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    Interview with LA's Word of Mouth Vegan Food Truck

    Interview with LA's Word of Mouth Vegan Food Truck

    If you're vegan in Los Angeles right now, chances are you've heard of the new vegan food truck in town, Word of Mouth. They only started hitting the streets of LA last month and already they've got a huge following. It's easy to see why though—with a menu full of crave-able, distinctive vegan dishes like onion-ring-topped cheeseburgers, a Chick'n sandwich build around a thick fried cauliflower steak, and fried mac + cheese bites and some solid, fun branding on the truck, they've hard to miss and easy to love. We thought we'd get the low-down on the origins of the truck, so we talked recently with the couple behind it, Chris + Staci (pictured above, left-most, with Staci's sister to the right).

    Troy: Alright, first off, introduce yourselves—who are the masterminds behind Word of Mouth?

    Chris: Hi! We are Chris Chavez and Staci Stewart, the duo behind Word Of Mouth Truck.

    So where did the idea for starting up a vegan food truck come from int he first place?

    Staci: As vegans, we were tired of attending events around Los Angeles where we couldn't find any viable options to eat. As a Chef, Chris explained to me how rare it is to find a restaurant that does not cross-contaminate, which always left us feeling uncertain. We knew we couldn't be the only hungry vegans at these events and wanted to change that! This is what sprouted the seed of bringing veganism to the streets.

    Well, I think it's safe to say the vegans (and non-vegans) of Los Angeles thank you for doing so. Why a truck though? Why not a brick-and-mortar?

    Staci: We love the idea of spreading the word of good food while promoting a vegan lifestyle. We believe that getting out to different areas in the city helps to start a dialogue with people who may have not be open to the idea of going out of there way to experience plant-based food. We would also love to grow into a brick-and-mortar in the future!

    For those of us not versed all the work that goes into what you have to do to start up a food truck and get square with the city on regulations, can you give us a brief run-down of all the work that went into it?

    Chris: How much time do you have‽ Honestly, we are still learning and we are less than a month old. The birth of Word Of Mouth Truck has been over a year!

    Yeah, I can only imagine it's a ton of work. Moving to your menu, I seriously had no idea that the Chick'n Sandwich (pictured below, Buffalo-style) was a fried cauliflower steak when I first had it—what's the secret in making that so awesome?

    Staci: We are so happy you like it! That is our favorite menu item and I seriously eat it everyday!! I would say what makes it so awesome is our unique batter. The blend of herbs and spices really bring out a resemblance of "chick'n" while not being a heavy processed faux meat.

    Yeah, it's seriously crave-worthy. Speaking of batters and the like, how do you get the outer part of the Mac + Cheese Bites (below) so crispy and keeping the inside so creamy + gooey?

    Staci: I'll let the chef answer this one...

    Chris: We make a cashew creme that we incorporate into the dish that helps it achieve the creamy/gooey consistency.

    Well, highest compliments to the chef. I think you menu's been pretty static since you started up a few weeks back—do you all plan to keep it that way or add new items as you go?

    Chris: At the moment the menu is pretty set. We do change up the sweets regularly and we definitely want to incorporate specials in the future.


    Anything you can tell us that we can look forward to?

    Staci: We are also constantly challenging ourselves to create unique meals using whole foods instead of the processed faux meats on the market. You can always keep an eye out for new creations on our social media (Instagram /Twitter/Facebook)

    Can do and will continue to do. So, how has it been going into business together? Do you all work well together? Does one person handle one thing and the other, other things?

    Staci: Going into business together has been great, because we are a couple we compliment each other well in different areas. Chris's background as a chef plays a huge role in the menu and day to day kitchen operations, while my acting background helps me when interacting with people daily, and keeping up with our social media. Its also nice to have a significant other who knows how hard you work and ultimately is working for the same goal.

    That's a great way to put it—Katie and I definitely do treat things in a very similar manner with our creative agency and with MooShoes, but it's hard not to take great working/living relationships for granted sometimes. Are you two native Angelenos?

    Chris: No, we are both from Columbus Ohio. We moved to Los Angeles in 2009 as an aspiring actor and chef, respectively.


    How you did you meet?

    Staci: Chris is a really awesome skateboarder and I was in the mist of learning how to skate. We met through friends but I think our first interaction was after I ate it on a half pipe. He came over to see if I was okay.

    Aw. And I'm kind of assuming you're both vegan—when did you each go vegan? And do you remember when you made the decision? Like, what led to it or caused that shift in thinking?

    Staci: Yes, we are both vegans. I remember when I decided to go vegan, from being a vegetarian. My sister and I started a plant-based diet together, so we could hold each other accountable and talk about the favorite products we found. I remember researching about animal testing and started to buy all cruelty-free products. I lost weight. People took notice and wanted to know what my secret was. I told them to "Go Vegan!" Chris went vegan last year but, prior to that, he had eaten a lot of vegan meals during our relationship.

    Chris: I was inspired by Staci. Whether it is going with her to protest the circus or fur-free Friday, her compassion for animals is electric. Also, after visiting Farm Sanctuary and meeting the animals, they reminded me so much of our two dogs and cat that I couldn't help but to reflect. I didn't want to contribute to anymore suffering. Thats when I gave it up for good.

    Yeah, it's hard not to be truly affected by these things once you start earnestly thinking about them. Years back, when we re-branded Farm Sanctuary, in fact, we had a similar experience of their message and work re-envigorating us and aligning our paths more.  You guys seem to have been going full throttle since you started, popping up all over the city, multiple times and places in the same day sometimes. I know you're in the grind phase where you're working hard to get your name out there right now and you're doing great, but do you all ever get a second off?

    Staci: It seems like there is never enough time in the day! We are a small operation at the moment, so we wear many hats. Sundays are usually our day off, unless we have an event. We enjoy spending time with our animals: Poochie, Luna, and Wizard, watching movies, working out, acting, and online gaming with friends.


    Any bit of advice for anyone hoping to start up a truck or restaurant in Los Angeles?

    Staci: DO IT! Keep in mind It takes a lot of research, hard work, and long hours but it's worth it. Being proud of something you created is an incredible accomplishment. A motto I like to use is: 'You never know unless you try.' So dream big and go for it!

    Nice. Do you all have long-term or bigger picture goals for the truck?

    Staci: Of course we can't wait to expand our reach throughout LA! We are really excited to share our passion with the community and look forward to where that takes us.

    That's great to hear. Design hat back on here: We totally love your branding and design—who did that?

    Staci: Thank you so much!

    Chris: Staci had a great vision of the brand we wanted to create. I'm really proud of her creativity and how she continues to think outside the box for all the small details tying everything together.

    Yeah, it so shows when care and a lot of thought is behind an element like the branding and presentation. And the name—where did it come from? What's the origin story?

    Staci: We were brainstorming ideas together... had a memory of a business my grandparents started 'Take a Look.' It was a classic car dealership and I always loved the name. Then Word of Mouth naturally just flowed from that, so I owe them a big thank you!

    I know you often don't know where you're going to be until day of, but any events you're doing coming up or scheduled stops that you can tell people about now?

    Chris: We will be at Vegan Street Fair in March. You can always check out Instagram daily for where we will be @wordofmouthtruck. And if anyone is interested in having us at their event you can e-mail us.

    Awesome. Thanks again for talking!

    Staci: Thank you so much for your support!

    Chris: Thank You!

    Interview with Aubry + Kale of the Herbivorous Butcher

    Interview with Aubry + Kale of the Herbivorous Butcher

    As promised, we intend to use this space for more than just highlighting vegan shoes; amongst other things, we also want to use this web journal to celebrate the work of some of our favorite vegan businesses and business owners. First up, an interview I did with brother + sister duo, Aubry + Kale, of Minneapolis' Herbivorous Butcher, the first all-vegan butcher shop, focusing on small batch, meat-free vegan meats and dairy-free vegan cheeses. We got a chance to meet both Aubry + Kale at last year's Vegan Beer Fest/EatDrinkVegan and thought both they and the products they were putting out were great. Coming on the heels of them announcing a campaign to open a 100-acre animal sanctuary in Minnesota, we thought it'd be a good time to catch up with the two of them to find out more about the story behind their shop, its inspiration, and plans they might have for the future. 

    Troy: Alright, first thing's first, ya'll—how do a Minnesotan brother + sister duo come up with the idea to start up a vegan butcher shop?

    Aubry: I was vegan for a long time, since I was 14, then Kale grew up and saw how I wasn't eating meat. We're in Minnesota and hail from the island of Guam, and both places are super meat-heavy. Since I decided I didn't want to eat animals, it was a pretty seamless transition. I was so driven by the fact that I didn't want to impose cruelty on other creatures but I still wanted to eat meat. So I was eating all these plant-based meat products which sucked and were like hockey pucks, so I started making it myself. Then Kale started making it for himself too, and it was natural to make what we were hungry for. That's how we came up with the idea. It's a weird thing because sometimes I forget that the entire world doesn't eat the same things I do, so when I look at a non-vegan menu, I'll see "chicken" whatever and then I have to remind myself that it's not vegan. Owning this butcher shop is like being in a weird fairy tale land that hopefully won't be such a fairy tale for much longer.

    Man, it really doesn't seem that fabled land of easy, quality, cruelty-free living is getting closer to becoming a reality every day, doesn't it? I feel like there are so many new and better options for those of us who choose not to eat animals, whether you live in a big city or not. Now, I assume you two get along pretty well given that you chose to go into business together, but is it still a little weird, working as sister + brother?

    Kale: It's pretty natural. We're two sides of the same coin. We finish each others'.... pretty well.

    So we shouldn't be concerned about that promo shot with the knives; good. I've only been to your fine city once—in the summertime—but did you all have any concern about the community supporting the concept? It's not the 90s or anything when you had to constantly explain what vegan meant, but it's still admittedly a pretty niche industry. Is there a big vegan community in the City of Lakes?

    Aubry + Kale

    Kale: We figured if we could make it here, we could make it work anywhere. And it is working here. When we started, we weren't planning on moving anywhere. We like it here, but we were still hungry so we were going to make it anyway. The vegan community is growing quickly. It's small but passionate. Every year you see more vegan-friendly businesses popping up, and the future is bright.

    That's awesome to hear. Any area vegan or vegan-friendly establishments you can give shout-outs to that you like?

    Aubry: Our one super awesome all vegan restaurant, Reverie, is wonderful. Their pictures of sweet treats on social media make me drool every morning. We don't have a lot of all vegan establishments, but I love Ethique Nouveau. They have the best products—from lipstick to t-shirts to purses and vegan snacks—that you can't get anywhere else in town. My third has yet to open, but I've been waiting for months and months and months for J. Selby's, which is an all vegan restaurant in St. Paul. It's not too far from my house so I can't wait to be a regular there.

    Those all look/sound great. So, what's the general reaction been from non-vegans to your products? Are they like 'There's no meat in this meat? WHAT‽"

    Kale: A lot of people are pretty skeptical to start, like Guy Fieri, but they try it because they have a vegan partner or relative. Then they find that they can actually do it, like my dad who's cut out meat a few times a week. It's been overwhelmingly positive so far.

    kale + aubry with guy fieri

    You totally just name-dropped Guy Fieri—I like it. I also like this photo of you three. So, I know you all fund-raised for the shop with KickStarter, right? How was that experience overall?

    Aubry: The Kickstarter experience was kind of like, 'Everybody loves us! Everybody loves us! Oh my gosh, everybody hates us, what are we doing wrong?' And then we'd lose our hair and cry and then they would love us again. It was a really crazy roller coaster. It's a great thing because of awareness, and even though we needed the money, it was vital in increasing our exposure. It's important for young entrepreneurs to have a way to 'kickstart' their businesses. Kale and I had terrible credit and no savings, so Kickstarter was an incredible opportunity. Even though we didn't sleep for a month, it was a good experience overall and it helped us reach more people than we would have otherwise.

    That's great to hear and, yeah, seems like it turned out really well for you two. I feel like I've seen a lot of crowd-funded projects go unrealized over the years—many of which I've personally given to—so it's great to see such a huge success story. Sorry about the sleepless month of hair-pulling though. What was the reason behind wanting a brick-and-mortor shop, though, over, say, doing pop-ups or something mobile?

    Kale: We started the shop because we couldn't make enough to keep our customers happy working out of a community kitchen. That's really the only reason. We needed a spot that would allow us to keep up with the demand, and we always wanted a spot to call home.

    Makes sense. You mention in your marketing that your products are protein-rich + full of B-vitamins that are often absent in non-animal meats/meat alternatives. Can you explain that for those of us not as versed in the nutrient world?

    Kale: The B vitamins come from nutritional yeast, and we use a high protein wheat flour so it's all nutrient-rich, low fat, and of course zero cholesterol since there are no animal products.

    As you've already mentioned, your family is from Guam and I know you've talked before about how deeply cooking is rooted in that culture—for those of us less familiar with Guam, can you tell us what kind of food's common or popular there? And how did that inform what you're doing with the HB?

    Aubry: Growing up on Guam, I was a cute, rolypoly child. I wanted to eat everything. A typical after school snack was something like a ham and cheese sandwich, a large Dr. Pepper, and 3 doughnuts plus chicken noodle soup. I'd eat that after school in 2nd grade and I've always loved food. On Guam, they don't import a lot of vegetables that you see in the US, so I grew up eating a lot of meat and a lot of starch. I still do that now, only it's all vegan. So things have really stayed the same but nothing has to die for anything that I consume now.

    Great way to think about it. You guys do a porterhouse steak, right? What's that like and how do you make it?

    Kale: The steak has the same wheat base as most of our products but gets some extra treatment. We roll them out and it's baked, then boiled, then seared. It gets a little more TLC than some of the other products, but it's worth it. It's savory and has that iron flavor that you look for in a steak. All the heft, but none of that weird gristle.

    Sounds and looks really great from what I've seen online. How do you make your cheeses though and what's your favorite?

    Kale: The cheeses have a soy milk and coconut oil base. From there, we add different combinations of nutritional yeast, salt, herbs, spices, etc. to really create any flavor and texture you want. Vinegar and lemon juice can make firm and soft cheese. My favorite is the Garlic Pepper Havarti (pictured below); it's just so good. We roast the garlic and when I want something to put on crackers, it's always the Garlic Pepper Havarti.

    vegan garlic pepper havarti

    Yeah, it was a terrible idea to do this interview before lunch. We absolutely loved your vegan Double Down at Vegan Beer Fest/EatDrinkVegan (below)—any plans to make that part of your permanent menu?

    Aubry: It unfortunately is not feasible at the shop since we operate like a traditional butcher shop where everything is taken to go, and making the double down is very time consuming. So for now, we'll keep making the Italian Cold Cut and Turkey & Dill Havarti that Guy Fieri ate on Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

    vegan double down - raven + crow

    We get it—you guys know Guy Fieri. No, all kidding aside, that's awesome that they visited your shop on that show. Again, I feel like we're making a lot of headway in the mainstream. And sad news (for me) about the Double Down. But are there any other new products you're excited about possibly adding to your repertoire?

    Kale: We're more giving facelifts to existing recipes. Like we're looking into turning our Shredded Chicken into a Buffalo Chicken. There are some new things, though. We just discovered that we can make cheese in wheels so we can do pepper-crusted havarti or caraway-crusted cheddar, things like that. We're always trying to think of new things.

    Nice. So, you've touched on this a little bit, but can you both talk more to when and why you adopted a vegan lifestyle?

    Kale: I went vegan in 2012, and right now it's less about health, which is why I switched, and more about the environmental factors. Just look at the news—it's scary sometimes, and if I can do my small part to help, then there's no reason why I shouldn't.

    Aubry: I remember the moment I decided to go vegan when I was 14. I was working at a grocery store, saving money to buy a pair of leather shoes. I was bagging groceries, and the cashier had to put the meat in plastic bags because it was leaking blood. I remember putting it in the bag and thinking, 'Wow, that was alive once and this is disgusting. I don't know what I'm doing eating something that used to bleed because I bleed.' From that moment, I knew I needed to make a change and I knew that I didn't need animal products to be happy and healthy. I started reading Peter Singer books and learning about animal agriculture and that it wasn't cute cows standing in a pasture. I was really inquisitive and I think that's how a lot of other young people are these days.

    That's great. And I think it speaks to whole idea of there being so many different angles at which to arrive at an animal-free lifestyle, so many different, totally valid reasons to do so, and people like the two of you make it so much easier and more fun, there's really no reason not to go vegan.... HEAR THAT WORLD‽ Changing tracks and putting my design hat back on for a brief moment, who did your logo? We dig it.

    Kale: We had a woman just out of college design it, but we're actually in the process of working with a local branding company on a brand refinement. So THB will be getting a little facelift soon!

    Oh, that's exciting. We'll keep our eyes peeled. So, I totally want to come by your shop, but in the meantime and for those of us who don't live in the Twin Cities area, can we look forward to you all doing more fests or any pop-ups in the coming months? Or any plans to have anyone carry your stuff outside'a MN?

    Aubry: Events like EatDrinkVegan are a huge undertaking for our small staff, so we'll be sticking close to home this year. We are always open to new wholesale partners, and already wholesale to a couple places outside of the state. And of course, we have nationwide shipping options on our website.

    Awesome. Well, thanks to you both for taking the time to do this interview. And hope to see you in Los Angeles again soon!

    Editor's note: In the time between conducting this interview and posting it, it's been announced that MooShoes NYC's soon-to-be-opened sister shop, Orchard Grocer, will be carrying Herbivorous Butcher products right next-door to MooShoes on the lower east side. So stay tuned for opening announcements in the very near future.

    Blog is the New Black

    Blog is the New Black

    Hey, MooFriends. 

    Remember when blogs were the cool new thing? When everyone had a blog, and they were like 'You should check out my blog!' and they totally all looked really, really rough and were covered in terrible banner ads and had addresses like awesomeblog.blogspot.web.net?

    Well. We've got a blog. You know this. You're currently 'on' said blog. You're reading it. Right now.

    Man. This is getting really meta.

    Anyway, we're trying to bring this blog thing back; make it cool again (was it ever cool, really?). We'll do it without the random terrible ads; we'll call it a web journal, because that sounds classier; we'll write about all things vegan—food, awesome animals we love, and, of course, shoes. We'll profile vegan lines of shoes and other products and talk to vegan business owners of all sorts—movers and shakers in the ever-growing world of compassionate living that seems to be entering a golden age of sorts. Like our store, it'll exist less to sell things and more to make it easy and fun to cruelty-free and animal-friendly.

    Sometimes these blog posts/journal entries will be by me—Hi. I'm Troy, creative director at MooShoes, store-runner of the Los Angeles location, and founder and creative director at raven + crow studio, longtime creative agency and designers for MooShoes; sometimes they'll be written by Katie, my partner in all of the aforementioned roles (and in life, not to get mushy or anything); sometimes they'll be written by Neysha, MooShoes' brand manager, or Erica or Sara Kubersky (who started MooShoes way back in 2001), or someone else in New York or Los Angeles.

    Regardless of who's writing, we'll do our best to keep things relevant and interesting. Stay tuned for much more substantive pieces in the very near future and thanks for reading this far, you're the best.