Veg It Up challenge issued to P.E.I. restaurants by vegan group

P.E.I. chefs have been challenged to come up with tasty, creative vegan dishes. It's a move by a new vegan group to promote dining out for that growing sector of society.

Vegan group holds contest for most tasty entrees, desserts

The Veg PEI potluck attracts dozens on the last Monday of each month. (Facebook)

A new group called VegPEI is trying to make it less complicated for vegans to get a delicious meal when they dine out.

The group has been holding monthly potlucks and sharing recipes and ideas, and now they're challenging restaurants and chefs to come up with ideas too.

They're holding the Veg It Up Vegan Challenge in September, and group members Hillary Wood and Brittany Boothroyd dropped by CBC Mainstreet to explain that to Karen Mair.

Boothroyd, who has chef's training, is a relatively new convert to veganism, and was surprised when she took a look at her first vegan cookbook.

Veg PEI wants to show people that vegan food doesn't have to be dull, and it's very tasty. (Facebook)
"The first page I opened up to was sweet potato black bean enchiladas with an avocado sauce, and that just completely opened my eyes to vegan food can be delicious," she said.

"I was always a picky eater growing up, I didn't like vegetables, I'm still not a huge salad fan but I love vegetables now because I learned how versatile they are and how you can cook them, and I learned to make some really amazing, easy, very doable and very cheap dishes, and my protein is up, my iron is up, all these things that I didn't realize were possible."

Veganism a growing trend

While more and more people are switching to vegan diets, most restaurants haven't caught up with the demand as yet.

"The trend across North America is growing so quickly but the culinary education to back that up is very, very slow," said Boothroyd.

"There are a couple of restaurants across P.E.I. that are starting to introduce more and more dishes because the demand is growing, but it is slow and that's a big reason why we're here today, is to spread the word and maybe help speed things up a little bit."

Popular potlucks

One of the initiatives the group has started is a potluck dinner that began in April, on the last Monday of every month at the Farm Centre on University Ave. in Charlottetown.

"The first potluck, I was expecting around 30 people, and there was close to 80, and it was every age group, every walk of life, and I had so much positive feedback, how glad they were that something like this exists," said Wood.

Yes, there are vegan desserts. Lots and lots of desserts. (Facebook)
"It makes them feel so comfortable and makes them feel like they are not alone."

The next move for the new group is the challenge to chefs and restaurants.

On Sept. 23 - 25, restaurants across the Island have been challenged to come up with interesting vegan options for their patrons, who will then vote for the best ones.

"A lot of our chefs across the Island are getting really excited about it, it's not anything that's been done on P.E.I. before," said Boothroyd. "We have 12 restaurants confirmed already and we're getting more every single day."

Customers will vote for best entree, best dessert, and most creative, casting their ballots on the group's Veg PEI Facebook page.

"We're doing it to show people that vegan food doesn't just have to be salad, it doesn't have to be boring, it doesn't have to be bland," said Boothroyd. "It can be delicious, and you can also eat as much of it as you want and feel amazing."

With files from Mainstreet