Welcome to this episode of Living Meatless Tales featuring Laine Fedrau and Darian Gustafson of Vegan Street. Be inspired as you are taken on an adventure of transformation and understanding as our guest shares his experience of making the switch to a plant-based lifestyle, building a business and inspiring others to do the same.
Who Are The Master’s Behind Vegan Street?
Vegan Street, which started as a food truck in 2018 and now with a location at Granary Road Farmer’s Market in Calgary, Alberta, was created by two people, Laine and Darian, with a great passion for food.
Laine went vegan almost six years ago, and has since then taken an active role in promoting the vegan lifestyle, from being on the board of original founders for VegFest Calgary, to running a socially conscious apparel line called Talk Vegan To Me Clothing.
She met Darian in the spring of 2015, who at the time had been vegetarian for six months.
Darian grew up in Nelson, BC. He has always cared about the food he puts into his body and has eaten mostly organic since day one.
Before opening Vegan Street, Darian was managing-partner at a restaurant in Calgary for eight years and while Laine was a server and bartender at a local Mexican restaurant.
They moved in together and developed a passion for pushing the envelope on vegan cooking. They constantly challenged each other in making dishes that were seemingly impossible to create with plants alone.
Now, they own and operate Vegan Street, which is committed to sourcing the best ingredients with the least pesticides, most nutrients, and smallest carbon footprint.
Living Meatless Interviews Vegan Street
Rachel: Thank you so much for taking the time to connect with me and share your story with our readers. Let me start by asking… why do you choose to eat a plant-based diet and how did you come to embrace a vegan lifestyle?
I gave up pork for about a month, until I realized that I didn’t want to contribute to the killing of any animal, regardless of whether I wanted them as a pet.
Darian became vegetarian in 2015 when he saw the shockingly human characteristics of a pig he saw on the internet.
It was the result of those breaking points, both of us started to do our research into the health benefits of the lifestyle and started to feel more energy from eating more plants.
We stay vegan because we love animals too much to eat them. They are sentient beings that deserve just as much right to life and freedom as humans.
Since we now know, from doing extensive research, that humans do not need to eat meat to survive, why would we choose to slaughter mass numbers of animals to feed the population? There are more plant foods now available to us than ever before so it makes no sense to eat meat.
On top of the fact that animals are just so darn cute, it turns out they aren’t all that good for us to consume either! Plants have all the nutrients (and more) that we need to live a thriving and healthy life. Science is proving that animal products actually contribute to some of humanity’s worst diseases, like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Finally, if our health is not of concern, the planet should be. Climate change is happening at an alarming rate. Our population is growing exponentially every single day. We simply do not have enough land mass to raise livestock to feed the earth’s population in this way.
Tack on the animals’ water consumption and waste creation, and we have a disastrous cocktail of events. If not for our health or the animals, no one can deny that we cannot sustain our population by eating animals. Something’s gotta give.”
Rachel: I agree. I educate people on health benefits of a plant-based diet all the time; however, not everyone sees the importance of this. However, it seems more and more people are becoming aware of the destruction the agricultural industry is having on the planet. it seems to me if we are not concerned about your plant, and aren’t making the changes necessary to protect it, we are going to be in big trouble.
Beside your love for animals and being vegan yourselves, what made you and Darian decide to open Vegan Street?
Laine: “We both have a passion for food; and vegan cuisine was an interesting challenge for us when we both went plant-based. It forced us to push the envelope of creating dishes with just as much flavour as dishes we loved in the past, but with only plants.
We also recognized the lack of fully-vegan options available in our city. Sure, you could walk in to any restaurant and piece together something vegan to order.
What we wanted was a food hub where you could walk up and have a multitude of delicious options to choose from that did not have to be modified or compromised in flavour.
Vegan Street food truck was born in the summer of 2018 in order to provide vegans with comfort food classics that were accessible at events, festivals or on the streets.”
Rachel: Your menu is amazing! How do you decide what items go on the menu? Who is responsible for coming up with the items?
Laine: “We spent the whole winter prior to opening the food truck testing recipes. We wanted to go for comfort and street food that a typical vegan didn’t get to indulge in or wouldn’t make for themselves on a regular basis.
Once we felt that we had a good compilation of flavour profiles and some winning dishes, we hosted a tasting panel with our closest friends and family.
We like to challenge ourselves by making dishes that even meat-eaters could enjoy without feeling like the dish is “missing something.” If we are happy with a recipe, we put it on as a feature for the week to see how the public feels about it. If it’s a hit, we add it to the menu!”
Rachel: What are your most popular menu items and why do you think customers like them so much?
Laine: “We have a few fan favourites. The burgers are always a big hit, especially the Mac Daddy Burger. What’s not to love about vegan mac and cheese, vegan bacon strips and caramelized onions on top of a fresh burger patty? Our house-made street sauce definitely gives this dish its character by adding a touch of zip to the rich toppings. Add some pickles for a fresh crunch and you have to perfect indulgent burger.
Non-burger menu items that customers love include the No-Fish Tacos, which were the most popular item in the summer. They offered a fresh Caribbean feel with guacamole, fresh red cabbage and mango salsa on top of crispy battered heart of palm. Heart of palm works so well here in place of fish, because it has a salty white flesh, with layers that flake like a fish fillet would. We top it with house-made chipotle aioli and a lime wedge to bring out all the flavours.
The BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Quesadilla is definitely a hit in the farmer’s market. We start with our own house-made tequila BBQ sauce, which is what we use to flavour the jackfruit. Next, we sauté onions, corn and black beans and place it all between two flour tortillas, with melted Gusta brand cheese. A chipotle drizzle and fresh cilantro sprigs top this dish for a delectable flavour explosion.”
Rachel: If a young person came to you looking for help about embracing a vegan lifestyle and you only had a few minutes to give him, or her, your best piece of advice, what would it be?
Laine: “Be kind and patient with yourself. You are on a journey, not arriving at a destination. It’s OK to make mistakes. As long as you have the right mind-set and are working towards aligning yourself with your values more and more everyday, that’s all that matters.
Don’t listen to what other people have to say if they are only saying it to protect themselves from facing a truth. You know in your heart what is right for yourself, the animals and the world.”
Rachel: Is there anything else you’d like to add to complete your story?
Laine: “We like to focus on the quality of the ingredients that we cook with. While we are not an entirely organic restaurant, we do work towards that goal every day. Our produce is sourced from Southern Alberta farmers, many of which are not certified organic, but are free of any pesticides, herbicides, and GMOs.
Supporting local business, whenever possible, is important to us. For example, our pop is brewed in Canmore, Alberta by Grizzly Paw Brewing Company; the kombucha is brewed in Calgary, Alberta by Happy Belly Kombucha; and the cheese use is from Gusta, which is a small Montreal-based company.”
Rachel: Thank you, Laine, for taking the time to answer these questions about your journey to Living Meatless and how your business, Vegan Street, is making vegan’s and non-vegan foodies happy with your comfort vegan eats.
It’s refreshing to see young people, like you, chasing your dreams and inspiring others to live a compassionate lifestyle by starting with their diet.
Keep up the great work and contributing to the change we all want to see in the world!
If you would like to learn more about Vegan Street and try some of their delicious menu items you can find them at a variety of places:
- Website: www.veganstreeteats.ca
- Email: email@example.com
- Facebook: @veganstreetinc
- Instagram: @veganstreeteats
- In the summer, you can find the Vegan Street food truck at various locations in Calgary, including the streets of downtown, at various breweries to events and festivals like Pride in the Park and VegFest Calgary.
- Year-round, you can find Vegan Street at Granary Road Farmers’ Market (Winter hours Friday 11-7, Saturday and Sunday 9:30-5:30; Summer hours Tuesday-Sunday times to be determined).
Until next time…
May you be the change you want to see in the world by starting with a compassionate, vegan diet.
Rachel Joy Olsen, BSc., MBA
Vegan, Author, Health & Wellness Coach
Read my “Frog Killer To Compassionate Vegan” story