This week has been a roller coaster of emotions. Business has been very consistent, which is more than I can ask for! There is one big thing that happened. It doesn’t directly relate to business, but it is something that has greatly impacted my life and gave me the confidence to start VIW. I have felt pretty drained emotionally and mentally, and haven’t gotten to do much in the way of testing or creating recipes, so nothing new to report for this week.
As some may already know, the Natural Gourmet Institute (the culinary school I went to) has closed. They have licensed their curriculum to ICE (the Institute for Culinary Education). The chef training program will still be available under the name the Natural Gourmet Center at ICE. I think it’s a great opportunity for expansion, but it makes me sad to know that the school itself will no longer be around. Going to NGI was really my only goal from 2010 (just after I went vegan) until I attended in 2015.
I knew that NGI was going to be closing for a few months, but the reality didn’t hit me until they had their last Friday Night Dinner on March 29, 2019. I saw some fellow alumni post about the dinner on social media, and that’s when I realized that I would never be able to go back to one of the only places in the city that felt like home. I got to go back in October of 2018, which I am very grateful for, but I really wish that I would have been able to make the trip out for the final FND.
Over the past week, my mind has been flooded with memories from my time at NGI. The one thing that keeps coming back to me is how incredible the founder, Dr. Annemarie Colbin was. In 1977, she started NGI in her New York City apartment. She had students come into her home during the evenings, and taught students how to cook and appreciate local, whole, plant forward foods, which was revolutionary during that time. Little did she know that 40 years and over 2,000 graduates later, her methods would yield some of the strongest vegan and vegetarian chefs in the world. Among the graduates are, Chloe Coscarelli—the first vegan winner of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, first person to cook an all vegan meal at the James Beard House, owner and chef of Chloe and the Vegan Cafe in Miami, and cook book author; Amanda Cohen—first vegetarian Iron Chef America Battle, owner of Dirt Candy in New York City; Tal Ronnen—Founder and chef of Crossroads Kitchen in LA, founder of Kite Hill, worked with Oprah for her 21-day vegan challenge; and New York Times best selling cookbook author; Bryant Terry—Four time cook book author, food writer published in Food and Wine and the New York Times Magazine, and recipe developer. The list can go on and on! Then there is me, the first and only graduate from Wyoming who has the first and only 100% vegan business in Wyoming. Although, those things are accomplishments and things to be proud of, it is really easy for me to get discouraged when I look at all of the successes that other alumni have had. Despite the distraction of media and everyone’s success stories, I am quickly reminded that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. When I look back to the humble beginning of NGI in Dr. Colbin’s apartment kitchen, it reminds me of my own business. Right now, it is something revolutionary in Wyoming. Thinking about where VIW could be in 40 years in slightly terrifying, but also really exciting. That’s part of the reason why I’m not concerned about reaching the masses or fast business growth. If I can reach the people that genuinely care and want to make a difference, then that is what is important!
Shortly after the school closed, they released their first vegan cookbook. It is technically by the Natural Gourmet Center at ICE, but it’s still NGI to me. I loved flipping through all of the pages and recalling all of the recipes. It was really nostalgic. It’s like there was a surprise with every turn of the page. I remembered all of the laughs, teamwork, frustration, FNDs where we couldn’t matchstick the carrots fine enough, the bowls of Chef Elliot’s miso soup on Conversion Day (AKA death by baking), and ALL OF THE APPLE GALETTES!
I have spent a lot of time in reflection this week. There have been a few tears shed, but more than anything, I am left with a heart full of gratitude. I am grateful that I got to be a part of such a recognized institution for vegan cooking. More than anything, I am grateful for all of the people that make my life what it is today. Everyone who regularly orders is incredibly supportive and kind. It honestly makes me forget that there is negativity and skeptics out there (until I deal with them of course). Sometimes it feels like I’m stuck in a rut, but after this week, I can genuinely say that I am motivated and encouraged for whatever the future may hold.