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Great responses to the raw, vegan tomato bread! I’m already excited for another sandwich.

I’m thrilled to bring you guys an interview today with two of the most inspiring, enthusiastic, and talented young vegans I know. They’re my friends Cassie Karopkin and Daphne Cheng, and they’re the culinary dream team behind Verité Catering. Verité is one of the few entirely plant-based catering companies here in NYC and nationwide (in fact, it’s the only one I can think of off the top of my head). Within months, Verité has made a splash in the fine dining world, catering parties, special events, gallery openings, private dinners, and dinner parties.

Full confession: Cassie is one of my closest friends. So I’ve watched Verité thrive with pride and excitement. I met Cassie over two years ago, and from the moment I shook her hand, I knew she was destined to do wonderful and inspiring things for the vegan world. She’s infectiously enthusiastic, tough-minded yet encouraging, and wise beyond her (very modest) years. It gives me so much joy to see her join forces with another passionate young woman, and to watch the two of them create food that’s as sophisticated as it is compassionate. To quote from the company’s mission statement: “It is our mission and our pleasure to create dishes that are both simple and elegant, daring and familiar. We believe in foods that are kind to our bodies and to the planet…we believe that our food showcases a compassionate and forward-looking ethos.”

And so it does. I’ve tasted Verité food, and I can attest to its excellence. Without further ado, I’d like to share a short interview with these vegan entrepreneurs. I’ve asked them to share their thoughts on creating a “fine dining” experience with vegetables as a primary ingredient, on creating vegan food that holds its own for an omnivore audience, and on the intriguing title of their company. I’ve also asked them to share one of their favorite recipes, and they haven’t disappointed me! I can’t wait to try their roast beets with arugula and almond granola, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

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1) Be truthful: how did you come up with the name “Vérité” for your new business?

“Vérité” means “truth” in French, and it has significant meaning for us in various ways. It represents the truth in the ingredients we use, which are organic and non-GMO. Without being preachy, we believe we are educating people about what truly healthful foods are. We don’t believe in gimmicks, fad diets, heavy marketing, “superfoods”… just honest and simple whole plant foods.

2) Try to sum up the ethos of Verité catering. What’s your mission?

We want to feed you delicious food, whether you are omnivorous, vegan, pescatarian, raw, gluten-intolerant… whatever your lifestyle and diet choices may be. We want to inspire your palate to develop an appreciation for plant-based cuisine and realize that it is completely satisfying in its own right. Our approach is to appeal to your taste buds and alleviate the fear of vegan food being bland or boring. The goal is to help people realize not only that they won’t miss eating animal products, but will actually crave plant-based cuisine. Whether one chooses to completely eliminate or simply cut back on animal products, we support any reduction in their consumption.

3) What sort of services do you offer?

We cater any size event ranging from an intimate dinner for one or two to a cocktail party for hundreds.  Our skills are versatile, and we also offer private and group cooking lessons.

4) Tell me a little bit more about your backgrounds, and what led you to the work you do.

Cassie: after studying mathematics in school, I delved into the world of actuarial science. Once I discovered veganism, though, I became immersed in health and nutrition. After I quit working at an auto insurance company, I began practicing as a colonic hydrotherapist. Many of my conversations with clients were focused on diet and nutrition, and I became interested in preparing the different meals I was describing to my clients as being healthful and delicious. I eventually entered culinary school, where I met Daphne, and we created Vérité as a way to spread the love of healthful eating. Now I am able to bring together wellness and culinary arts in my daily experience and share it with people who are embracing healthier choices in their own lives.

Daphne: I also originally came from a math background and became fascinated with the culinary arts when I was fifteen. I am completely obsessed with every aspect of enjoying a meal, from shopping for ingredients, to slicing and dicing with my beloved damascus steel knife, to taking photos of a beautifully plated dish, to finally devouring it all. I can spend hours wandering about the aisles of Whole Foods, getting lost in food and finding inspiration. With such a fervor for cooking, it only made sense to attend culinary school and dive into the food service industry.

5) As a vegan, I’m always conflicted in my thinking about how much vegan entrepeneurs should emphasize the veganism of their work. I know you’ve said that clients often don’t realize your food is vegan, and that you market it simply as great food. I think this is brilliant, and I like that it shows “foodies” that vegan cuisine is on par with any other high quality cuisine.

At the same time, I think it’s important to ultimately share vegan values. How do you navigate this tension, between wanting to draw attention away from vegan vs. non-vegan labels, and focus on the food’s quality, yet also wanting people to know what veganism is about?

We don’t feel as though we are misleading anyone into eating vegan. We are a catering company that serves good food; it just so happens that our dishes don’t include animal products. We don’t blatantly advertise ourselves as a vegan company as we don’t want to alienate anyone with the oftentimes polarizing word, “vegan.” The sad truth is that some people have preconceptions and will refuse to even try something if it is labeled vegan. We like to let our food do the talking. Most of the time, the guests at our events don’t know they are enjoying a meatless meal until they rave and ask us about it. The overwhelming positive response we get from people after tasting our food is what our company exists for.

6) You both have strong interest in nutrition. Can you tell me how you balance your enthusiasm for good health with your desire to make food that’s accessible and delicious?

It’s really easy when you are working with plant-based ingredients, because you don’t really have to put that much thought into making a dish that’s both flavorful and healthful. We truly believe that the most health-supporting foods also happen to be the most delicious.

7) How do you select your ingredients?

We only prepare foods that we would want to eat ourselves, and we almost exclusively eat organic and locally grown food. We purchase our ingredients from local, organic farms and purveyors and eco-friendly food service suppliers. In a pinch, we rely on farmers markets, food co-ops, and companies like Whole Foods that share our principles.

8  ) Unlike other vegan food companies, you’re very spare with meat analogs and cheese analogs. I love it! Tell me how you satisfy using veggies as the centerpieces of your meals.

Vegetables do the work for themselves. As chefs, we have the creativity and the skills to reveal and showcase the flavors that are naturally found within them. While we honor requests for meat substitutes if a client desires them, we generally don’t feel the need to have such a dish as part of a gratifying meal. Our clients tend to agree.

9) What’s an average selection of food at a Vérité event?

There is no average menu here at Vérité, as we custom create each menu specially for our clients. We rarely ever repeat a menu item unless requested and enjoy creating new recipes regularly. Our menus can vary from light, raw to incredibly rich and decadent. Some sample menu items include baby arugula with seared trumpet mushrooms in lemongrass chili vinaigrette, cucumber celeriac vichyssoise garnished with wild rice popcorn, butternut squash risotto with baby spinach and fresh basil chiffonade, rosé poached pear with cashew crème tart. And the list goes on.

10) Wow. Can you share one of your favorite recipes with CR readers?

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Mélange of Roast Beet with Arugula and Almond Granola (serves 4)

Ingredients:

For the salad:

¾ cup baby arugula
2 trimmed rhubarb stalks, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices (optional)

For the red and golden roast beets:

1 pound red medium beets
1 pound gold medium beets

Roast beets at 350 degrees until fork tender (about 45 minutes). Allow beets to cool and remove skin. Cut into medium dice. Try to keep red beets away from golden beets to preserve color.

Red beet puree:

1 pound medium beets
½ cup orange juice
zest 1 orange
1 date
salt to taste

Roast red beet at 350 degrees until fork tender (about 45 minutes). Once cool, peel off skin and combine in blender with orange juice, zest, date, and salt. Blend until smooth.

Granola:

½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
½ cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoon melted coconut oil
⅛ teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon salt

Toss granola ingredients together in a bowl and transfer to a baking dish. Bake at 300 degrees for 15 minutes.

Directions:

Arrange beets, beet puree, and granola on a plate and garnish with baby arugula and rhubarb. Serve! This dish can be broken up and used separately as well.

Thank you, ladies! What a delicious treat.

For those of you who are interested in having Vérité cater a wedding, party, dinner party, or any other special occasion, contact them through their website or by emailing Daphne or Cassie individually. And New Yorkers, take note: Vérité hosts a special dinner party once a month or so, called “dinner with true friends.” They invite individuals in need of a friend—whether because they’re new to the city, new to a plant-based diet, or simply want good company—to a five course dinner, limited to 12 guests. They donate 50% of the ticket price to a different charity, which is decided at the end of the dinner by all attending. What an amazing idea! The next dinner with true friends is on Sunday, May 22, and you can purchase tickets here. I’m definitely going to try to attend, though the end of May promises to be wacky for me, and you should, too.

And readers, take note: we have a Green Recovery submission coming soon from Ms. Daphne, who has bravely shared her story with me. I can’t wait.

And now, let the weekend begin!

xo

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