The World Headquarters of Whole Foods

May 31, 2011

We enjoyed another great day in Austin. We started our day’s vegan adventures by visiting a local soap maker, Austin Natural Soap, that doesn’t use any animal products (100% vegan). After treating our noses with the amazing scented soaps, we continued to explore the vegan side of Austin’s food trailer scene that we had a taste of at Rip Esselstyn’s potluck. The owner of Counter Culture brought their raw apple crumble with sweet cashew cheese topping to the potluck and won the "Most Tasty" prize. We checked out Hey Cupcakes’s cupcake topped Airstream set up and Conscious Cravings, which sells a variety of vegan offerings like BBQ seitan and Black Bean Sliders. 

By midafternoon, we were at the World Headquarters of Whole Foods Market, a company that started in Austin, TX with a single natural foods store in 1980 and now has over 300 stores across North America and the UK. We had a fascinating conversation with John Mackey, the company’s co-founder and CEO, who has been vegan for seven years. We discussed the vegan food movement and what Whole Foods is doing to encourage their staff and the public to move towards eating more healthy plant-based foods. We also spoke with Rip Esselstyn who partners with Whole Foods to promote “plant strong” diets and Dan Marek, a healthy eating specialist and chef at Whole Foods who introduced us to some of the tasty "health starts here" dishes that Whole Foods promotes to encourage healthier eating. These health starts here foods meet four simple and healthy criteria: they’re whole foods, plant-strong, use healthy and minimal  fats, and are nutrient dense. Dan set us up with samples of their health starts here vegan comfort foods including some amazing baked beans, potato salad, a nut burger and a few raw desserts with incredibly simple ingredients and huge flavor. We tried the carrot cake, brownie and rice pudding. We look forward to trying Dan’s intriguing vegan Alfredo sauce one of these days. Needless to say we were very impressed by both the vision and practical support that Whole Foods Market provides for people who are interested in eating well (and vegan) and being healthy.

Austin

May 30, 2011

As the Just Eats Tour van rode into Austin, we were welcomed with friendly honks and people flashing us the peace sign. This town has an artsy, hippie feel - my kind of place! Our Austin experience started at Casa de Luz, an intriguing and tasty quasi-cafeteria (all vegan) that doubles as a center for integral studies. Over lunch we chatted with Dr. James McWilliams, a history professor, journalist and author who writes on food matters. In his book, "Just Food: Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly," McWilliams promotes plant-based agriculture as the most efficient and conscientious way to feed the human population. He is a vegan and also an ultra-marathon runner. We also happened to run into John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market at Casa de Luz - we got the impression that this unique restaurant/center is somewhat of an integral hub for healthy eating and community building in Austin.

This evening we attended a potluck at the home of Rip Esselstyn, author of "The Engine 2 Diet," which promotes plant-strong eating. Around 100 people attended and brought a wide array of tasty and healthy vegan foods - it was inspiring and heartening to see so many people gather as a community and share great food. Once everyone had satisfied their appetites (and there seemed to be something to appease any appetite), Rip opened the floor, encouraging people to share their experiences of improving their health by leaving animal foods off their plates and eating plant foods instead. The support and community feeling was palpable. Reflecting on the changes that have occurred in the past 25 years, it is clear that there are more options in more places for vegans than ever before.