Meet Kalamazoo's Vegan Chefs

We want to give a shout out to those who serve the vegan community. We couldn’t write the articles we write, eat the food we love, or share such lovely photos without the help of these good folks. 

Sarah Ross - Water Street Coffee Joint

VegOut Kalamazoo: Share your personal vegan journey. 

Sarah: I am still taking the final steps. Dairy and eggs are hard to avoid as a baker! For me it is being unable to bear the plight of animals in our factory farms and feedlots, slaughterhouses, cages, and pens. I take that into consideration as I choose foods and as I choose what I want to make to serve others. 

VegOut Kalamazoo: How did you come to incorporate vegan cooking into your work? 

Sarah: I wanted to encourage veganism. It was easy to want to share vegan cooking and baking with others. It was easy, too, to convince my employers that more options were needed and would be popular. I asked to test some recipes. It has gone from there to being trusted to know what kinds of vegan items would be good!                                        

VegOut Kalamazoo: For whom do you work and what are your specialties? 

Sarah: I work full-time for Water Street Coffee Joint as a baker and pastry chef and part time for K College. I specialize in cakes, cupcakes, decorating, tarts, bars and wedding cakes/desserts.    

VegOut Kalamazoo: What would you love to do more of in the future? 

Sarah: I would love to run a vegetarian/vegan restaurant and/or bakery someday. I think the market is there. Even people who aren't vegetarian can be encouraged to come and share good food. Until then I love being a pastry chef and baker and don't plan to stop!


Caitilin Soderstrom - Previously Bell's Eccentric Cafe, Water Street Coffee Joint, and Old Dog Tavern

Caitlin at home baking bread with her stepson

Caitlin at home baking bread with her stepson

VegOut Kalamazoo: Share your personal vegan journey. 

Caitilin: I grew up in a mostly vegetarian home. We had meat once a week. My dad was against drinking cows milk. My mom studied nutrition in college and would educate us on what foods were best. 

I became a full vegetarian at twelve after learning of living conditions of commercial livestock. In my late teens I took the plunge. At that time I was buying my own food and organic cheese was expensive. I figured I was pretty much vegan already, so why not embrace it. 


VegOut Kalamazoo: How did you come to incorporate vegan cooking into your work? 

Caitilin: When I applied for my first kitchen job at Bell’s Eccentric Café, I was eager to turn my love for cooking nutritious foods into a paycheck. Bell’s was the perfect outlet for this. They were excited to have vegan options on the specials board. I had my choice of ingredients and freedom to try out new recipes and collaborate with peers. 
 

VegOut Kalamazoo: For whom do you work and what are your specialties? 

Caitilin: I’m retired from the industry. I worked for Bell’s Eccentric Cafe as a line cook, Water Street Coffee Joint as a kitchen manager, and Old Dog Tavern as head chef, kitchen manager, and general manager.

I specialize in creating a dish with whatever needs to be used, making vegan specials that appeal to everyone, creating sauces, dressings, soups, and baking.
 

VegOut Kalamazoo: What would you love to do more of in the future? 

Caitilin:  I’m currently following another passion. I offer sew goods such as Mouthy Monsters (plush), clothing, accessories, and some jewelry. I travel around Michigan selling my wares at art fairs. You can find me at Caitilin.com

I still love cooking at home. My home kitchen is thoroughly loved and used. 

Chef Paul

Chef Paul

Paul Vugtaveen - Pierce Cedar Creek Institute

VegOut Kalamazoo: Share your personal vegan journey. 

Paul: My journey to veganism began in April 2011 when I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D). It became clear to me how the food I consumed affected my body. Although T1D is an autoimmune disease that is neither preventable nor curable, a healthy lifestyle that includes a vegan diet is of great benefit. 

The transition to complete vegan was gradual. I started with local, organic foods and gradually eliminated meat. I maintained a vegetarian diet about a year and a half.

As I learned more about living with T1D, I was also learning about the environmental impacts of animal agriculture. In August 2015, I adopted a 100% vegan diet and began transitioning other areas of my life as well. 


VegOut Kalamazoo: How did you come to incorporate vegan cooking into your work? 

Paul: As the chef at an environmental organization, I am always trying to reduce the environmental impact of my offerings. 


VegOut Kalamazoo: For whom do you work and what are your specialties? 

Paul: I currently work for Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings. My specialties include making delicious vegan food that is accessible to everyone. I also specialize in making vegan baked goods and pastries as well as converting and developing new vegan recipes.

 

VegOut Kalamazoo: What would you love to do more of in the future? 

Paul: I would like to do more work as a chef that supports local social justice movements in my community. I view veganism as a social justice issue that is intricately connected to all other forms of oppression. It is my dream to be able to operate as a vegan chef within this broader context. 
 

Josh Musinski - Pierce Cedar Creek Institute

Chef Josh (left), Photo by Michael McCluskey

Chef Josh (left), Photo by Michael McCluskey

VegOut Kalamazoo: Share your personal vegan journey.
 
Josh: In 1999 I began to realize I was contributing to a destructive cycle of violence. I felt an actual pain that I had to act upon.  I experimented with activism, freeganism and, ultimately, became a vegan chef.
 
VegOut Kalamazoo: How did you come to incorporate vegan cooking into your work?
 
Josh: I used to focus on meat and dairy analogues. Now, I try to highlight the vegetables and make as many items vegan as possible. 
 
VegOut Kalamazoo: For whom do you work and what are your specialties?
 
Josh: Currently I am cooking for events at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings. My specialties are Italian American and pan Asian with a focus on vegan meats and cheeses.
 
VegOut Kalamazoo: What would you love to do more of in the future?
 
Josh: My wife Kerry and I are starting a small wild permaculture farm. We plan to make tasty treats and snacks. I would also love to make more pizza in the future!