Talking #LAFoodCulture With Plant-Based Executive Chef Jason Stefanko
Intro: Food Tribe is taking a deeper dive into #LAFoodCulture, by featuring the chefs, restauranteurs, and foodies that make LA's food scene what it is. We want to hear from various perspectives about LA's food culture, and are excited to share those voices with you!
The plant-based lifestyle is becoming more of a staple amongst both foodies and chefs alike, particularly in health-obsessed cities like Los Angeles. In fact, veganism has grown by 500% since 2014 in the US. Gone are the days of foodies turning a cheek to vegan and organic foods, as Generation Y continues to lead the charge towards achieving healthier lifestyles. Somewhere along the line, being plant-based became cool!
Los Angeles provides a special opportunity to dive deep into the ins and outs of a plant-based lifestyle. The reason why is simple Did you know LA is the No. 2 vegan city in the world, and tops in America?
When it comes to plant-based lifestyle experts, there’s nobody better to talk to than Jason Stefanko, Executive Chef at Gardein. He has a unique “going vegan” story that stems from a diet change following 14 years in the restaurant industry, and also sports one of the most mouthwatering Instagram accounts you’ll find which is truly in the upper echelon of the #FoodPorn game.
Come on...look at that mac & cheese! It makes you want to just kick all those hamburgers and GMOs to the curb.
Jason was cheffing it up north of the border when he first adopted his plant-based lifestyle and, quite literally, turned over a new leaf to his career.
“I was cooking one night at home, and I turned over a package of Gardein and realized it was made in Vancouver, Canada.”
For all of you out there job hunting, not only does Jason have the answers in the kitchen, but he also detailed how he went about landing his relentless pursuit of the exact job he wanted. He didn’t just blast out resumes aimlessly on an internet job board, he kicked the door in and proved his worth.
“It took me about a month of emails and phone calls, and I finally got some great advice from a recruiter in Vancouver that basically said you need to go on LinkedIn, find the email address of every single person that’s working at Gardein, and then write a very sincere cover letter on top of your resume.”
Two days later, he had a contract in front of him. Not bad, huh?
Jason is now fighting the good fight to shake some of the stipulations that plague the vegan food industry by dispelling many of the common misconceptions. Creating jaw-dropping tortellini, ravioli and lasagne is exactly what it takes to silence the haters. All the while inspiring others to adopt a similar healthy lifestyle.
“I don’t want vegan to be a salad or a plate of vegetables. I want meat eaters to feel like they’re not missing out on anything.”
When he was north of the border, Jason noted that Vancouver was a bit lacking on the vegan front. It has improved, but no one is going to rank it up there with some of the vegan hotbeds.
However, fast forward seven years and now (#HotTakeAlert), they have what Jason claims is the best vegan pizza spot in North America in Virtuous Pie.
Thankfully, Jason took his talents to a brighter plant-based food haven in Los Angeles! You’d be hardpressed to find someone with a better lowdown on all the vegan hotspots in the area. Boy, are we glad we asked.
“I think in the vegan community there’s a real split, and a fun banter for which city is better, Los Angeles or New York. My absolute favorite vegan restaurant, which I think is the best in the country is Crossroads Kitchen in Hollywood.”
Other strong recommendations include The Butcher’s Daughter in Venice and Gracias Madre, a plant-based Mexican joint in West Hollywood. For those of you craving some Asian cuisine, check out Ramen Hood in Downtown LA and Shojin sushi tucked away in the Little Tokyo Market Place.
We can’t wait to try all these restaurants, but one item you might not expect to find at a vegan restaurant is a scrambled egg.
Does Jason have a scrambled egg spot for you breakfast junkies? Of course he does.
“Follow Your Heart has a unique vegan scrambled egg and Hampton Creek, which is launching their vegan liquid egg.”
A vegan or liquid egg sounds quite foreign, but is actually becoming more and more common as we head down this road to our plant-based utopian future.
“There’s companies working on lab-grown meat. The technology is moving really fast, and there’s going to come a time in our generation where people can sit down to a plate of meat that did not come from an animal that had to be raised and slaughtered.”
To tie it all up, we wanted to highlight some of the ideologies and take our #TribeMembers inside the mind of one of the best plant-based chefs in the industry. Whether you are vegan or not, you have certainly heard or contributed to some of the stigmas that surround a plant-based lifestyle. At its core, everyone has their own unique story as to why they adopted such a lifestyle.
Jason’s story all started with the love he had for his beloved dog.
“Here in the West, everyone would be upset if a dog was abused or beaten, but that happens every day to pigs and dairy cows. You go to other cultures, if you’re in India, cow is sacred. If you go to Korea or Vietnam, they eat dogs. Why is it that we love dogs, but it’s okay to eat other animals?”
Veganism and plant-based diets are spreading like wildfire, particularly in Los Angeles. If you wish to adopt a similar way of eating, just remember you don’t have to give up the things you love. More importantly, don’t feel guilty if you fall off the wagon!
“If you’re trying to go vegan for 22 days like Beyonce and Jay-Z did and on Day 10 you slip up and eat a burger, don’t let there be guilt around it and don’t give up. Just recognize how it felt, move on and go to the next plant-based meal.”
If you liked this post and are interested in more like this, be sure to subscribe to the Food Tribe Blog.