Like many, Tara Thomas moved to New York seeking a change of pace. Originally from Portland, Oregon, the 21-year-old vegan chef is looking to shake up the restaurant industry. Thomas is both a private chef as well as a consultant. When she’s not cooking, she’s hosting pop-up events or working with restaurants to curate their menus to be more sustainable and vegan friendly.
The core of her work stems from her own perception of food. “Eating is a daily ritual that allows us to refuel, indulge, and experience our senses. Our bodies furnish these nutrients and change the way we perceive and integrate into the world,” said Thomas.
Thomas had always loved cooking, but didn’t take it seriously until after she graduated high school and was taking a gap year. “I just started cooking for people, and my friends kept telling me it’s something I was good at,” Thomas told Bushwick Daily. “I kept getting opportunities to do events.” It was only then that Thomas realized how sharing her philosophies with others through food could reap positive change.
“I had applied to go back to college, but the college I was supposed to go to went bankrupt. So I took the money I had saved up and moved to New York.” Thomas explained, “I wanted a challenge. There is such a large vegan community in Portland that it was very easy to find an audience. But I wanted to make some sort of impact.”
Thomas was recently asked to become the New York chapter leader for Veganizer, a food consulting group that helps restaurants embrace the vegan movement by incorporating plant-based options onto their menus. “We help restaurants create plant-based options based off of their original menus,” Thomas said. Veganizer also hosts pop-up dinners in omnivore restaurants to demonstrate how 100 percent plant-based meals can be executed.
Thomas’s passion for using food to make an impact on local communities has led her to start The Acculturation of Food, which she describes as a “study on popular gastronomy themes implemented with historical events and phenomena to highlight the indoctrination of people of color whose ancestors were ‘indigenous’ to European settlers.” By reevaluating toxic ingredients, consumption behaviors and poor means of production that have been set in place by overarching systems, Thomas hopes to create an awareness in which consumers can empower themselves.
“As a woman of color, my goal is to make ethically produced food accessible for everyone,” Thomas said. On her website, she created a journal in which she will track the process of the project through interviews, personal stories, and event recaps.
Though Thomas has only recently moved to Bushwick, she is inspired by the diversity and creativity within the community. “I love all the different restaurants here, and I hope to hold some events here soon,” Thomas told Bushwick Daily.
To keep up with Thomas, follow her on Instagram, where she posts recipes, food favorites, and her most recent projects.
Veganizer is holding it’s next event June 28th at Synesthesia Gallery. Tickets will be available next week.
All the images are courtesy of Tara Thomas
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