Another interview has made its way to Another Hungry Vegan! This time, I got to learn more about Dustin Harder, AKA the Vegan Roadie who recently traveled through Denver for an episode of his webseries. Dustin is a well-seasoned traveler (no pun intended), and he made it his mission to show how easy and fun it is to eat vegan around different parts of the United States. Read on to find out how his love for travel and living a compassionate life work in harmony to encourage others to go on their own vegan food journey.
1. What made you decide to start the Vegan Roadie?
I have been traveling on and off for work for the last 10 years. My partner watches a lot of HGTV and The Food Network. When it was on in the background, I started getting very frustrated and equally disgusted at the show “Diner’s, Drive-In’s and Dives”. The fact that so much money and effort goes into showcasing food that has a detrimental effect on America was mind blowing to me. Beyond that, I was discouraged when I traveled, often when I typed “vegan” into yelp a steak house or something of that nature would come up, random things like that. During my time in the Chef’s Training Program at The Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC I had a light bulb moment and made a commitment to myself, when I went out on the road next I would create a road map across America for the Vegan and Veg-Curious, and that was how The Vegan Roadie was born. I’m committed to making this resource, vegans and non vegans need to know what wonderful things are being created without animal products or by-products and where to get them.
Prepare and get excited! Now more than ever there is a stimulating and very abundant vegan scene on the Horizon with Chef’s coming out of the woodwork to show the world how innovative, delicious and down right mind blowing plant based cuisine can be. Take advantage of your resources, google stuff like a mad man (or woman) before you go somewhere and get excited about their menu’s! If you find yourself lacking vegan options, be sure to get a hotel with a fridge and stock some staple items you know will keep you satiated. Did I mention prepare? You know you are vegan, the rest of the world doesn’t, you can’t blame anyone but yourself if you find yourself hungry.
4. What has been the most memorable experience while filming for the Vegan Roadie?
I did a demonstration in OshKosh, WI for an audience of all carnivore’s. I made a pasta with a cashew garlic cream sauce from Chloe Coscarelli’s “Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen” cookbook, instead of mushrooms I used Field Roast brand artisan grain meat. A woman came up to me after and said her daughter had become vegan and she wanted to support her, she felt after my demonstration she could go home and make something her entire family would love, including her “meat and potatoes husband”, and she could support her daughters choice. It’s memorable to me because I was in Wisconsin, this was a tough crowd. This woman said she felt discouraged and now saw that it can be easy. That meant a lot to me, made me feel I was doing something right! That kind of stuff keeps you going on a journey like this.
5. Who are some people who’ve inspired your journey to become vegan?
My initial inspiration came from reading “Skinny Bastard” by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. I strongly recommend that book to anyone curious about a vegan diet and what it offers. As for a specific person, I worked in the test kitchen of Chloe Coscarelli and her spirit and positive attitude forever is ingrained in me, she sees the positive light in everything and sort of spreads that energy around, it’s lovely. Chef’s Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby of VEDGE and V Street in Philadelphia are a huge inspiration in that every place I visited when in Philly had the most amazing things to say about them and their contribution to their community. It was unanimous among the Philly Vegan Business owners that their business was better because Kate and Rich, both established in their own right, took the time to stop in and work with people on their menu and offer insight when it was sought out, that’s amazing, they are very busy people! Robbie Tucker and Lauren Loomis of Lulu’s Local Eatery (St. Louis, MO) stick out in my mind for their commitment to grow as much as they can on their own for their restaurant and cut down on waste, and they are just a stellar couple on the crusade to better the world through compassionate eating and living. I think I have to stop the list now because I could really go on and on, I have met so many fantastic, uplifting and inspiring people in the last 10 months alone. These are just a few of the people that have inspired me to become and stay vegan.
6. What inspires you to travel?
I have always enjoyed traveling. Early in life I knew I wanted to tour as an actor, I did that. Now I want to tour to help educate those curious about a plant powered lifestyle and create a resource for vegans across the country to travel with ease. I also want to entertain and engage, not preach, about how inventive and fun plant powered food is! What better way to do that than travel the country and meet some of the master minds behind it all?
7. Favorite place you’ve visited so far?
Austin, TX. It is a Vegan’s playground! Denver was also awesome, the whole vibe had me and my partner considering our next move for our home base.
8. What has this journey taught you about being vegan in the United States?
That it’s easier than one would think, most of the time. That the vegan community, for the most part, is very nurturing and supportive of each other’s efforts to mainstream veganism. And also, as I said before, to be prepared. While I have stumbled across so many vegan gems, there have been a few cities that are rough but if you are prepared you can make it work. Also, talk to business owners, often if you suggest a way to make something vegan an owner will more than likely take that into consideration and offer it to the general public as that is simply good business. I met an amazing woman in Jacksonville, FL who has single handedly changed her communities standards by simply going into establishments and using her natural southern charm to educate owners and chef’s of what their options are to create vegan choices for their patrons. You can check her out on Facebook at “JAX Vegan Love”