Today is MeatOut Day, which is a day that celebrates plant-based diets in various cities across the United States. The city of Philadelphia* has even proclaimed March 20th as a day to explore the vegan diet and to refrain from eating meat.
Instead of featuring just one badass female chef today, I’m featuring the many badass VEGAN female chefs we have in our area — and this list is ever growing! In fact, as a result of starting this piece, I’m learning about so many more vegan chefs. I’m not vegan (sorry!) so please forgive me that I didn’t previously know about some of these amazing ladies before. My eyes are so wide-opened right now. We are so blessed to have so many diverse vegan chefs in this area who are doing so much to promote a plant-based way of eating!
Please note: this is still very much a work in progress and isn’t comprehensive at this time. I’m receiving emails and messages from people introducing me to even MORE lovely women vegan chefs. I promise I will add them as quickly as possible. I don’t want to leave anybody out! Thank you for your patience. 🙂
These ladies are all rad because they are extremely passionate about advocating plant-based eating. They continually raise the bar for vegetable-focused cuisine and vegan cooking education in Philadephia. I appreciate their commitment to spreading the word about vegan food.
Alice Leung is the chef-owner of Soy Cafe, a cozy coffee shop offering lots of savory and sweet vegan & veggie options, plus all-day breakfast, in Northern Liberties. She opened Soy Cafe nearly 15 years ago, long before vegan became a real trend in Philly!
Andrea Kyan is the owner of organic, plant-based, and gluten-free eatery Pure Sweets & Company in Rittenhouse Square. Originally from New Jersey, this former medical school student adopted a plant-based diet in 2007 and hasn’t looked back. Her desire to help others eat better and live a more healthy lifestyle led her to create Pure Sweets & Company which offers a breakfast/lunch menu, dinner menu, dessert menu, and a brunch menu on the weekends that is a hit for vegans and non-vegans alike. She’s also developed her own line of cold-pressed juices made to order.
Atiya Ola is the visionary behind Spirit First Foods, a cozy all-day cafe offering a vegan-heavy menu of made-to-order sandwiches, salads & wraps based in West Philadelphia. The Wilmington, DE native has been in business for over 10 years, recently moving to the Common Table incubator on 48th Street.
Beverly and Nyeisha Medley
Beverly and her daughter Nyeisha own and operate Germantown’s thrivingAll The Live, Philadelphia’s first Raw-Food Vegan Café, which has been in business since October of 2008. All of the food served at the eatery is soy-free and wheat-free as well. They have an extensive menu of salads, entrees, desserts, beverages, and soups (a few items are cooked) and offer space for private parties.
Drexel Hill, PA-based Charlene Nolan (also known as the Silver Haired Vegan) has been plant-based for about 10 years. What originally started as a way to lose weight (she lost 100 lbs!), it quickly became a way of life and her career focus. She is exclusively a vegan chef and health educator in the greater Philadelphia area. Char is a member of the Philadelphia chapter of Les Dames de Escoffier, a worldwide philanthropic society of professional women leaders in the fields of food, fine beverage, and hospitality.
South Jersey-based Christina of Cooking to Nourish is a plant-based chef, healthy food advocate, and a chef instructor at Camden County Technical Schools, JNA Institute of Culinary Arts, Atlantic Cape Academy of Culinary Arts, and other culinary arts programs in the region. You can find her teaching vegan cooking classes at Audrey Claire’s COOK on occasion as well. She’s also worked in the kitchens of Blackfish, Village Belle and Vedge restaurants in Philadelphia.
Fran Costigan is a self-employed culinary instructor, cookbook author, consultant, and native New Yorker who has recently made Philadelphia her home. The “Queen of Vegan Desserts” is internationally recognized as the innovative pioneering pastry chef who marries healthy eating with sumptuous tastes. Professional vegan pastry chef? Yeah, we need more those!
Kate Jacoby is co-owner, pastry chef, and Beverage Director of the growing vegetable restaurant empire behind Vedge, V Street, and Wiz Kid in Philadelphia and Fancy Radish in DC. Along with her husband Rich Landau, they have been leading the charge for plant-based dining in Philadelphia for almost 20 years. She is a James Beard Nominated Pastry Chef and Certified Sommelier as well as a public speaker and vegan cookbook author.
Lauren Hooks is the Director of Kitchen Operations for Vedge Restaurant Group. She still puts time in the kitchen, but more recently has been overseeing offsite operations and special projects for the company. When I asked Lauren what inspires her the most about running a vegan operation she said, “Making a difference, hands down. It’s really all about inspiring people to eat differently and pushing the envelope.” In the ten years she has been in the business she’s noticed that attitudes towards vegan dining have changed noting, “It’s a much easier sell now. The vegan food community has done great work.”
When you do a Google search for “Vegan chef Philadelphia” Lenka Zivkovic shows up high on page one. All of her social profiles are @VeganChefLenka. She’s definitely one of the more vocal proponents of living plant-based and waves the flag proudly. When she’s not cheffing at Plough and The Stars, she takes part in a wide range of vegan food events and offers vegan tastings throughout the city for her small vegan catering company Vegan Chef Lenka LLC.
Rachel Klein is the proprietor of Miss Rachel’s Pantry, a vegan catering company and small BYOB restaurant in South Philadelphia, home to prix fixe dinners and private parties. When she started her vegan food business in 2007, vegan dining in Philadelphia was a much different landscape. It has grown so much since those days, but her operation has always been a hit. I consider her one of the trailblazers in offering vegan options in Philly. Originally, she offered prepared vegan meals and vegan catering but has grown into a serious vegan brick and mortar business.
Vegan food on wheels? Yep, Ronda “Ronnie” Lewis is taking vegan food to the streets with vegan food cart Obsidian Eats. She’s been serving 100% soy free, plant-based healthy comfort grub at farmers markets and events across the city since 2017. How does a seitan cheesesteak sound? What about jackfruit chili? I could go for a fried oyster mushroom sandwich myself! The list goes on. Be sure to look out for this cart this Spring and Summer.
Shannon Roche and Meagan Benz
Shannon and Meagan are the co-owners of Crust Vegan Bakery, a woman-owned and operated business based in Manayunk. They’ve been in business since 2015 and growing quickly. They employ four other badass vegan baker babes. They specialize in wholesale vegan cakes, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and other sweet treats. They gaurantee you won’t tell the difference between regular desserts and vegan desserts.
Sherimane Johnson is the proprietor of not one, but two vegan food-based businesses – NightOwl Vegan and Naturally Sweet Desserts – which will be merged into one brick and mortar business in Kensington this year as a result of being one of the winners in Shift Capital’s Kensington Storefront Challenge. This former Type 2 diabetic has attributed a vegan diet to her health and it is her mission to making a plant-based way of eating more approachable.
These are just some of the badass ladies in the vegan food scene. If you know of any other plant-based female chefs that should be listed, let me know in the comments and I will be happy to put them on this list!