Sacramento, California’s state capitol, hosts some great restaurants willing to play in the first annual, Vegan Chef Challenge. It just so happens I live super close to Sacramento and I’ve been able to be a “taster” every weekend for some of these restaurants.
Throughout the month of October, eleven participating restaurants have agreed to be a part of this Vegan Chef Challenge in order to open up their menus to meet the needs of their non-animal eating patrons. Each restaurant’s chefs have come up with a few different menu items to showcase their incredible creativity, uniqueness, and vegan recipe skills. Plus, it enables the different chefs and kitchen staff to think outside of the box a bit.
Please excuse all the photos of poor quality. They were shot at night in darker restaurant settings so they didn’t come out fantastic as I would have liked. Nonetheless, the food could not have been any better!
In fact, all of the food, especially the decadent, Vegan Chocolate Chai Spiced Cake from Capitol Garage, was downright incredible.
Hmmm… Let’s start there. Capitol Garage:
The first stop on my journey through Sacramento’s restaurants was Capitol Garage. As you can see from the above menu board, I ate well. 😉
Chef Raphael Kendall is Capitol Garages’ vegan chef in a world of “meat and potatoes”, so to speak. He has been eating and living a vegan lifestyle for the last eight years. And extraordinarily enough, he still creates all types of dishes, vegan or not, with incredible flavor and style.
Since this was my first stop from the long list of restaurants, I think I became a bit bias. It may have been the outrageous chocolate cake, but I almost found a home at Capitol Garage… or maybe just great food. Nonetheless, I was so impressed with the food and presentation, and heartiness with comfort, that I reached out for some recipes of the dishes and an interview with Chef Raphael, himself.
WhatRunsLori: What is your culinary background?
Chef Raphael: I have just been cooking my whole life. My parents met in culinary school in Santa Cruz and have both taught me many things. I have not attended culinary school. I have worked at the Capitol Garage for 5 years and at the Melting Pot before for a year. I have learned a lot as I go and in a few months I am being promoted to executive chef when the new place opens.
WRL: You’ve been living a vegan lifestyle for 8 years now? What got you into eating vegan?
CR: I grew up eating vegan and natural foods like tofu and I lived in fair oaks so we used to go to Sunflower [Natural Food Restaurant] all the time, but what really got me into vegan foods was when I found out about vegans and realized eating meat was not a necessity in Jamaica. I lived there for 2 years and learned a lot about their cuisine, because my dad opened a cafe there.
WRL: What is it like working at a restaurant that is not solely vegan? How are you able to create incredible dishes without tasting them?
CR: It is not so bad, because I wasn’t always vegan I am used to working with meat and I am not going to stop others from eating it. I have had to work on seasoning things without tasting. It took awhile, but after a lot of feedback from my chef Jonathan Clemons I have a good system down. I will make things vegan and taste, then add meat and such or just season away based off of past experiments >_<. Soup is one of the hardest, but it seems what I am best at without tasting.
WRL: I’ve heard you can create and have created some amazing dishes, both vegan and not, what is your favorite type of dish to make or which dishes do you just excel at?
CR: It hasn’t been to hard because I can cook and thwart many questions with my knowledge of nutrition. I have been with my soon to be wife for 6 years and my food has converted her vegetarian.
WRL: In your world, what is the key to living a tasty and happy life?
CR: Time lots of free time, I work 10-12 hour days so spending time with my family, a little rest and vegan cooking at home is glorious.
WRL: What are two things you could eat every day of your life.
CR: 🙂 dark chocolate and tofu >_<
What a seriously awesome guy, that Chef Raphael! And thank you so much for the great interview!
Time for a recipe! Vegan Chocolate Cake, here we come! (It’s vegan but I never said it was super healthy…) 😉
Vegan Chocolate Chai Coconut Cake
By Chef Raphael Kendall. Serves 8 to 12
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp distilled white vinegar
- 2 cups coconut milk, divided
- 1/4 cup chai concentrate (check for non-vegan ingredients such as honey, whey, or casein)
- 2 cups vegan dark or bitter chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup Earth Balance vegan butter
- 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, black pepper, ground cloves, allspice, cocoa powder, and white sugar in a mixing bowl. Whisk all together.
In a separate bowl, whisk vegetable oil, vanilla, vinegar, 3/4 cup coconut milk, and chai concentrate. Slowly add in the dry flour ingredients, whisking until fully mixed. Spread a teaspoon of Earth Balance onto an 8-inch cake pan, pour batter into cake pan and bake for 40 minutes.
Bring an inch of water to boil in a saucepan and turn off heat- place a metal bowl over the pan, adding the chocolate chips and stirring occasionally until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup coconut milk and softened Earth Balance. Let stand until it cools to room temperature, then add in 3 cups powdered sugar.
Whisk remaining 1/2 cup of coconut milk, shredded coconut, and 1/2 cup powdered sugar and set aside. When the cake is done baking, cool to room temperature. Cut cake horizontally, making two layers. Place shredded coconut mixture over bottom layer and place top layer on top. Ice cake with remaining frosting, covering top and sides.
Serve cake immediately, or let stand in a refrigerator for a more firm frosting.
I feel like getting to know a chef better, brings about a different element to a dish… what do you think?
If anyone is in the Sacramento area and down for some killer vegan (or outstanding “meat and potatoes”), let me know! I’ll be there to share in the food challenge. 😉