I recently had the pleasure to interview the amazing, tireless, and inspirational Sarah Gross, founder and president of Rescue Chocolate, and the co-founder of the New York City Vegetarian Food Festival. Sarah launched this tremendously successful event with Nira Paliwoda in 2011. Proceeds from the 2016 festival benefit Mercy for Animals. I’m honored to be a speaker at this year’s event and look forward to seeing many of you there.
What was your inspiration for starting the New York City Veg Food Festival?
I had attended festivals of this kind in other cities around the country (for example in Boston), and just couldn’t believe my adopted home town didn’t have one. Since New York is the best city in the world, we set our sights on making this the best Vegetarian Food Festival. The first one was held in 2011, and we’ve been growing ever since.
What is the purpose of the festival?
We want to show the general public that taking on a vegan lifestyle is not hard or masochistic. In fact, the opposite is true. There are thousands of delicious food products that let you broaden your palate while eating humanely. There are luxurious fabrics that don’t require you to wear a dead animal on your back. There are amazingly inspirational speakers who give lectures on how to eat healthier, and run faster, and lose weight more effectively, and combat global warming, and make a real impact on the world–we feature big names on all these topics, and more, at the Festival. We have the kids covered with inventive arts and crafts projects and simple recipe-making. We have a roving vegan magician at the Festival. We have yoga stretches, and musical entertainment, and just a fabulous energy throughout the weekend.
What should people expect at the festival?
Come hungry. Most of our vendors give out wonderful food samples. If you want a unique last-minute Mother’s Day gift, we’ve got you covered with this all-day experience. Plan to spend many hours at the Festival so that you can visit all the booths, hear all the lectures, attend the cooking demonstrations, pick up info at the non-profit tables, enter the raffle, and get your vegan cookbooks signed by all the authors. If you like the synergy of crowds, come midday. If you prefer a more relaxed vibe, arrive within the last couple of hours.
What do attendees like most about the festival?
Most people are drawn in by the many food samples! Some come to buy all their vegan products under one roof, and they walk away with armloads of full shopping bags. Others want to hear our highly credentialed physicians presenting their scientific research on the health benefits of a vegan diet. For families, the main attraction is the children’s area where there’s storytelling, face painting, and great hands-on projects. The gourmands are into our chef talks and demos, because they want to take new ideas home to their own kitchens.
Who should attend the festival?
Vegans, a no-brainer. But the event is even more for the veg-curious, because there will be so many experts and engaged people excited to share with first-timers on how to go about transitioning to a vegan diet. The Festival is also for hardcore omnivores and carnivores–we love seeing the amazed looks on their faces when they try scrumptious vegan food and can’t believe it’s all plant-based. Young families, because it’s a fun and safe environment. Kosher observers should come on Sunday, because most vegan food is kosher as well. Idealists, who want to put their ideals for improving the planet into practice. People who are bored eating the same old same old, because we have so many fresh ideas for you.
Anything else you would like to tell us?
Stay tuned to the Festival website for up-to-the-minute announcements of presenters, lecture topics, new vendors, and other surprises. We work tirelessly packing the venue with the most exciting content, as befits a Festival in the most exciting city!