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Becoming Vegan in the Hospitality Industry

At a very early age I understood that I was a giver. In the sense that I always looked out for others before I looked out for myself. Which is why I chose the hospitality career over everything else. I started working in kitchens at a very early age and at the age of 21 I accepted an internship with a hotel branch. If you work in the hospitality field, especially hotels which are open 24/7, you would know that we are easily consumed with work.

How do we keep mentally happy when we live and breathe work? When the pandemic hit March of last year I didn't wake up to work emails anymore and my day was no longer just about work. For the first time in my short lived career of six years I could finally slow down. At first the thought was scary, I honestly had no idea what I could do with myself. It was time for me to figure out what I loved to do outside of work but most importantly who I was . I knew one thing was for certain, I have always considered myself a foodie. Trying to preview dishes presented by the Chef and seeking new restaurants in NYC to enjoy on my days off was a must. With the pandemic hitting us hard that was no longer a choice. So, I grabbed my reusable bags and headed to Trader Joe's on a mission to prove to the rest of the world that I could cook, despite me always ordering take out or grabbing a torta from the local food truck after work.

At 13, I had decided to become a vegetarian. Working for a restaurant, it wasn't one of the smartest things to do. We would have to taste what the Chefs made for us with no limitations. I still tasted them,I had to. Otherwise how would I explain our menu to a guest if I had no idea what I was selling. Therefore, I was a vegetarian outside of work but a flexitarian at work . The less issues I had with the Chef the better the relationship, just a win-win. The situation was different now, there was no Chef and there were no guests. The perfect time for me to check off something from my bucket list: Go Vegan.

The decision to go Vegan was very personal. I remember while working for a Michelin star restaurant in California taking a request for a vegan couple celebrating an anniversary. As always we gave the chef a heads up on dietary restrictions, but I could see some hesitation, even disgust that someone would even request a vegan menu especially at a Michelin starred establishment. Seeing that a vegan diet was inconvenient for most kitchens was probably the reason why I put it off for so long. The accommodations were always fairly simple: roasted brassicas and some granita for dessert. Not a true representation of what a Michelin starred restaurant could offer but hey, still an accommodation. The restaurant business, I believe, has come a long way since then . We now have farm to table restaurants and who are always seeking seasonal organic and better meat options for the guests. This concept does not fall too far behind the same beliefs as a vegan. Sure, we believe in animal rights but we also seek seasonal, healthier more organic food, not only for our health but as well as for the environment.

Hospitality workers were born to be caretakers and I couldn't see myself stopping at humans, I wanted to learn to care for all things living. Veganism has taught me to respect food so much more than ever before. It has opened new doors, new cultural markets and vast ingredients for me to experiment. I have yet to decide if I'm still willing to try any Chef's food when presented to me, even if it is not vegan. However, It excites me to know that there are so many more Chefs out there who are willing to accommodate a vegan diet. I truly believe that it's our responsibility as hospitality/ restaurant workers to spread knowledge and encourage plant based menu items as a norm for our health and for the environment.


Listen to Sickly Vegans Podcast here.

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