Asheville Plant-Based Face-Off challenges chefs to highlight vegan cuisine

MEAT-FREE OCTOBER: Chestnut's vegan tonkatsu dish is one of more than a dozen plant-based menu items being offered this month at local restaurants as part of Asheville Vegan Outreach's Plant-Based Face-Off competition. Diners can try featured dishes from participating eateries and vote for their favorites.

A new monthlong initiative from Asheville Vegan Outreach and local plant-meat purveyor No Evil Foods may sway those with negative preconceived notions about vegan food to think again. The inaugural Plant-Based Face-Off, sponsored by national vegan activist group VegFund, is designed to shoot down misconceptions about animal-free cuisine while demonstrating to foodies of all kinds what Asheville’s eateries have to offer.

“We saw other cities doing it and we thought, ‘Asheville is a super vegan-friendly city; this is a great way to build awareness surrounding how delicious vegan food can be,'” says Rowdy Keelor, outreach director for Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, which coordinates Asheville Vegan Outreach. Durham, for example, hosted the Bull City Vegan Challenge in April, and Sacramento, Calif., is holding its sixth annual Vegan Chef Challenge this month.

Throughout October, 13 participating Asheville restaurants are offering a vegan dish created specifically for the competition. No Evil Foods has provided a 20 percent discount to eateries that feature the company’s products in a Face­-Off dish. Diners can vote online for their favorites in three categories: Best Overall, Most Creative and Best Interpretation of a Traditional Dish. Both chefs and participating diners will be awarded prizes at an event after the voting is finished.

The idea behind the initiative, explains Keelor, is to show restaurants, chefs and customers that vegan cuisine can be just as satisfying as omnivorous offerings, while being much kinder to animals, the planet and human health. “Our goal is taking animals out of the consumption narrative,” he says. “There are strategic steps in getting there and in a country of instant gratification, one of them is that we have to show people that it can be delicious to eat vegan food. All of us — not just omnivores and meat eaters — like food that tastes good.”

The eateries that are onboard for the face-off run the gamut from all-vegan favorites like Plant to typically meat-strong establishments such as Gan Shan Station (known for its fresh seafood). Menu offerings similarly cover a wide range of global flavors. Dobra Tea in West Asheville, which already has a vegan-focused menu, offers a sampler platter featuring cashew brie from Udderly Not Cheese, lentil-walnut paté, greens, pears, grapes, maple-glazed walnuts, house mango chutney, house pickles, olives and millet-flax lavash. Corner Kitchen takes a Latin approach with chargrilled No Evil Foods chorizo, whipped malanga root, pumpkin seed-jalapeño pureé, puffed black beans and green mango slaw.

At Chestnut, a pan-Asian tonkatsu will showcase No Evil Foods’ Prepper paired with kaffir lime sticky rice, stir-fried local veggies, house-made katsu sauce and sriracha sweet chili. Meanwhile, the West Village Market and Deli is going Greek with a garlicky “chicken-esque” gyro, and Posana sticks to the tasteful classics with seared tofu, charred broccoli, quinoa, sunflower seed, butternut squash, cardamom carrot and citrus oil.

Kevin Westmoreland, co-owner of the Corner Kitchen and Chestnut, says his restaurants joined the challenge because both businesses like to offer meat-free menu items as part of a focus on sustainability. “We love all kinds of food, but we find more and more of our guests enjoy vegan and vegetarian items,” he says. “The Plant Based Face-Off makes it fun to see how creative we can be with items that have not necessarily been part of our menus over the years. There are also more plant-based items available now. This makes it easier to create dishes that guests who are new to vegetarianism can really enjoy.”


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22 thoughts on “Asheville Plant-Based Face-Off challenges chefs to highlight vegan cuisine

  1. Pork Cheeks

    “Plant-Based Face-Off”. Oh the irony in that headline. Kudos to the author if she slipped that by intentionally! Now I want some guanciale!

  2. Negrodamus

    Hasn’t anyone considered that holding vegetables under water until they come clean is little different than waterboarding. It’s torture!

  3. Mary Finelli

    Thank you for letting readers know about this wonderful event. Asheville is becoming a mecca for vegan food, to it’s great credit. I can hardly wait to visit again, including to the wonderful vegan social justice establishment: A Block Off Biltmore! Vegan food is the best, in so many ways and for so many reasons. This event and this article are a real public service. Thanks again!

  4. think critically

    For those making silly comments about plants feeling pain, I wonder how many more times must we show that plants aren’t sentient beings? If you honestly believe plants can feel pain, go vegan and reduce the number of plants that are “brutally slaughtered” and fed to the animals you eat. Perhaps you should administer pain relief to the grass before you mow your lawn. Do people really think shucking corn and ripping the skin off a cat are morally similar actions? Or is this an attempt to stop the argument? An attempt to defend the indefensible behavior of eating meat?

    • boatrocker

      I agree with both the vegans and detractors who rightfully claim that plants feel pain.

      From this point forward, I pledge to only consume those styrofoam things shaped like the letter S from boxes.
      I now claim the moral high ground, as Negrodamus and The Real World have announced that oil is abiotic and infinite in its supply.

      • Negrodamus

        Looks like you found the sweet spot. Evolutionary. I see a TEDx appearance in your future.

  5. think critically

    So much for intelligent conversation. People who make fun of those trying to end animal abuse are like those who mocked suffragettes, abolitionists, etc. They are on the wrong side of history.

    • boatrocker

      Hardly the same.

      Did Susan B. Anthony, Emmeline Pankhurst, Frederick Douglass or Harriet Tubman ever taste the chicken, pig or cow?

      Always remember, vegetarians can always claim Hitler as one of their own, if one goes by your logic.

      Those styrofoam S things are actually quite tasty and filling too. Give them a try.
      Your conscience will be clear for not eating plants (which are scientifically proven to feel pain) by the time you go to sleep,
      but I so far cannot speak to their value as (burp) fiber.

      • The Real World

        You might be interested to know (and maybe they’d seem tastier) that, in the trade, the styrofoam nuggets are called: peanuts. Dip them in a bit chocolate and you’re all set.

        • boatrocker

          Day 2 of my styrofoam S ‘peanut’ diet. I’ve never felt healthier but I had to call a plumber yesterday to unclog the toilet. He asked if I had been on ordering any packages or something. I might try them in a ‘tortilla’ of bubble wrap tonight for dinner.

          I hesitate to try them dipped in chocolate as I don’t want to be complicit in the suffering of a bean.

  6. think critically

    People evolve. Dr. King was not a vegan, but his wife and son did become vegans, as they embraced social justice for animals.

    Hitler wasn’t a vegetarian at all. Consider the historical facts:

    • Biographers who wrote about Hitler (and who knew him quite well on a personal basis) openly describe his love for Bavarian sausages and game pie (“game” meaning wild meat from birds and other creatures).

    • Hitler’s own chef openly talked about Hitler’s love for stuffed pigeon.

    • In none of Hitler’s speeches or writing did Hitler state he was a vegetarian or speak in favor of vegetarianism.

    • Hitler was regularly given injections of a protein serum made from the testicles of a bull — not exactly a treatment that would be tolerated by vegetarians.

    • None of Hitler’s lieutenants were vegetarians, nor was vegetarianism promoted in any way in the Nazi party.

    In fact, Hitler suffered from severe flatulence (where do you think the idea for the gas chambers came from?) and was advised by doctors to follow a vegetarian diet from time to time in order to calm the gas attacks. This is probably where the myth about Hitler being a vegetarian first originated. No doubt his lieutenants wanted Hitler to be a vegetarian; especially the ones seated closest to him at the dinner table.

    Additional reading about the Hitler vegetarianism myth:

    By the way, according to the above-mentioned article, the New York Times’ definition of vegetarianism includes cooked ham. I suppose if you define vegetarianism as including cooked ham and sausages, then sure, Hitler was a vegetarian. But you’d have to be a numbskull to adopt that definition in the first place.

    Speaking of myths about Hitler, it turns out Hitler wasn’t an atheist, either. As he stated himself in Mein Kampf (1925): “I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Creator. By fighting off the Jews, I am doing the Lord’s work.”

    Nazi soldiers wore belt buckles with the inscription Gott mit uns (God is with us), and they routinely engaged in religious blessings of the troops by invoking the power of God at the Catholic Church.

    Hitler wasn’t a vegetarian, but he was a Catholic (…).

    Does this mean anything to us today? Nope. Opponents of vegetarianism or atheism are always pointing to Hitler as an example “proving” how wrong-headed those philosophies are, but it’s just meaningless talk. I just pointed out that Hitler was actually a meat-eating Catholic. Does that mean that all meat eaters and Catholics are evil? Of course not.

    Hitler spoke German, too. Does that mean all German-speaking people are evil? Of course not.

    The truth is that one person’s actions, no matter how insane, do not represent the philosophies of entire groups to which he may momentarily belong.

    The valid comparisons between modern-day politicians and Hitler should, in my view, focus on the use of fear to promote war, the use of staged false-flag attacks to incite anger among the population, and the use of empty oration to create a loyalist following that dangerously concentrates political power into the hands of the few. Hitler was also in favor of gun confiscation, gold confiscation and eugenics programs, all of which are highly relevant in the modern world. And it goes without saying that he placed no value on the lives of many humans — a view shared today by most multinational corporations.

    On the other hand, as some will no doubt point out, Hitler was the chief force behind the building of Germany’s autobahn highway system, and he helped push through the first Volkswagon “car for the masses” that made automobile transportation affordable. Looking carefully at history shows that even the most evil, dangerous men can easily frame their actions as accomplishments for the People. This is highly relevant to remember as our own President Bush is attempting to reframe his legacy today.

    One thing for sure is that Bush was no vegetarian.
    Search on

    Hitler is the new search engine for truth seekers.

    Learn more:

  7. think critically

    Susan B. Anthony was a vegetarian. As was Rosa Parks. But you are missing the point, which is that people, hopefully, evolve. I will offer a couple of quotes that I hope help illuminate this issue for you.

    “If you want to know where you would have stood on slavery before the Civil War, don’t look at where you stand on slavery today. Look at where you stand on animal rights.” Captain Paul Watson, founder, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

    “It is easy for us to criticize the prejudices of our grandfathers, from which our fathers freed themselves. It is more difficult to distance ourselves from our own views, so that we can dispassionately search for prejudices among the beliefs and values we hold.”

    Peter Singer

    Heck, even Andy Rooney weighted in on it:
    Most of us think of vegetarians as nuts and I’m not a vegetarian but I wouldn’t be surprised if we came to a time in 50 or 100 years when civilized people everywhere refused to eat animals. I could be one of them. Of course, I’d be pretty old by then.”

    Andy Rooney

    • Negrodamus

      I’m all for a vegetarian diet, but you guys are just fruits and nuts, and give it a bad name with your ridiculous ideas.. Do something revolutionary like opening up a vegetarian fast food franchise that you can spread across the country. Lots of people want to eat healthier, but don’t have the option on the fast food scene.

  8. think critically

    Glad to read that you are all for vegetarian diets!
    People thought that letting women vote and freeing the slaves were ridiculous ideas.
    There are vegetarian fast food franchises, and they are spreading.

    • The Real World

      “So much for intelligent conversation.” — and then you post a looong expose about Hilter’s eating habits?? LOL! You kill (oops, bad pun) your credibility with things like that.

      Meanwhile Negrodamus’ idea is a good one, I’ve been waiting for it for years. There will be more converts when it becomes EASIER to live as a vegetarian. Pls advise of names of the veggie fast food chains so I can keep an eye out. Now, if someone will please, finally, create a drive-thru pizza by the slice restaurant I will be all set.

  9. think critically

    Most of the vegetarian fast food chains are on the west coast, no surprise. I keep reading about big expansion plans, but none have gotten really big yet. It is just a matter of time. I am thinking Amy’s might be the one to make it big, since they obviously have enough cash, they are making a fortune in the frozen food business. This is there first:
    Someone tried a fast food veg place on Merrimon years ago, Vegheads. It was underfunded and poorly planned and marketed, and the service was very slow. It failed.
    Here is a long list of vegan options available at non-vegetarian restaurants, many of them fast food places. Yeah, I know, it is a PETA list, and you might not like PETA, but it is the most comprehensive list I know of:

    When I travel, I use You will find a list of places for every town, and can sort between vegan, vegetarian, and veg-friendly. Since you like pizza, I recommend you be on the lookout for Blaze Pizza, Uncle Maddios, MOD (Made on Demand) Pizza, and Pie 5. All are “fast-food casual,” they make the pizzas in just a few minutes in a high heat oven. All very reasonably priced, too. I am hooked. And I eat at Chipotle a lot when on the road, I can’t get enough of the Sofritas. It is an incredible value, too.

    In Asheville, there are so veg-friendly places, I don’t even know where to start. Maybe some others will chime in with their favorites. I like Neo Burrito a lot.

    • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

      If there was a drive thru that offered cheap Falafels I’d eat there every day. They can’t cost that much to make. American fast food sucks so bad.

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