First rolling onto the streets of northern Virginia in April, The Randy Radish is one of a small, but growing, number of all-vegan food trucks in the DC metro area. Ever since its grand opening at the two-day Leesburg Flower and Garden Show, they’ve been dishing out 100% plant-based meals for breakfast and lunch – and getting rave reviews.
Featuring menu items like jackfruit BBQ with coleslaw, quinoa avocado salad, and baked bliss iced cinnamon buns, they’re showing vegans and meat-eaters alike just how delicious animal-free food can be!
We’re grateful owners Nancy Jezior and Sharon Lindblad parked their rolling restaurant long enough to answer a few questions on the inspiration and occupation behind a vegan food truck.
Q: What made you decide to open a vegan food truck?
Sharon: Nancy and I have talked and dreamed about opening a vegan food business for many years. Initially we thought of opening a bakery or maybe a café. After starting culinary school in New Jersey last October, we had an epiphany. We had been watching reruns of Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race and Restaurant Impossible. Something clicked, and we thought – if these people can do this, so can we! We decided on a food truck because the initial investment was less, and it would give us the mobility to reach more people and establish a following. We hope to add more trucks to the mix one day and come up with a franchise model. We have also been inspired by Candle in NYC and Vedge in Philly to one day have our own vegan gourmet restaurant.
Q: Had you already been in the food service industry? What prior experience did you bring to this venture?
Sharon: Neither of us had much food service experience. We were both working corporate jobs, me as an IT Program Manager and Nancy as an Executive Assistant. We were always cooking though – for ourselves, our friends, our families…
Nancy: I have been excited about cooking since I was 10. I was the kid who would try something at a restaurant and then run home to see if I could make it. My grandmother taught me a lot, especially about baking. In fact, it is her original cinnamon bun recipe that has inspired our vegan baked bliss and everyone seems to really like the buns. We did want some formal qualifications though, so we have both obtained certificates in Plant-Based Nutrition from eCornell. Both of us also graduated in June from the Natural Kitchen Cooking School in New Jersey, so we are now officially Natural Food Chefs.
Sharon: I worked at a fast food restaurant, a pizza place, and a bakery in my late teens. Other than that I didn’t really have any food service experience. I have always enjoyed baking, but I was intimidated by cooking until I met Nancy. She is a gifted chef, and it is the deliciousness of the food she made for me that made going vegan a piece of cake. Before I met her, I was not at all fond of vegetables or beans. I grew up eating a meat and potatoes diet without much variety in the veggie department. These days I love EVERYTHING veg, and I look forward to every minute we spend in the kitchen creating new menu items and preparing old favorites.
Q: You were at recently part of the Truckeroo in Washington, DC, which is a fairly meat-centric event. How do you reach out to meat-eaters and what is the response to your vegan menu?
Nancy: Our concept since day one has been to present foods most people are familiar with (e.g., BBQ, spring rolls, reubens, etc.) – ours just happen to be made with only plant ingredients. This has worked well with all of our customers, regardless of food preferences. Many folks who eat at the truck have no idea the food they are eating contains no animal products. We also try to have some healthier options on board for those who are ready to take the next step, like avocado quinoa salad and fresh soups made from local produce.
Sharon: Truckeroo was AMAZING! We were definitely the only vegan truck at the event, but I believe we did as well as all the other trucks. We received a warm welcome from the veg community, and we had plenty of non-veg customers as well. Many brought their friends back to the truck because they could not believe our BBQ wasn’t pork. Not only were the customers great, but the other truck owners/operators were great as well – many stopping by to introduce themselves and asking questions about the truck and our food. We felt right at home.
Q: Do you have any words of wisdom for people thinking about starting a food truck – or a vegan business in general?
Sharon: The biggest piece of advice we received, and something we revisit regularly, is to follow your passion. Sometimes you have to take a risk, and it’s a bit scary, but if you are passionate about something and willing to put forth the effort, your wildest dreams really can come true!
Nancy: GO FOR IT! We need more people to join us and spread the word. The reception The Randy Radish has gotten since we launched has been phenomenal and shows how much people want healthier options.