Savor pasta dishes. Chow some barbecue specialties. Nibble on sweet desserts. Yes, hungry people can satisfy all their cravings at this weekend’s PHX Vegan Food Festival. And chefs say they can’t wait to introduce people to a tasty world of flavors and ingredients during a series of festival cooking demonstrations.
Chef Dustin Harder is the founder and host of the online show Vegan Roadie. He has a set of wheels, a sense of adventure, and a mission to “keep it vegan while on the go.” His show takes YouTube viewers on the road to food destinations — from New Orleans to Sicily.
He says his demo is all about getting people excited about food.
“The first demo is going to be a fun-due party and I'm spelling it with an 'f-u-n,'” Harder says. “Essentially, we're going to do some breakfast potatoes and I'm gonna show them how easy it is to do this really simple coconut cheddar fondue. It's very decadent and luscious.”
Harder is also working on a new book of recipes called Epic Vegan: Quick and Easy.
“These are absolutely meals that are quick and easy. You can get them out on the table for a weeknight or a party,” he says. “There’s a loaded sheet pan nachos. There's a one-pot mushroom tetrazzini that's super-delicious. There's some really great burgers in there, like a Reuben burger and an easy peasy, olive burger.”
Chef Jason Wyrick helped put vegan cuisine on the map in Phoenix. He launched Vegan Taste, a meal delivery operation that serves customers from Apache Junction to Anthem. He also opened Casa Terra in Old Towne Glendale in 2019, which happens to be Arizona’s first fine-dining vegan restaurant.
“Almost everybody orders a taco trio,” Wyrick says of Casa Terra's patrons. Diners have a chance to order from a selection of taco fillings including mesquite-smoked barbacoa mushrooms and tempura artichokes. “We do fine dining, but they go away full,” he adds.
Wyrick plans on showing people how to make one of the moles from Casa Terra during his festival demo.
Chef Madelyn Pryor started her career in vegan cuisine by working as Wyrick’s apprentice. She's also a co-founder of Vegan Taste.
She says she started eating vegan food 15 years ago.
“I went vegan because I was always looking for the next fad diet — Atkins, Weight Watchers — you name it. I tried it,” Pryor says. Then she found a vegan cookbook in the cooking section of a bookstore. “I never went back. It’s such an easy way to eat without it being a diet. It became a lifestyle. Then there are the health benefits. And the health of the environment and animals. It’s hard to not be vegan once you start.”
Pryor says she wanted her demo at the festival to reflect her crazy, healthy life.
“I’m going to show you how to cook two full meals in 30 minutes,” Pryor says. “You will have two pots on your burners and end up with two dishes. So if you’re busy and feeling harassed, like a mom, this is a great demo for you. And they’re popular with my meat-eating friends. I can entertain with these dishes and people don’t feel deprived.”
The PHX Vegan Food Festival 2020 is from noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday, February 29, at Margaret T. Hance Park. You can find the festival entrance at Moreland and Second streets. Tickets are $29 online and kids under 12 are free.
For more information, see the PHX Vegan Food Festival website.