Sitting in the green room watching Madonna’s trainer share with Lisa Oz her famous butt-burning workout, I couldn’t help but notice the cool shoes on the person next to me.
I was in New York to shoot a clean food cooking segment for Lisa Oz’s new show due to launch soon on the Veria Network, and it seemed as though I was surrounded by all things vegan. The make-up artist used all vegan products (stay tuned for more about her in an upcoming blog), and the owner of those incredible cool (and vegan!) shoes…WTF! Really, that’s her name…WTF Vegan Food – Will Travel For Vegan Food. Yes, the other guest, wearer of the cool vegan shoes, had spent the past 18 months eating and blogging from every vegan restaurant in the United States.
So if you’re hitting the road this holiday weekend, this summer, or anytime in the near future, you may be especially interested in what Kristin (WTF Vegan Food) has to share. And definitely check out her easy-to-use blog with reviews of restaurants you’ve always loved, and many you’re soon to discover!
Terry: What made you decide to become vegan and how long have you been vegan? (After this journey, should I be asking you if you still are vegan!?!!)
Kristin: I’ve been vegan for 7 years (this August) and I was vegetarian for 8 years before that. It’s my lifestyle, not a diet or phase. The impact that one person can make on alleviating animal suffering, treading lighter on the earth, and preventing deadly illnesses in their own bodies is more than enough for me to know that I would never go back. Click here to read my vegan story.
Terry: There must be a good story behind your decision to take on this quest. Please share it with us.
Kristin: It was a combination of things coming together all at once. I had a great job with an animal welfare org but was feeling unsettled. Around the same time I stumbled upon some books and blogs about lifestyle design and passive income (The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss & Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk were the first two). These led me to spend nearly a year reading about incredible people who led fulfilling lives doing what they loved for a living – some traveling for indefinite periods of time while working remotely. I couldn’t get enough of these amazing stories and journeys, and so badly wanted to do something similar. One day I jokingly wrote on my personal Facebook page, “I wonder how long it would take to eat at every vegan restaurant in the country? I just might be up for this challenge.” I got a boatload of responses supporting the idea of taking on such a crazy concept. And before I knew it I had given my notice at work and launched a Kickstarter.com project to raise money to purchase a van and get started. Only nine months after making that post to Facebook, I was on the road and sharing my journey via this new project dubbed: Will Travel For Vegan Food.
Terry: How did you find all of the restaurants you visited and what were the objectives, guidelines, goals…
Kristin: I used a 5 step process to locate each 100% vegan restaurant (including food trucks and the like). I started with a spreadsheet that was given to me by the kind folks of HappyCow.net (a veg restaurant guide). I would then scout VegDining.com, Yelp! and Google to come up with a solid list, and then share that list with my social media friends. After getting their feedback I’d have my final list and then figure out the best route to take. I would do this one state at a time, so when I’d get ready to head to the next state I’d sit for what would sometime be a full day, to plan out the eateries and route between them, for the next destination. I went wherever the food was.
The goal was to eat at and write about every single 100% vegan restaurant in the United States. I made a few exceptions for restaurants that were mostly vegan and came highly recommended but I tried to stick with completely vegan eateries so that I could feel like the task was accomplishable. Haha.. if I went to all the places that also happened to be vegan friendly I feared I’d never finish the journey.
My intention was to complete the trip within 12 months, but it ended up taking closer to 18 months. Aside from eating and writing and driving, I also hoped this wacky journey would help spotlight veganism in a positive way, and strengthen the growing vegan community nationwide.
Terry: As if you’ve never been asked this…what were your top three favorite restaurants and why?
Kristin: I have at least a top 20 at this point, it’s so hard to choose only a few…but there are some that I can hardly stop thinking about.
VEDGE – in Philadelphia (read ‘why’ here)
TRUE BISTRO in Boston (read ‘why’ here)
CHUCH in Montreal (read ‘why’ here)
Terry: Top three dishes and what made them so memorable?
Kristin: I hope you don’t mind – I added an extra one. : )
“Chicken” ‘n’ Waffles from FLORE in Los Angeles. I’ve long heard about the glory of combining chicken and waffles but had never tried it even before my veg days. So when I heard that a vegan restaurant in LA offered this I just had to give it a try. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Delicious! (photo)
Veganized classic Big Mac from DOOMIE’S in Los Angeles. I heard rumors of Doomie’s Secret Menu so when I arrived I asked about it. Sure enough they had a few secret items available and I couldn’t resist trying a vegan version of the Big Mac. It blew my mind, was double-layered, tasted awesome, and was so filling that I only got through three quarters of it and was full for about eight hours straight thereafter. Haha (photo).
Hot fudge sundae from PORTOBELLO VEGAN TRATTORIA in Portland, OR. You will never, ever have a sundae like this. The cashew-based whipped cream, deep chocolatey fudge, and ice cream like you’ve never tasted (vegan or otherwise). I hardly have the words other than to say that this must be a life goal of yours – to eat the sundae at Portobello. Trust me.
Veggie Burger at MINERAL RESTAURANT in Murphey’s, CA. This is home to the best non-animal-flesh burger you will ever put into your mouth. It’s unarguably the best vegan burger in the country. The care with which it was prepared and presented is incomparable. The rich and varied flavors say more than words ever could. It’s worth a trip to this tiny touristy town just to have a single bite of this burger. (photo)
Terry: Any fun experiences meeting chefs, owners, farmers, customers…?
Kristin: Yes…many…almost too many to write about. But here is one story I always enjoy sharing: How Making Popsicles Led to Salsa Dancing
Terry: What did you eat when you weren’t eating out?
Kristin: I never did anything else. Perhaps one or two friends cooked me a meal when I stayed at their place but otherwise it was always restaurant food and leftovers. Always.
Terry: I think I would be the size of a house in short order! How much weight did you gain? Were you living in yoga pants?
Kristin: By the one year mark I had gained 15 pounds. No yoga pants for me, I just went out and bought new jeans. : )
Terry: Talk to us about living on the road. Any wild life (human or animal), new friends, challenges, things you’ll miss (or not)…
Kristin: Yes. Many. And that’s what my book will be focused on primarily. I hope it’ll be ready by early 2014. It will be a memoir about my travels and how meeting so many people (and sharing their stories) as well as the hours and days spent alone, completely changed my life. It will not be a food guide though I will mention a few of the restaurants I stopped at.
I’ll miss the alone time. I’ll miss the time with new friends. I won’t miss leaving new friends behind – that was always hard. I’ll miss waking up and sometimes having no clue where I am for a few minutes until my mind adjusts. I won’t miss having trouble falling asleep at night because of the scary scenarios I’d play out in my mind. I’ll miss those moments when I was almost too nervous to go into a new place and then have it become one of the happiest, coolest experiences of my life. I’ll always remember how pushing through fear led me become a stronger more well rounded person, when all is said and done.
Terry: What’s next?
Kristin: My aim is to remain location independent and revisit 3-4 cities from the road trip. In 2014 I intend to move every 3-4 months to a place I wished I could have spent more time in while traveling. Live there (wherever that may be) and work on my social media consulting business while also growing other products and service related to Will Travel For Vegan Food.
If my questions haven’t satisfied your appetite, here’s your opportunity for added insight into vegan food, restaurants and travel! Ask away…and wherever you are and whatever you’re craving…
Eat clean live well!