Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Radsters from Portland Visiting for the Cook-Off

Seattle has an exceptionally strong vegan food culture - with more than 15 pure vegan restaurants, 20+ vegetarian restaurants, an untold number of vegan chefs toiling away in omni restaurants, and at least a dozen home-chef blogs overflowing with innovative vegan recipes - we have a lot to be proud of. I think it is time we took it to mat.

As you know, The Great Seattle Chili Cook-Off is just one of many feeder events raising money so that Seattle can put on our very own Vegan Iron Chef competition and enter in the regional competition too. We hope to have similar feeder events over the next 9 months, including a vegan BBQ competition this summer, perhaps a raw vegan competition in the fall, and more. Vegan Iron Chef organizers, Liz Miller, Michele Truty and Jess Scone are super supportive Seattle's vegan scene and can't wait to see us get into the Vegan Iron Chef regionals.

We are honored that Michele and Jess will be able to come to the Seattle Chili Cook-Off to hang out with all of us and will have a table with info. If you live in Portland (or anywhere I guess), they'll be giving away tickets to our Cook-Off later this month or early May, so stay tuned. I was able to catch up with Jess for a little Q&A.

Q:Where did the idea of holding a Vegan Iron Chef come from?
Jess: Try Vegan PDX founder and horror author David Agranoff* brought the idea to the group a couple years ago. It came to fruition last year with the crowning of our first winner, Qausu Asaase Yaa from the Asaase Ital Caribbean cart, who was up against head chefs from Blossoming Lotus and Portobello Vegan Trattoria. As we head into our second competition July 10 at Refuge, Vegan Iron Chef is now its own non-profit organization. We’re incredibly fortunate that Isa Chandra Moskowitz is returning to host in the Alton Brown role again, too!

Photos by Lucas DeShazer

Q: What is the best thing about living in Portland and so close to Seattle, the two very best vegan cities in the nation?
It’s just nice to know that there is always an Amtrak train, or a carpool between the two cities, where someone, somewhere, is eating a vegan donut, en route to another NW city home to more vegan donuts. I may be partial to the hometown VooDoo apple fritters, but damn, a French Toast Mighty-O makes any trip worth it.

Q: What ways do you see Seattle and Portland supporting each others vegan scenes?
Jess: I think this eventual build up to the Northwest Vegan Iron Chef Regionals in a couple years is one of the most exciting things - ever. What better way to showcase artisan, vegan cuisine, our energetic vegan communities, independent businesses, and impressive Northwest produce? Despite any rivalries, vegans in both cities make a point to support each others’ vegan businesses, and that’s awesome.

Q: After checking out the chili descriptions, who do you think is going to win?
Jess: I’m digging the charisma and mystery that Peter Keller is throwing out there, but I’ve gotta root for my lady, Marti, because I think she’s underplaying her talk of “nothing too spectacular” and I’m stoked to try her roasted green chili & white “chicken” chili!

Q: Chili etiquette? Hot or Not? Sides are OK? Vegan sour cream a must or a disgrace?
Jess: Promise me heat, a cold beer & tortilla chips, and I’m good. [Ed. note: I promise]

Q: What else should Seattlites know about Vegan Iron Chef and the future regional competition?
Jess: Start placing your bets and never underestimate the secret ingredient, or SI, as we like to whisper at our meetings. Get inspired and organize mini vegan iron chef events at dinner parties, potlucks, special ingredient themed picnics, etc. And someone, please build a venue that can hold this madness!

*David, in completely unrelated coincidence, is going to be in Seattle May 8, 2011 for a reading of his book, The Vegan Revolution with Zombies.

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