Vanessa Mills knows that some people harbour the misconception that all vegan food is “blah”.
“What’s very important to me is everything is flavourful,” Mills told the Georgia Straight by phone from her restaurant in Suter Brook Village. “I’ve had people come in here that are not vegan, that are not vegetarian, and that don’t eat gluten-free, and I want them to be able to enjoy the meal just as much.”
The first vegan restaurant in Metro Vancouver’s Tri-Cities, Chomp serves up a selection of salads ($8.88 to $9), sandwiches and wraps ($9.22 to $10), and mains ($9 to $11.22). Examples of each category include the Summer Salad, composed of black beans, chickpeas, corn, cucumber, tomatoes, and red onion; the Grilled Cheese Madness sandwich, made with Daiya dairy-free cheese; and the Fiery Thai Tofu Bowl, which features red pepper, carrot, and bean sprouts under a spicy peanut sauce. Chomp also has cookies, cupcakes, and donuts, all made in house.
Mills, who lives in Port Coquitlam, said she decided to make the restaurant entirely vegan and gluten-free so customers with dietary concerns wouldn’t have to worry about cross-contamination or modifying their orders. According to her, Chomp uses ingredients that are almost always organic, as well as produce that is locally grown as much possible.
“There’s nothing made from any type of animal whatsoever,” Mills said. “Even with sugar, because of the process that it’s made in, I know that a lot of the regular granulated sugar is made and processed through bone. So, we use the cane sugar, and, for a honey substitute, we use the agave.”
Prior to becoming a restaurateur, Mills worked as a server and a bartender, as well as at a catering company and other jobs. She started putting together the concept for Chomp back in April and refined her business plan while taking a self-employment course at Douglas College. In October, she took over the leased space and started setting up her 800-square-foot eatery.
At just over three weeks old, Chomp contains seating for 10 people and does takeout. Mills said she’s thinking about offering delivery.
Mills also noted that her business is helping support two Tri-Cities charities—the Charlene Reaveley Children’s Charity Society and the SHARE Family & Community Services Society—by directing a portion of the proceeds from food specials and sales of local artists’ work displayed in the restaurant to them.
“I also want to become a part of more community events, just to get out there,” Mills said. “Obviously, we’re just starting off, so we don’t have a lot of money, but whatever I can give back I’m absolutely going to, because that was a huge push for me to want to do this.”
Mills acknowledged that she opened Chomp with a “very basic” menu. But she has lots of ideas for potential menu items, which she plans to try out as specials and, if successful, add to the lineup. Lasagna is likely one of these dishes.
In any case, at Chomp, Mills aims to offer up food that satisfies the taste buds while being healthy, cruelty-free, and environmental friendly.
“We do have the more healthy, light options, and we also have the comfort food that you can go out and kind of engorge in,” Mills said. “Obviously, it is a little healthier—it is what I like to call the 'delicious healthy alternative'—but you can still get that comfort food here as well.”