Last weekend, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) brought vegan fare for the first time to the annual Tremé Creole Gumbo Festival. In an attempt to prove that healthy eating in a culture that usually indulges in non-vegan delicacies is more than possible, PETA teamed up with NOTMC (New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation) as well as festival producer The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation to hold a 30-minute vegan gumbo cook off on Saturday Nov. 9 from 12 - 12:30pm at Louis Armstrong Park.
The contest was judged by a panel that consisted of representatives from both the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and the New Orleans School of Cooking, as well as Bryant Terry, vegan author and activist for healthy living.
"I went to college in New Orleans and I feel like it's home. In so many ways I feel like New Orleans helped shape the foundation of the cooking I do as a cookbook author. Having been gone for so long I wanted to reconnect with the city and the food of the city," Terry said of his participation.
Though this isn't the first time that New Orleans has seen a veggie style gumbo (because of the city's large Catholic population, residents make what is called Gumbo Z'herbes, or vegetarian gumbo, during lent as many give up meat for the holiday), this is the first time that several local restaurants as well as the Tremé Creole Gumbo Festival embraced veganism in this fashion.
"I hope the food service community [in New Orleans] understands that there is a market for vegan food... for vegan options. Certainly it would be great if there were more restaurants that sold and catered to people who enjoy vegan food, but I think what would have a bigger impact are the restaurants that serve seafood and meat to have well thought out and tasty vegan options," Terry said.
As for the winners, the public/attendee voted Linda Green of Miss Linda's Soul Kitchen into first place, Dana Honn of Cafe Carmo into second and Woody Ruiz Woody's Fish Tacos into third. The panel of judges had a different idea of winners: Troy and Cherie Brocato of Brocato's Eat Dat took first place, Cafe Carmo won second place and Miss Linda's Soul Food won third place.
The vision of all parties involved is to make the vegan cook-off an annual event at the festival, but to also consider other festivals and normally meat heavy cuisines to incorporate into as well. Next up... perhaps a vegan BBQ cook-off?