A Rainbow of Flavor

By Megan Wadding, July 2015 Issue.

Photo by Fernando Hernández.

“Let’s be honest. Vegetables are under appreciated. They have been over-cooked, under-seasoned and pushed to the side of the dinner plate for years. Anyone can figure out how to grill a cheeseburger or a scramble an egg. But preparing vegetables? That is seasonal. That is inspirational. That is an art. Plus, it’s good for the planet!”

That statement not only serves as local chef Ali Metzger’s personal introduction to the world via her website, eatveganfood.com, but also a mission statement for her blossoming business.

Metzger, who has been interested in vegatarian and vegan cuisine since her teenager years, was classically trained in French cuisine at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and earned her bachelor’s degree in restaurant management. She’s also a second level certified sommelier through the International Wine Guild.

Her professional experience stems from Boulder, Colo., where she worked with the School Food Project, Whole Foods and served as the executive chef of two restaurants, Cuvee and World Café. She has trained in food and wine throughout Spain, and in wellness foods at Canyon Ranch in Tucson.

In 2012, with the world as her cutting board, Metzger did what any proven young entrepreneur would do: She set out to start a vegetable revolution.

A Girl and Her Truck

Photo courtesy of Eat Vegan Food.

Metzger’s experience as a full-time private chef, caterer and blogger proved paramount when she decided to move back to Arizona and start her own business.

After mulling over the idea of a food truck for quite a while, Metzger purchased her “cute, little green truck/trailer” in 2013 and Eat Vegan Food was born. After officially launching her Eat Vegan Food trifecta – the food truck, the catering business and the website – Metzger debuted her culinary creations for the masses in May of 2014.

“When I first started talking to people about vegan food, the two things I consistently heard was that they didn’t know where to find it and they didn’t know how to make it,” Metzger said.

While the Phoenix Food Truck Coalition, for example, lists nearly 70 food trucks, Eat Vegan Food has the designation as Arizona’s first vegan food truck and one of only a handful of vegan food trucks in the country.

“I pride myself in having a clean kitchen, fresh homemade food and excellent service. If you ask me, the truck is pretty cute too,” she said. “When you’re the first at something, you’ve also got be the best at it.”

Eat Vegan Food serves up plant-based, harm-free homemade, 100-percent vegan food that Metzger calls fun and delicious.

“I wanted everyone to have the ability to try vegan food, a new kind of vegan food,” she said. “I don’t want you to cut out anything from your diet. I believe that the more you eat your vegetables, the better you will feel.”

But let’s get one thing clear, Metzger’s modus operandi is not to convert her meat-loving customers Insead, her mantra simple: eat more vegetables.

“Today there are so many people and diet plans telling you what not to eat,” she said. “I feel better when I eat vegan food.”

A Mindful Menu

Photo courtesy of Eat Vegan Food.

Metzger, now 27, said that healthy eating has always been important to her and Eat Vegan Food is a way to share her passion with others.

“I love to eat,” Metzger said. “Of course, I make food that I love to eat, and food that others love to eat, too … My dream is for all people to eat vegan food.”

According to Metzger, the menu for the food truck changes often, depending on what is fresh and locally available. Metzger added that seasonality and buying local are the two most important factors for developing the menu.

The current menu offerings include waffles with real maple syrup, walking tacos (think GMO-free Frito pie), tempeh salad wraps, fresh green juice, mack n’ cheez with roasted hatch green chilies and raw chocolate truffle pops.

As a chef, Metzger maintains that it is her responsibility to know where the ingredients she serves come from – another reason she doesn’t use meat or dairy products in her creations.

“I am a sensitive person,” she said. “Working in the food industry, it felt important to me to find out where my food was coming from and the impact of my food choices.”

Upon learning about the treatment of the animals that were sourcing meat, dairy and other products used in most kitchens, Metzger said she knew she had to make a change.

“There were no excuses,” said the advocate against animal cruelty. “When I knew better, I had to do better. Information is powerful. I live a compassionate and harm-free life and my small business reflects these values.”

On eatveganfood.com, Metzger states, “Vegetables offer texture, color, flavor and complexity that can’t be matched by any meat-based protein. You can make vegetables the star of the plate. You can make a complete meal with just grains, legumes and vegetables. And I’m here to share this passion with you ... I’m here to help you become inspired by vegetables. To begin your very own vegetable revolution.”

If you think the vegetable revolution Metzger refers to means more salads and less flavors, you are wrong. Her innovative takes on commonly overlooked grains, legumes and vegetables – from smoked golden beet “lox” and cashew cheez schmear with coconut bacon to caluliflower steak and banana chocolate cheesecake – keep her customers coming back for more.

Photo courtesy of Eat Vegan Food.

Hitting the Road

A typical day for the food truck, Metzger said, includes making all the food from scratch before she heads out to serve it, which can take place in five- to seven-hour increments. At the end of the day, she heads back to the kitchen to clean up and reset for the next day.

While Metzger is solely responsible for cooking all the food she serves, she said she has a great support team, which includes her girlfriend of three years, Sara Presler.

“I am the only one who cooks the food, [but] I am blessed to have a strong community of family and friends to help out with taking orders and doing some of the necessary business operations,” she said. “[Sara] is very supportive of me in starting my own business and helps me with the food truck when she’s not busy saving the world.”

On top of the day-to-day operations of Eat Vegan Food, Metzger has also recently become a certified yoga teacher. Luckily, she has found great ways of integrating all of her interests.

“The food truck is my full-time job, and it’s the perfect complement to my passion for yoga, health and wellness,” she said. “When the food truck is in full swing, I wake up really, really early and do some yoga. Once I get my zen on, I head into the kitchen and fire up the ovens. I cook for a few hours and then load up the truck with all the delicious ingredients that make up our menu.”

Metzger said the truck is in Flagstaff May through October, but that it comes to Phoenix for the winter where they cater weddings and parties, as well as food delivery and private chef work.

“Flagstaff is so cool. I launched the truck in Flagstaff because it’s home,” she said. “[But] my clients in Phoenix are really important to me too.”

The Eat Vegan Truck will be at Flagstaff Pride June 27, as well other events in Northern Arizona, including regular appearances at the Flagstaff Community Market, throughout the summer months.

“Last week … we had a new customer that came up to the window … and proclaimed, ‘That was the best waffle of my entire life,’” Metzger said. “Those are the moments I know it is working.”

For more information, visit eatveganfood.com. For up-to-date food truck and event information, events on Facebook and follow Eat Vegan Food on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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