Inaugural Event Shines Spotlight on Vegan Dishes
Written by Natasha Bourlin
Photos courtesy of Gehn Shibayama
Reno vegans unite! Whether dedicated to the diet or simply vegan-curious, the Reno Vegan Chef Challenge is showcasing the best in animal-free eating at several participating restaurants during its inaugural Northern Nevada event, April 1-30, 2019.
A 2018 Gallup poll states that 3 percent of Americans are vegans. Adhering to this way of eating comes with many positive purported health benefits, ranging from lower cholesterol and blood sugar to decreased risk of heart disease, yet many people don’t know how to find or prepare flavorful foods using zero animal products. Enter this new Reno culinary challenge.
Gehn Shibayama, co-organizer of the Reno Vegan Chef Challenge, Reno resident, and administrator of local vegan group VegNV, has been following a strictly animal-free diet since 2013. After his first 12 months, he’d lost 20 pounds and seen his endurance improve notably. In 2018, he tackled the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail over 188 days, fueling himself with only vegan foods, and he claims he was able to complete the arduous endeavor because of his diet.
While in Sacramento, Calif., last October, he discovered the city’s eighth-annual Vegan Chef Challenge and began striving to bring a version to his hometown.
“The goal of this event is to raise awareness of healthy, tasty, and satisfying vegan dishes to the general public, not just vegans. We vegans already know that there are amazing vegan dishes. We already know that a vegan diet is a complete diet with all necessary nutrients including protein, vitamins (except for B12, which is another topic), calcium, iron, and everything,” Shibayama says. “But the general public still tend to think that vegan foods mean just green salads and veggie soup … we want to change the perception.”
Partnering with national nonprofit Vegan Outreach and co-organizer Kelly Farrell, he’s rallied more than a dozen restaurants to take part in the first-ever Reno event. Each must put three new vegan dishes on its menu for the month of April, including at least one main dish. Offerings must have flavor appeal for vegans and non-vegans alike.
In Sacramento, participating restaurants have touted increased business and exposure while also spurning customers’ curiosity and chefs’ creativity thanks to the event. While also seeking to benefit the restaurants, Shibayama and his partner Farrell are hoping Reno’s version incites excitement beyond VegNV’s 700 members, enlightening non-vegans as well to the delectable flavor profiles healthy vegan dishes can offer.
To participate in the Reno Vegan Chef Challenge:
Visit any or all of the participating restaurants listed at Renoveganchefchallenge.com, order their vegan offerings created for the challenge, then return to the site to rate each item tried. Restaurants and items rated highest by guests will win prizes at an awards ceremony post-event.
Natasha Bourlin is a vegan-curious freelance writer excited to try chefs’ animal-free options during this event.
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