesses, leaving few bases uncovered.
“There isn’t a 100 percent vegan restaurant, that’s probably the top complaint here. And if you go outside the area there aren’t many options at all,” Cag said. “But even from when I started the group, in the time since then, I can’t believe how many great new places we have.”
For board member Christine Chavez, the fact that so many establishments could be included was a revelation. Chavez and her husband, Matt, moved their family to Wilmington five years ago, formerly calling vegan-hotbed California home.
“We came to the pig pickin’ capital of the world,” she joked, noting that for her, there’s an easy litmus test to evaluate a restaurant’s degree of devotion. “If they carry vegan cheese, they get it. That’s a big financial commitment.”
While modern interest in the lifestyle has surged with such celebrities as Beyoncé and Jay Z dabbling in the diet, Veganism is a well-established philosophy. Donald Watson, a co-founder of England’s Vegan Society, coined the term in 1944, although proponents of a plant-based diet can be found as early as the 1600s. While myriad reasons can lead to a person’s choice to adopt the diet, many fall into three camps categorized by ethical, environmental or health concerns.
For local entrepreneurs, the demand has provided a chance to get in on the ground floor.
Uprising owner Bree Peterson-Resnick launched her bakery in 2012 offering one of the area’s earliest arrays of locally made confections aimed at vegans and people with other dietary concerns in addition to more traditional treats. “We realized there was a need, and we wanted to be on the forefront of it,” she said. “We understand the benefit of not eating tons of dairy and gluten, and wanted to support it.”
Today, she has a hard time keeping display cases stocked with the discreetly labeled items bearing a tiny “V” or “GF” in the corner of description cards. She deliberately chose the restrained indicators as a contrast to the brash declarations more mercenary outfits have been known to use. “People who are looking for it know where to look,” she said.
Caitlin Campbell, who also sits on the Wilmington Vegan board, runs Kitchen Ahimsa with her husband, Daley Campbell. The business is Wilmington’s first all-vegan food enterprise and specializes in packaged goods available in area stores with hopes of future expansion. “People in Wilmington are wanting more vegan foods,” she said. “Our goal is to be Wilmington’s first all-vegan cafe.”
Kitchen Ahimsa was founded on an ethical platform of offering raw and minimally processed strictly vegan items made from organic ingredients. Their core product is a range of kale chips Daley learned to make while working in vegan restaurants in his native England, but the brand is rapidly diversifying. “It’s grown, but the costs and expenses incurred with it are crazy,” he said of the young business’ efforts to expand in a specialized marketplace with a pricey barrier to entry. “This is the challenge vegans have. I don’t know exactly how we’ll overcome it, but we’ll keep plugging away.”
The trajectory, some area vegans suggest, is on a steep incline. And the movement draws the attention of non-vegans, who argue that the local culinary landscape is only enriched by the presence of so many options.
While not a vegan herself, Valerie Robertson, owner of the “Cape Fear’s Going Green” publication, has lent her expertise to Wilmington Vegan in compiling the guide. For her, seeing a thriving vegan community reinforces the efforts she’s devoted to advancing the cause of sustainable living in the region. “This is a group of people who are willing to invest a lot of time into their food choices,” she said. “Being vegan, choosing that path, is typically a very isolating experience. But this group has spurred friendships, adding back the social aspect of eating.”
What: Wilmington Earth Day Festival
When: 12-6 p.m. Saturday, April 26
Where: Hugh MacRae Park, 1799 S. College Road
Details: The annual event focuses on clean water this year, and admission is free. While food and beverages will be available for purchase, be sure to swing by Wilmington Vegan’s booth. They’ll be handing out vegan brownies in addition to copies of their new dining guide, if they’re printed in time. www.WilmingtonEarthDay.com for more information.