The rise of the vegan restaurant as the new “it” thing to do in Philadelphia is no surprise to Vance Lehmkuhl. After all, he has been active in the vegan scene since before it was cool, writing about it for Philly newspapers since the late nineties, and he authored the book, Eating Vegan in Philly in 2016.
For Vance, creating the Philly Vegan Awards was an obvious decision. The vegan cheesesteak sandwich has been gaining popularity, and he has heralded the winner of an annual contest for it four years running. However, with so many choices for vegan fare in Greater Philadelphia, he wanted more restaurants to be acclaimed and inspired.
“Restaurants have recognized that more people are requesting vegan items, whether or not those individuals are vegan, and many have moved beyond the grudging veggie burger as a plant-based draw. There’s great creativity, and this was a way of helping to promote and encourage that—and it even helped acquaint me with places and offerings that I wasn't yet aware of!” he said.
Vance asked AVS to produce the event and Anne Dinshah eagerly joined the planning committee. Recent Philadelphia transplant from NYC, Fran Costigan, “queen of vegan desserts,” made it a trio.
Local news outlet Philly.com handled the voting with updates posted on Vance’s blog “V for Vegan” at Philly.com/veganblog. All winners were determined by voters of Greater Philadelphia (comprising five counties of PA and three in adjacent NJ).
After attendees enjoyed eating their way around the room, it was time to honor the award recipients in twelve categories. The night’s most renowned chefs, Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, owners of Vedge, V Street, and Wiz Kid, received the lifetime achievement award for their role as a primary force in Philly’s robust vegan dining scene.
Philly hasn’t always had abundant vegan food offerings. In 1957, H. Jay Dinshah took a tour of Cross Brothers slaughterhouse, on the corner of Front and Venango Streets in North Philadelphia. He went vegan right then and there, and is now recognized as the father of the modern vegan movement in the U.S. Restaurants didn't serve much vegan food back then.
Today, the Philly Vegan Awards celebrates those who do the hard work in making vegan easily accessible in Philadelphia, the chefs and business owners who believe in vegan cuisine, and every Philadelphian voting for it with their food dollars.
Philly Vegan Awards serves to not only provide accolades for those doing vegan, but also inspire additional restaurants to vie for plant-food attention. We are excited to see the impact of the vegan movement and how, like the ripple effect of Jay’s work begun here, this city is a leader in the wave of important change.
—Reported by AVS Staff, reprinted from American Vegan magazine winter 2017-2018
American Vegan Society, in collaboration with Philly.com and V for Vegan, celebrated the inaugural Philly Vegan Awards on Friday, November 10 2017.
Thank you to those who provided the food for #PhillyVeganAwards!
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