The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog


Posted on January 05, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor


When I first declared myself vegan eleven years ago, the world was a different place. Going out to eat meant subjecting yourself to a dry salad with no croutons, and asking to hold the cheese. As of 2015, we have created a community that does not only accept veganism, but has entire restaurants dedicated to delivering the best products, freshest ingredients, and devotion towards dietary friendly meals. Being able to go out with your family and friends and order a three course meal with dessert is a dream that has become a reality.

For myself, I always wanted to be the one behind the kitchen walls creating decadent courses without having to ever learn how to cook a steak or crack an egg. Working in a strictly vegan restaurant can be very difficult, but also one of the most satisfying careers you can choose. I myself, have worked in multiple vegan establishments as a line cook, head chef, baker, pastry chef, barista, and bartender. Throughout my career, I have gathered questions from those interested in the field as well as filled with concern on how to make a living flipping veggie burgers and saying, are you ready for the check? I want to use my experience, both positive and negative, to influence others into following their dreams to becoming a vegan chef.

What is a chef?
People often use the term cook and chef interchangeably to describe someone in the back of the house. Chef is a title that you can achieve by obtaining a two to four year degree, where a cook is someone who prepares food in a kitchen without having any formal training. Becoming a chef is a bit more complicated than throwing on non slip shoes and showing up on time. The job is tiresome, with a minimum of eight hours on your feet, five to seven days a week. The job is tedious, with a revolving door staff, constant shift changes and training. Becoming a chef, a line cook, pastry chef, prep or even assembler can consume your life. With the negative side out of the way, there is something new to look forward to almost every single day in the kitchen. Experimenting with recipes, ordering new ingredients and products world-wide, becoming friends with your co-workers, and learning the vast knowledge they have to offer as well as a chance to prove yourself on every dinner plate. Those eight hours a day begin to fly by with wanting to stay late in order to help with the brunch rush or come in early to see this season’s beet shipment. Covering shifts, starts to mean more to you than money in your pocket, but joy that you will have more time in your home away from home. When the back of the house becomes tiresome, or if it is not your cup of tea from day one, there are ways to expand to the front of the house.

The food industry is forever changing, always at full speed and offering new positions every day. The work environment does not have to be in a restaurant; it can be in a bakery, a coffeehouse, a hotel, a bed and breakfast, and extend to wherever food is being sold. Being a chef, a professional cook, has endless possibilities that are worth ditching your personal life and free time for.

How is being a vegan chef different?
Although, for most vegans or vegetarians this question may seem unnecessary, it is something to consider before committing to your new career. As a vegan chef, your choices of restaurants to be employed at are cut in half and more. Refusing to work with meat, eggs, and dairy might not work unless you are applying for a position at a strictly vegetarian/vegan restaurant. Luckily, the world is changing. Today, more US residents are living the vegan lifestyle and new upcoming establishments are popping up left and right. When I was fourteen years old, living in New Hampshire, there was one vegetarian restaurant in the entire state, about an hour and a half away from my house. Without means of transportation, and a family who didn’t enjoy traveling; I was out of luck. Once you find your dream work destination, the fun really begins.

Working as a vegan baker, chef, or in the front of house, you are committing to more than just a new job but to supporting a very important cause. By working among other vegans, you are opening your eyes to the opportunity of growth. In your career you will learn how to take your skills to the next level by not only caring for the products you are producing but the lives you are saving by nourishing others and allowing them to learn how delicious vegan treats are. Working together we can make a difference, one plate at a time. You gain the knowledge to be able to substitute for dietary restrictions. Your knowledge of nutrition will help you understand when to consult customers who have allergies with certain foods, questions that you need to triple check the answer on and providing others with smiles after eating a delicious meal. The job will be difficult on you mentally and physically but there are some things you can do in preparation.

I work in a kitchen; Now what?
The hours are long, your back is killing you, the shoes are two sizes too small, and worst of all it’s over 100 degrees in the summer and you are dressed head to toe in chef whites. It takes time to truly get in your field and embark on your new journey. Before you throw in the apron and quit after a hard first week, there are some things you can do in preparation.

1. Become confident. Practice at home, take a night class, and study from magazines and cookbooks. I understand you just spent a lot of money on college, or that you just received a job that is working you to the bone but practice does make perfect.

2. Love what you eat; love what you make. If you are a healthy eater, do not work with cheesy pizza (even if vegan) and greasy fries. Make what you enjoy, so you are able to put your whole heart into what you love. As a pastry chef, I am not a huge fan of decorating cakes, and one of my first jobs was a cake decorator. I found myself clocking in and out as the shift was scheduled and running out the door and dreading the next day. Once I left that job and found a kitchen that challenged me, and produced more than just cakes, my attitude lifted and I was able to love my work. I brought work home with me, in a positive way. I went to work smiling, and arrived early and volunteered to stay late. Work where you love.

3. Have a passion for working in the kitchen. If you switch from job to job, and you are not getting a great sense of willingness, it’s time to quit. Not everyone can be a chef. It takes dedication, and obsession with new flavors, trends and becoming a foodie. If you are finding yourself not interested in the culinary arts, it is ok! You can still find another career. Try working in the front of the house, with the accounting or in management. You have your entire life to figure out what you want to be when you grow up. If your degree says one thing, but your heart says another, follow your heart till you are able to find happiness and a steady income.

4. Understand going from start to bottom. There is no shame in graduating with a degree and walking into a kitchen as less than the head chef. The kitchen you walk into is going to have employees who have been working there way up to head chef or executive manager. People who work hard are promoted, but they started from making appetizers, soups, and cold dishes. When you have worked your way up to line cook and sous chef, you are working for your manager. All the work you do is directly being watched by the owner or the manager of the restaurant. When the manager witnesses your hard work, they are going to be the ones directly complimenting your work and promoting you. The harder you work, the most likely you are to understand, and love your position at work.

5. Stay on top of your field. Always search the internet for what’s hot, what’s not and what’s trending. Read cookbooks, watch cooking shows, and visit restaurants near and far. The best thing you can do to feel comfortable in your field, is to be on top of your game. While visiting a new eatery, order small plates and lots of them in order to fully grasp a feel on their style and product. Once you feel comfortable in your field, it will show in your work.

6. The last bit of advice is networking. Become involved in the culinary field and in as many organizations as your can. Become Servsafe certified, Allergen Certified, American Culinary Federation, Personal Chefs Association of America, Women in FoodService, etc. These will look great on your resume as well as give you a safe, professional place, to go when you have questions. Show up at local food competitions, vegetarian food festivals, follow local chefs on social media, local markets, farmers markets, co-ops, community kitchens, gardens, and stores that cater to the vegetarian lifestyle. Having friends and role models within your city can help you find a job or keep you invited to local events. Networking is very important.

How to really survive the life as a chef
Take a deep breath; the hard work is almost over. You have your job, you have the skills, you are practicing, studying and networking before, during and after work, and most of all, you are happy. There are a few final things to consider during your career as an industry vegan chef. One of the largest questions I receive is how do I make an honest living wage. Starting from the bottom and working your way up, means starting with a small pay check and working your way up in salary. Most vegan establishments are currently privately owned, and pay a living wage but not enough to pay off your culinary school loans on top of your rent. While this is the case, pick up as many hours as possible or a second job. This is not ideal, but it will keep you driven and on top of your payments. Consider paying your loans through a system that measures your paycheck and takes a percentage. As your pay goes up, the loan company will take more from your check until you are at a stable salary where you can pay the monthly minimum while still putting food on the table. The industry is always growing and rapidly changing.

Never be afraid to change jobs due to a better offer, or an opportunity to perfect your skills. With having your mind at ease when it comes to money and where you need to work, the last bit of advice I have is work as hard as you can for as long as you can. When I started in the industry, I worked seven days a week with no social life to be where I am today. In my current management position I have a steady five day a week work life where I am able to take days off, and pay my loans monthly. I have time for friends and family, even if at one time I did not. I am 24 years old, and a proud vegan chef who gets to go to work everyday with ingredients I care about while saving hundreds of animals’ lives. I am excited for my growth in the industry and understand I have a long way to go, and I am more than happy to go along for the ride. I encourage everyone to work in the industry as a vegan chef to inspire vegans everywhere to eat fresh and eat plenty!

For more information, see:

The Vegetarian Resource Group is looking for Volunteers who are Fluent in Spanish

Posted on January 04, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor


The Vegetarian Resource Group has numerous veggie materials written in Spanish on our website. See:

We’d like to continue adding more Spanish information; however, we’re in need of volunteers who are able to proofread Spanish materials and give feedback if edits need to be made. Let us know if you’re are able to volunteer by emailing Thanks!

Last Chance to Support The Vegetarian Resource Group in 2015!

Posted on December 31, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor


Please consider donating $25, $50, or $100 to The Vegetarian Resource Group so we can continue promoting the veggie message for years to come. Better yet, become a Life Member for $500! Your support and kind words are greatly appreciated. Happy 2016!

To donate, visit:

More Vegan Restaurants Added to The Vegetarian Resource Group’s Online Guide to Vegan/Vegetarian Restaurants in the USA and Canada

Posted on December 31, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor


The Vegetarian Resource Group maintains an online Guide to Vegan/Vegetarian Restaurants in the USA and Canada. Below are some recent additions. The entire guide can be found here:

eLOVate Vegan Kitchen & Juicery
1705 Ocean Ave.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
eLOVate has an eclectic menu featuring a number of dishes ranging from classic cafe cuisine to creative fusion dishes. Check out popular items like the Jackfruit Tacos or the Crabless Cakes. Or opt for a flight of cold pressed juices. Be sure to look into the desserts as well. Free parking available with validation. Accepts reservations.

Gnome Café
109 President St.
Charleston, SC 29403
Simple design gives Gnome Cafe a fresh and clean atmosphere. From the look of it, you might expect to find a lot of salad on the menu. You’d be wrong! This menu is chock full of comfort food. For breakfast (which is served all day) have a burrito, a fresh bagel, pancakes, a hemp sausage biscuit, or the southern grit bowl. For lunch you’ll see options from all over the map including taco salad, pad Thai, the bulgogi Korean bowl, or go all-American with a Reuben or a buffalo fried chicken sandwich. Sides include mac and cheese, onion rings, and Brussel sprout slaw.

Homegrown Smokehouse and Deli
1628 SW Jefferson St.
Portland, OR 97201
This unique smokehouse and sub shop is complete with a deli counter stocked with an array of homemade, sliced “Schmeats” which you can purchase by the pound! There’s smoked “Be-If”, smoked salami, smoked pastrami, and maple ginger “H-Yam”. They also have a variety of sides, just as you would find in any deli counter, such as slaw, potato salad, beans, and their own “creamy mac-noncheese”. Sandwiches include standards like the “Philthy Nocheese Stake”, a take on the Philly cheese steak, and originals like the “Macnocheeto Burrito”. In answer to your next question: Yes, it’s a mac and cheese burrito.

icreate Café
130 King St.
Pottstown, PA 19464
iCreate café is the perfect place to hang out. Not only are they a café, but they also have movie nights, live musicians, and computer training classes available. They are well known for their vegan food and organic coffee. Some of the available vegan dishes include veggie Paninis, falafel wraps, and a platter of hummus and baba ghanouj with pita and veggies. They also offer vegan ice cream and other desserts. If you are looking for some entertainment and good food this is the perfect café to visit.

Purple Sprout Café
341 E Dundee Rd.
Wheeling, IL 60090
The Purple Sprout offers a wide selection of vegan fare with many gluten-free and raw options. For breakfast, stop in for crepes filled with either fruit or a chickpea and vegetable scramble. The lunch/dinner menu offers interesting selections such as the raw cashew and basil pizza, or the black bean and hemp burger. In addition, be sure to see what is available in their constantly changing deli and hot food cases. They offer a wide range of desserts, many of which are also raw. At the juice bar you will find an amazing array of fresh juices, juice blends, smoothies, and shots.

Sugar Plum Sweet Shop
324 15th Ave. E.
Seattle, WA 98112
Part of Seattle’s well know “Plum Restaurants” family of vegan establishments, Sugar Plum is located in the Capitol Hill area and offers vegan soft serve ice cream with a selection of cones and toppings, as well as brownies, cookies, cupcakes, muffins, tarts, and other baked confections.

High School Seniors: Apply for Vegetarian Resource Group College Scholarships Today!

Posted on December 30, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor


If you are a High School Senior who promotes veganism/vegetarianism on an ongoing basis, or if you know a student who is doing this, please let them know about The Vegetarian Resource Group College Scholarship Contest. Each year, The VRG offers three scholarships to graduating High School Seniors – Two $5,000 scholarships and one $10,000 scholarship.

Applicants will be judged on having shown compassion, courage, and a strong commitment to promoting a peaceful world through a veggie diet/lifestyle. Payment will be made to the student’s college (U.S. based only). Winners of the scholarships give permission to release their names to the media. Applications and essays become property of The Vegetarian Resource Group. We may ask finalists for more information. Scholarship winners are contacted by e-mail or telephone. Please don’t forget to look at your e-mail.

Entries may only be sent by students graduating from high school in spring 2016. Deadline is February 20, 2016. We will accept applications postmarked on or before February 20, 2016. Early submission is encouraged. For details on these scholarships, and to see information on previous winners visit:

If you would like to donate to additional money to go towards VRG scholarships or internships, go to

Support The Vegetarian Resource Group – Become a Monthly or Quarterly Donor!

Posted on December 30, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor

The Vegetarian Resource Group is an activist non-profit organization that does outreach all-year-long. We table at different events through the USA and also send literature free of charge to other groups/individuals doing educational activities in schools, hospitals, camps, restaurants, libraries, etc. around the country. Our ability to continue doing this depends on people like you! Your donations allow us to promote the vegan message whenever we’re called upon for assistance. Please consider becoming a monthly or quarterly donor to VRG. Thanks so much for your support. You can become a monthly or quarterly donor online here:

Donation-Tips 4

Please Show Your Support Today for all the Good Work The Vegetarian Resource Group Does Year-Round

Posted on December 29, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor


2015 has been a very productive year for The Vegetarian Resource Group. Here’s a sampling of some of our accomplishments and outreach:

- VRG’s Food Service Advisor Chef Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD continues to work on amazing projects including going on a cruise with a Navy ship returning from Hawaii to Los Angeles and working with the food service specialists on board to incorporate vegan options into the available on-board foods and beverages. Nancy also did some kosher vegan menu planning and prep demos at the Long Beach, CA senior center and she is teaching several online college courses that incorporate vegetarian nutrition and culinary arts. Nancy’s Vegan in Volume published by VRG has been distributed to thousands of food service personnel in different settings.

- We continue to work with numerous High School and College interns in our Baltimore office as well as long distance (including overseas) throughout the year. VRG Nutrition Advisor Reed Mangels, PhD, RD, mentors the interns who are interested in pursuing a career in nutrition. VRG staff also works with students that are majoring in Journalism, Business, and other subjects. These young adults are the future of the vegan movement and we should all be excited about what they will bring to the cause once they graduate.

- The Vegetarian Resource Group assists media (print, web, radio, tv, etc.) including US News and World Report for an article titled “What are Mistakes that New Vegetarians Make?”, Today’s Dietitian for an article on Vitamin B12, CafeMom for a piece on vegan pregnancy and feeding vegan infants, Family magazine for an article about children who choose veggie diets and what parents should know, The Bulletin in Bend, OR for an article about vegan diets, Food Technology Magazine asked VRG about the vegan market for a piece, CBS News interviewed Vegetarian Journal Senior Editor Samantha Gendler about vegan market trends, etc.

- VRG has done numerous outreach booths including at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in Atlanta, GA, Valley VegFest in Northampton, MA, Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, MD, San Francisco, CA VegFest, Animal Rights Conference 2015 in the DC area, Charlottesville and Richmond, VA VegFests, Vegan SoulFest in Baltimore, MD, etc.

- We provide vegan handouts free-of-charge for outreach in a wide variety of locations including doctor’s offices, libraries, a cruise ship, college and high school campuses, dietitians and nurses offices, a canine carnival, church health fairs, a Halloween party, Meat-Out Day and Earth Day celebrations, animal rights conferences, food pantries, World Food Day events, hospitals, etc.

Your support is greatly appreciated! Please donate to The Vegetarian Resource Group at:

Makers of Girl Scouts Cookies Promoting Some as Vegan

Posted on December 29, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor

Get this! The makers of Girl Scout cookies are promoting some cookies as vegan.

ABC Smart Cookies, an official Girl Scouts of America vendor, are advertising four of their cookie varieties as “vegan” on their website. From their website FAQ: ABC has four vegan cookies in our product line: Lemonades™, Thanks-A-Lot®, Thin Mints, and Peanut Butter Patties®.


Little Brownie Bakers lists the thin mints as vegan on their website.


Please note that this is information from the bakers’ websites. VRG has not confirmed if the sugar used is vegan, etc. However, it is interesting the companies have gone out of their way to list these cookies as being vegan.


Posted on December 28, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor


Johnson and Wales University is a unique, first-of-its-kind, four year degree program that brings together culinary arts, nutrition, and food science to help expand your knowledge and turn your love for food into a career. I myself attended the four year JWU program receiving an associate degree in Baking and Pastry Arts, and then graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Food Service Management with a minor in Beverage Management.

During those four years, I also did the unthinkable: graduating culinary arts school without ever cracking an egg or my veganism. I currently work at Veggie Galaxy, a popular vegan diner in Cambridge, Massachusetts and as a manager of a coffee shop in Brookline, Massachusetts. Throughout my career as a vegan baker, a working member of the industry, and as a student I have faced many challenges, but overall my experiences have made me a better chef. I learned that despite working two jobs to support my loans and habit of eating out twice a week, culinary school helped me gain confidence in my field and gave me the real life experience I needed to become the vegan chef I am today.

Step One: Consider Culinary School
I did not always want to become a chef. It took me up until I applied to college to know that I was passionate enough to make a living out of playing with flour. I toured two separate colleges before making my final choice. The first school I toured laughed at the fact I would not work with animal products, announced me as a “hippie” in front of my tour group, and kindly informed me where the door was located. I was astounded, but not defeated. My second tour was in Providence, RI with Johnson and Wales. During this two day visit, I fell head over heels with the campus, the city, and a promise from the dean himself that I would not have to compromise my lifestyle to become a student. I filled out my application online at: and crossed my fingers. There are four locations to apply to: Providence, RI; Miami, FL; Charlotte, NC; and Denver, CO. The university reviews three references, academic records and achievements alongside the paper or digital application.

Step Two: Finances

Johnson and Wales tuition for undergrad starts at $29,226 with a mandatory orientation with a fee of $350. There is a suggested meal plan for a maximum of $4,236 per year. I would suggest having the meal plan for the first year if you are not local to the state which you are applying to. This is a guarantee that with or without a car or job you will have a place to eat and money set aside to eat three meals a day. Room and board, which is required for year one and suggested for year two costs $13,500 dollars per year. Textbooks and uniform cost $3,000 per year. With all of these expenses, you will still need to consider transportation and unexpected life expenses. Once you apply and have been accepted to school, you need to learn how to juggle being a full time student as well as bringing home the tempeh bacon.

Step Three: Schedule and Real World Experience
Most culinary labs start in the morning between 5-6:00 a.m. and end at 2:00 p.m. or are night labs which begin between 1-2:00 p.m. and end at 9:00 p.m. Each of these labs last between seven to twenty-one days, four days a week and include projects, exams, quizzes, and final evaluations. Balancing school, a job to pay for expenses, and a social life can be difficult. This schedule serves as training for what the food industry will be like when you have finished college. In the restaurant business it is rare to get two consecutive days off in a row, to be able to make plans that do not have to be rescheduled due to a busy brunch or a late dinner service, and have spare change in your pocket. Most restaurants get the majority of their customers during a busy dinner service, where turnover can range anywhere from two to ten times in one night depending on the establishment. Johnson and Wales gives you the opportunity as a freshman to decide whether or not this is a commitment you are willing to make before jumping straight into chef whites at your place of employment. If you find out that standing on your feet for eight to ten hours a day is not for you, you still have time to switch to another major or find a concentration that better fits your lifestyle.

Surviving Labs and the Industry as a Vegan Chef
From a purely shallow perspective, culinary labs took some serious adjustments. I traded in my skirts for checkered drawstring pants and band t-shirts for starched white chef coats. My long hair was tied up and shoved under a hat and not a single drop of makeup could be seen on my face causing me to learn quickly how to properly do my eyebrows without the help of coverup. Labs are stressful, with hours on your feet, surrounded by students whose knowledge are vast and all learning the same curriculum. My advice comes from personal experience but I think it’s best to take each lab and each teacher as a different experience:

1. Get your own chef shoes! The ones they hand out with the uniform are made from leather. You can find vegan nonslip shoes that fit the criteria and are comfortable at Payless Shoe Store for under $40.00.

2. Inform your professor that you are vegan. Make sure to strictly tell your chef what you cannot eat and what you will not be working with during the duration of your lab. Just because they work in the food service industry does not mean they understand veganism.

3. If your professor does not listen, make them. Most of these chefs are classically trained, studied and practiced in France, making them under the assumption there is no way to bake without the use of full fat butter or lard. If you have any problems with your chef not providing you appropriate materials or a grade that does not reflect your work, go directly to the Dean of the school.

4. Do not be afraid to tell others why you’re using different products or not tasting the Madeline cookies they made in class. This is your chance to teach veganism to your classmates and show them just how great vegan products taste.

5. Research your classes and professors and speak to your classmates about what ingredients are used in your upcoming class so you can get a head start on asking for the same products made vegan. For example: if you are attending a chocolate lab, find out if the storeroom (the school grocery store) has dark chocolate that is dairy-free. The less help the professor needs to give you, the more likely they are willing to.

6. Be confident and have fun! Just because you may feel like the odd person out, don’t! There is nothing wrong with being vegan and getting the education you deserve. These labs are not easy, but once you graduate you will be walking out classically trained, with experience in standing on your feet in sweaty hot or freezing cold conditions while producing the best quality of pastries in a time frame that seems unmanageable.

Surviving being Vegan in and out of the Dorm
Eating in the Cafeteria: A small handful of universities provide vegan-friendly meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and unfortunately Johnson and Wales is not one of those schools. After spending a hunk of dough on the meal plan, you should be able to eat more than just a salad. If you are going to continue eating at the cafeteria, my best advice is to bring plastic lunch bags to each meal. While the salad bar and trail mix might not seem appealing during your meal, these are snacks that will be a healthy treat during your midnight study break. There is always fruit for the taking as well as bagels
and English muffins in most dining halls. When you arrive for breakfast, bring your own soymilk and head over to the cereal bar, same with dressing for the salad bar during your lunch break. These are small touches you can make on the cheap and will help improve the pathetic options the cafeteria has in store for you. Lastly, ask the staff. Most of the time the food is made by students meaning that they have the ability to make you a cheese-less pizza or a vegan veggie sub, as well as tell you which steamed veggies are 100% dairy-free on the hot meal bar. In my experience I have found it very helpful and the staff feels nothing but happiness when they are able to help you find the perfect meal to keep you satisfied.

Eating in the Dorm: Most halls do not have a kitchen to cook in, and dorm rooms only provide and permit having a mini fridge, a microwave, and if you are lucky a coffee maker. With that being said, we are very lucky to be able to microwave rice, steam veggies, cook pasta, microwave frozen vegan dishes, boil water for coffee or tea, heat up soup and much more! It is very possible to make all of your meals and heat up leftovers in your tiny room for you and your four roommates. Make sure that you label your food as yours! Your roommates will most likely not be vegan and will have an easier time chowing down on burgers at the late night pub while you order French fries for the tenth time in a row. If your roommate does want to share food, suggest going grocery shopping together to ensure you will always have a full stock of treats. Foods to avoid are popcorn and Brussels sprouts.
Although both are tasty, both can leave a scent in the room that is unfriendly for your roommates and sadly can cause an argument. Lastly, do not wait on searching your city for the best vegan take-out that delivers and delivers late. It is nice to know after a seven hour lab, eight hours of work, and 5 hours of homework, you can have a tofu burrito with extra guacamole brought right to your dorm without moving a muscle.

After Graduation
Graduation comes far too quickly and the next steps are scarier than figuring out how to not stain your chef whites and which salad bar does not contain the chicken salad. Once you have graduated finding a job that supports your vegan lifestyle and will pay your loans can be difficult. Luckily Johnson and Wales allows you the opportunity to take two internships within four years and one can be the last three months before school is over. This is your chance to seal the deal on a job for after you graduate. I took a three month paid internship at Susty’s, a vegan restaurant in Northwood, NH. This internship was offered to me as paid, allowing me to be able to move closer to the job site. I learned how to utilize my skills as well as develop more real world experiences. The job was certainly not what school made it out to be. The chefs were not as mean, the environment was not as tense, and I did not need to show off as if my work was the only work worth eating because I was a graduate of the one and only Johnson and Wales. Within the misleading curriculum there was one thing that really stuck out which was that cooking slowly took over my life. The burn marks on my arms from saving cookie trays out of the oven or splatter burns from grease splashing out of the fryer from fresh made donuts, and cut marks on your arms from sloppy to improving knife skills, and eight hours of starvation during a busy rush on Friday night became a routine. With the emergency room visits and ditching plans with friends visiting from out of town, you still love your job. It is amazing to have friends, family, customers, and strangers come to you with love in their eyes begging for details on your glamorous education and dream job.
Working in a vegan kitchen after battling in a school filled with dairy lovers and meat heads, is a breath of fresh air. Culinary school can be seen like a drag after living your life in the green, but overall the experience is out of this world. The books you take home with you, the friends you bond with, and being able to experiment with ingredients that are found world-wide is something that you will never forget. School itself is very difficult, it can force you out of the industry or make you consider a career change, but during your stay at JWU you are able to choose a field that is meant for you. I am a happy, broke college graduate who is using the degree every single day as a head baker in one of the best vegan diners in Boston. I am using my minor in coffee and teas to manage and run a coffee shop where I am using my bachelor degree in Food Service Management to operate the shop Monday thru Friday. I am very lucky to have made the decision to attend four years in culinary school, where I found a new love for Providence and Chinese takeout. If you are considering culinary school go out and visit one, and fall in love just as I did. I have had struggles and it was not an easy road, but it is the path I will never turn back on. Study hard and cook on veggies!

For more information on JWU visit:

White Castle® Removes L-Cysteine from Veggie Slider Bun; Prompted by Vegans By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS

Posted on December 24, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor

White Castle, the oldest American hamburger chain begun in 1921 now with nearly 400 locations in twelve states, introduced a Veggie Slider in December 2014.

At that time and as late as early October 2015 when we checked White Castle’s website ingredient list, the bun on which it was served was not vegan. It contained sodium stearoyl lactylate (SSL); diacetyl tartaric acid ester of mono- and diglycerides (DATEM); enzymes and L-cysteine, all of which could be animal-derived. It also contained sugar which could have been processed through cow bone char. Here is the complete ingredient statement of the original White Castle bun:

Bun Ingredients: (bleached enriched wheat flour (malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, sugar, soybean oil, contains 2% or less of the following: yeast, salt, sodium stearoyl lactylate, diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides (DATEM), calcium sulfate, enzymes, ascorbic acid, potassium iodate, L-cysteine, azodicarbonamide (ADA).

White Castle stated that the original bun for their Veggie Slider was not vegan:

In response to vegans’ requests, White Castle changed its bun formulation. White Castle’s website stated it this way:

“We received great feedback from some in the vegetarian community requesting this. Since then we’ve been working on just that—a vegan bun. We made the decision to go ahead with the Veggie Slider with the possibility of a vegan bun and hope to offer one soon!”

Here’s White Castle’s Twitter feed on this topic at the Veggie Slider’s debut showing several vegan bun requests and the restaurant chain’s intention to create a vegan bun:

Here are the first online mentions of the vegan bun’s debut in restaurants. White Castle responded in the second link:

In December 2015 when The VRG reviewed the White Castle website for this article, the ingredient statement (posted with an effective date of October 2015) for the only bun appearing in the entire ingredient list read as follows:

Traditional Bun:

enriched bleached wheat flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, high fructose corn syrup, salt, soybean oil, contains 2% or less of each of the following: yeast, calcium stearoyl lactylate (CSL), guar gum, monoglycerides, monocalcium phosphate, sodium alginate, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), enzymes.

We note the absence of L-cysteine and sugar in the new bun in comparison with the original bun. L-cysteine is most often derived from duck feathers although non-animal-derived L-cysteine is commercially available. Sugar may be of concern to vegans who avoid cane sugar that had been whitened using cow bone char. Most cane sugar processed today in the US is processed this way. Sugar beets and USDA Organic cane sugar are not.

Knowing that monoglycerides and enzymes could be animal-derived and calcium stearoyl lactylate could be animal- and/or dairy-derived, The VRG called White Castle specifically about these ingredients.

Monique on the customer service line in December 2015 confirmed that the “Traditional Bun” listed in the ingredient statement is the bun used for the Veggie Slider. She told us that she didn’t have more ingredient source information but would research it and get back to us.

The next day we received an email reply from Jason Suitt Quality Assurance and Research & Development Manager at White Castle. He wrote:

“Thank you for your recent inquiry as to whether the enzymes in our buns used on our Veggie Sliders are derived from animal sources. Back in August of this year, we reformulated our buns to remove all animal byproducts, so that they now may be considered vegan. That said, please keep in mind that the buns and veggie patties are prepared in a common kitchen, so they may occasionally come into contact with non-vegan items. Thank you again for your inquiry, and please let me know if you have any other questions.”

Since Jason didn’t refer to the monoglycerides and calcium stearoyl lactylate in his reply, we left him a phone message about them. He replied promptly by phone stating that: “No animal byproducts including dairy are in the new formula bun…Our bakery division carefully researched all ingredient sources for our bun so it is vegan.”

Readers may also note that the French fries, onion chips, onion rings, and home-style onion rings are all “cooked in the same oil as items that may contain wheat, eggs, milk, soy, fish, shellfish.” According to the White Castle ingredient list the French fries and home-style onion rings appear all-vegetable. The onion rings contain milk and the onion chips contain egg and milk. Not all of these items are available in all locations. See for more information.

For a White Castle location near you, visit:

The contents of this posting, our website, and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

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