Welcome to this episode of Living Meatless Tales. Be inspired as you are taken on an adventure of transformation and understanding as each one of our guests share their experience of making the switch to a plant-based lifestyle and inspiring others to do the same.
This week our featured guest is Lexx Ambrose.
In her own words here is a little about Lexx…
“My name is Lexx Ambrose, I was born in Calgary Alberta and I am 27 years old. I grew up here but moved away to Vancouver for five years and have been since December of 2017. I am openly queer and proud to be apart of the LGBTQ+ community. Anyone who knows me, would probably tell you I’m an insanely happy person who will make friends with anyone that is willing to hold a conversation and I always act with kindness in everything I do. I think it is SO IMPORTANT to be kind in a world that needs so much of it.”
Please join me, as I interview Lexx and learn a little more about her and her personal journey to Living MeatLESS…
Rachel: Please tell me, why do you choose to eat a plant-based diet and be vegan?
Lexx: “I for sure don’t find myself identifying as plant based…rather, I am a vegan! My vegan journey has been a beautiful one. I was a kid who had a huge attachment to animals; however, I grew up with the same disassociation that many people, who now live this lifestyle, did… one that separates pets from food. I was lead to believe we “needed” meat to live.
When I was 21 years old I moved to Vancouver, British Columbia and found myself in a whole new world surrounded by people who were more conscious and open minded. I ended up close with someone who was vegetarian and having her in my life opened me up to introspective reflection. It started to “click” that eating meat was not in alignment with everything I cared about. So, I did as everyone with curiosity should do, I dived into educating myself. I watched documentaries, found segments on the reality of slaughterhouses and suddenly, everything made sense. At the drop of a dime I said, “I will try being vegan for a month.” That was four years ago and I have never looked back.”
Rachel: Tell me a little about your personal background. What did you do before opening The Dandelion?
Lexx: “If you were to ask my mom, she would tell you I go after everything I want and never doubt my ability to push through anything to get there.
I have been cooking for 10 years. This journey started at the Cactus Club Cafe where I worked my way up the ladder and with a lot of hard work I landed myself a Sous Chef position within one year. I stayed with the company for five years and I had the pleasure of working at six different locations, including helping to open the downtown Calgary location on Stephen Avenue.
During the latter portion of my career with the Cactus Club my moral compass started to resent everything I was doing. So, I ventured out, applied for my dream job and landed a Head Chef position at a beautiful non-profit vegan restaurant in Vancouver. During that time I put myself through school and am now an Alumni of Plantlab Academy, which is an entirely plant based school.
Due to some family circumstances, I moved back home to Calgary on December 1st, 2017. Less than a year later, I am now one of four owners of The Dandelion. I still can’t believe that I am fortunate enough to be living my dream right now. I also have to add, every single person who comes in to The Dandelion is incredible and it makes the day feel entirely effortless. The community in Calgary is unlike anything else I’ve seen.”
Rachel: What made you decide to open The Dandelion?
Lexx: “The idea of The Dandelion was incubated by Bryce, one of my business partners, who had the idea to open a tea house with live music and community space. He organically ended up connecting with Melissa, Myself and Raven who have invested all our energy into making this dream a reality. We have had MANY amazing people take part in the making of this project from the beginning who all deserve to be recognized as I talk about this beautiful space.
I was approached by Bryce upon moving back home to Calgary. At the time the idea he had was simple but my priorities were every where else but focused on my career. A few months down the road I heard from him again and found myself in a much better space to look at what this place could be. Without question, I knew I wanted to help build this idea. Who wouldn’t want to be apart of a space that was about being inclusive and creating food that anyone who walks in has the potential to enjoy.
The first step to changing any perspective is giving a person something to agree with you on. The world of plant-based food is limitless and part of my dream has ALWAYS been to change the minds of people through food. That’s a huge piece of what we are doing. All of us who have made this happen can agree we opened The Dandelion to be a conscious space in every aspect we can control.
We support local businesses, the dreams of our team, the dreams of the community, and events that align with our values. We are also building a “zero waste out the door” initiative. Part of our vision is not adding to the environmental issues we face and need to change. We want to be that place in Calgary that everyone knows if you want food or coffee to go you need to bring your own cup or container. This concept has been received both well, and not so well, by people, as any big step in the direction of change, will do. We expected that and we hope our stand point on this issue inspires other businesses to head in the same direction.
To sum up your question, I decided to be part of The Dandelion because I see how valuable this place could be and this is just the beginning. We have so many plans for the future and we are excited to share with you down the road… so be sure to stay in the loop. We aren’t even close to being done with our ideas yet.”
Rachel: Do you personally create all of the food? What is the process for finding perfect menu items?
Lexx: “The menu is a collective effort. The base of our menu was created by Melissa, who is an incredibly talented and hard working chef. I consulted with the final recipes and added a few items myself, which is where we are at now with what you see on the current menu. But just so you know, Melissa gets all the credit for our Chik-Tan and Waffles. They are literally mind-blowing.
The idea, for us, was to create food your grandma would make… comforting home-style food but all plant based. We kept the menu small to protect the quality of what we serve. Everything is made from scratch and in-house, which means even though the ideas are simple the work behind everything has endless steps. Doing this really does make a difference our customers can taste.
Moving forward with the menu everything is collectively decided on by the entire team. We create the recipes together. It’s about exploring passion with food and that opportunity must be open to everyone on our team. It’s important to us that everyone has the space to grow and be part of this project. If we don’t all love what we are serving it won’t succeed. Our customers can taste love in the food. I truly believe that.”
Rachel: What are your most popular items on the menu and why do you think people like them the
Lexx: “HANDS DOWN our top three items are Chik-Tan and Waffles, Ramsay Breakfast Bowl and Better Benny. I think it’s pretty clear that the reason these items are our top sellers is because the majority of our customers are people who haven’t had food like this since they went plant-based. Imagine, not eating something for years and suddenly being able to do so without compromising your lifestyle.
That being said it’s nice to see that the entirety of our menu is enjoyed and there isn’t one item that doesn’t sell well! However, when we first opened we did joke about becoming a waffle house because that’s all people wanted to order.”
Rachel: If a young person came to you looking for help about embracing a plant-based diet and you only had a few minutes to give him, or her, your best piece of advice, what would it be?
Lexx: “What a great question! If I only had a few minutes to help someone who was looking for advice on embracing a plant-based diet I would first ask them to identify their “why”. As long as you know your WHY you are doing something right. When you find yourself faced with dilemmas, or tough times, reminding yourself of the “why” always reassures the courage needed to push through.
I would also tell them that, like any major change in life, it’s a pursuit and you won’t do it perfectly the first time, which is absolutely okay. Success wouldn’t exist without failure so try not to put the expectation on yourself to be perfect right from day one. If you hold space for yourself, in that regard, it will begin to feel a lot more effortless.
Lastly, I would say surround yourself with people who get it. People who have been where you are now and have come through the other side. You need your people so make sure you have them. Trust me, spend just five minutes with the Calgary vegan and vegetarian community and you will feel like you have 10,000 family members.”
Rachel: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Lexx: “The last thing I want to share is my “Why” phrase that I created for myself that covers every question that gets asked about why I am vegan. “If I am not given consent… it is not for me to have.” Think about that for a second…there has never been a time where we could walk up to a cow and say, “May I take your life?” and have them in return answer us. Therefore, consent was never given. That rule applies with everything under my moral spectrum and living by that makes everything I stand for so clear.”
Rachel: Thank you so much Lexx, for taking the time to answer these questions and sharing your personal journey with us.
I had the great pleasure of visiting The Dandelion and trying their famous Chik-Tan and Waffles that Lexx said was one of their best sellers and now I know why!
This dish is the perfect blend of sweet and savoury. It is a southern-fried seitan with maple-syrup infused waffles topped with the most delicious vegan gravy I have ever tasted. I ate a lot more than I probably should have but it was so tasty I couldn’t stop!
Not only does The Dandelion have a lovely variety of unique menu items it also has homemade cookies and pre-made sandwiches, made by Beetroot, if you want a quick grab-and-go meal.
This is a great spot that I know many, myself included, will visit on a regular basis!
Lexx, thank you very much to you and your business partners for opening The Dandelion, which I am sure is already becoming a community favourite. I can tell you are all an inspiration to those who know you and to many who choose to live meatless.
If you would like to meet Lexx and the team at The Dandelion and enjoy their delicious food please visit them at 1048 8 St SE, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
You can also view their website at http://www.thedandelionyyc.ca.
If you would like to share your story of Living Meatless please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear your story and feature you on an upcoming episode of Living MeatLESS Tales.
Until next time…
May the magic of Living MeatLESS bring you a lifetime of health abundance.
Rachel Joy Olsen, BSc., MBA
Author, Health & Wellness Coach