Nomad Vegan Eats has been making waves throughout Southern California with its flexible, friendly vegan sauces. Can you tell us a little bit more about how the company started?
It all started because of me and my business partner’s passion for cooking vegan food for people while letting them know that a colorful plate is actually really delicious and that you can do a lot of creative things with fruits and vegetables. So we started doing vegan dinners at my house and everyone always commented on our vegan cheese sauce. So we started making extra and giving it out to people, who gave it to their friends and so on. People I had never met before started asking for sauce, so I ended up being like “ I need to make this more concrete.” So it really just started with one simple step of wanting to make food for people and the sauce was the highlight for everything.
What are the benefits/challenges of crafting vegan dishes versus traditional dishes?
The challenge is getting people to try it. When people hear that I make a vegan nacho cheese with potatoes, carrots, onions and cashews, I usually get that look like “Oh sure, but does it really taste like cheese?” Then they try it and get blown away. They’ll ask “how did you make it taste like that?” and I’ll say “vegetables.” Once people get past the initial hurdle of questioning (the power of veggies), it really serves as a gateway for people. They think “If this vegan cheese tastes like this, maybe I can be more plant based.”
Lots of eaters may not understand how easily their favorite dishes can be turned vegan (for example, using unripe jackfruit instead of pork). What do you think are some good ways for chefs to educate the world at large?
We use jackfruit a lot in our events. We do loaded jackfruit nachos, because the fruit tastes a lot like carnitas. My biggest tip is to season jackfruit just like you would season meat. Sometimes I think the issue is that people buy jackfruit and they don’t have any idea what to do with it. It’s just as much of a blank canvas as any other cut of meat or ingredient. It’s all about the spices, the way you cook it and the time you take to prepare it.
Do you think some eaters don’t recognize the versatility of fruits and veggies?
Of course. From my experience growing up in California, we’re conditioned to think about eating in terms of the food pyramid; thinking that every single meal needs to have meat and dairy. That conditions you as an adult. Getting these integral nutrients is still possible with fruits and veggies, plus their culinary flexibility allows them to be at the center of your plate and not just a side dish.
The vegan scene has grown immensely in the last few years. Why do you think that is?
I would say there are a couple of factors. For me, I turned to the vegan scene because of my background in health. I’ve developed these juice bars and vegan food places that use whole foods, and you just feel better when you take junk out of your diet. Disrespecting animals also bothers a lot of people and I feel like my generation is drawn to the humane aspect of veganism. The industrialism of the meat industry is problematic for a lot of people.
What inspires you to create new sauces?
It’s honestly personal. A lot comes from our desire to eat vegan versions of our favorite foods because they don’t exist in the market right now. We play around in the kitchen and test our recipes, but we definitely focus on our nacho cheese and mac n’ cheese sauces.
By collaborating with other local companies, Nomad Vegan Eats is clearly linked to the community. How do you think this spirit of collaboration effects the food world as a whole?
We love doing collaborations. We did a vegan festival for Martin Luther King day which was a collaboration with a whole bunch of different vegan brands. I believe that there’s power in numbers and unity. You get more of a draw and interest to the public when you team up and work together. Plus it’s really fun.
When you’re cooking, what’s your favorite vegetable to work with and why?
It depends on my mood and what I’m feeling, but I’d have to say potatoes. It’s the base to our sauce, but honestly, potatoes are everything. I make air fried potatoes, baked potatoes and vegan potato tacos. There’s so much that I do with potatoes. You can make any dish around them or make them taste like anything.
What’s your go-to fruit to work with?
It totally depends on the season. I was really, really into passionfruit last season. They’re so fun. I crack them open and take them down like little oyster shooters or put them all over a fruit salad. If you look at a passionfruit from the outside, it doesn’t really look like much, but when you open it and eat it, you’re like “woah!” There’s all this flavor contained in this little secret pod.
What current food trends excite you?
Obviously I’m really digging the vegan trend, particularly high-carb low-fat eating habits. When you eat whole foods, it really makes you feel better; whole food carbs fuel your brain. However, if you’re a vegan who lives off of entirely processed food (instead of whole foods), you might not be so healthy because you’re eating isolated fats and oils. There’s a lot of confusion in the vegan world because it is expanding, but that doesn’t mean that every “vegan” product is nutritious.
Could you tell us a little bit more about working with clean, plant-based products?
We use 100% organic products because we fully support organic farming. The base (of our sauces) is vegetables, so it’s preservative free. When we first started, we would invite non-vegans to our speakeasy dinners to show them how good vegan food can be, because we really want people to try our stuff and get that lightbulb in their head so they realize that they can make delicious, amazing, flavorful food with plants. It’s just like any other type of cooking. You need to tweak recipes and work on them over and over again. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but if you keep working at it and get a better understanding of your ingredients, you can make some truly amazing things with fruits and vegetables.
Is there anything new or in the works at Nomad Vegan Eats that you’d like our readers to know about?
We definitely have exciting stuff coming up! We’ll be launching a kickstarter because we’ve had an explosion of demands from Los Angeles, New York, and even Alaska so we’re trying to get some extra funding to do more deliveries and shipping. Also, we really want to be in Petco Park, which is the local baseball stadium in San Diego, because the vegan community is really strong in San Diego and who doesn’t want to eat some super delicious vegan nachos at a baseball game?