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Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Upton’s Naturals is my favorite seitan and not just because they’re from Chicago. Upton’s is produced in a small warehouse hidden in an industrial park in Skokie, IL. They offer a wide range of flavors (chorizo, ground beef, Italian sausage, gyros, bacon & more!) to local eating establishments, as well as at select grocers AND they have “grab & go” items, like the Gyro Wrap and the Breakfast Sandwich! We recently sent Dan a few questions to find out a bit more about Upton’s and here’s what he had to say:

SCV: First off, who is the mysterious mustachioed man?

Upton. No, he’s not flesh & blood, but was created by us along with our friend & illustrator, John Sampson.

SCV: Upton’s has been around for 4 yrs now, tell us how the company started and how it’s changed since it’s early days.

Although it says “Since 2006” on the retail packs, we actually formed Upton’s in August of 2005 and were developing the products about a year before that in a shared kitchen. I started the company with a good friend of mine who has since gone on to pursue other interests. We’d both been vegan for 10+ years and were looking for a project to work on together involving food. We did some thinking and realized there was a hole in the seitan market, especially for restaurants, so we decided to try and fill it. Neither of us had a culinary background, so it was all trial and error. We began selling to a handful of restaurants in Chicago and about a year in to that we decided to launch the retail line. We started with 7 stores in Chicago and delivered to them ourselves…then started working with a distributor and expanded to about 20 stores in IL & WI until earlier this year when we began selling to stores throughout the Midwest and Southwest. How things have changed…the first 3 years we did everything ourselves, just the 2 of us. We’ve added an employee about every six months since then.

SCV: How come your seitan is so delicious?! We can’t get enough Upton’s Chorizo or Bacon!

We just use the most simple ingredients and try to base our flavors on traditional recipes.

SCV: Are all of your products produced in your warehouse in Skokie?

All of the seitan and ready-to-eat items are made in Skokie, but we do use a third-party to produce the tamales.

SCV: How many people does it take to keep Upton’s running these days?

5 total. Three people handle all of the production and two of us keep things running in the office.

SCV: You recently added some new sandwiches to your offerings, how do you come up with such tasty sandwiches, wraps, etc.? Are any of them based off of customer suggestions? (We’re particularly fond of the Chicken Bacon Wrap and the Breakfast Sandwich with Bacon).

We just try to put out products that we think are good. We tried soliciting ideas for new ready to eat items a few times, but didn’t get much feedback.

SCV: Is there anywhere in the city we can get your sandwiches, wraps, etc. besides Whole Foods?

The only independent store currently selling the ready to eat items is W Grocer on North Ave. The retail seitan packs & tamales are available at most of the indie shops (full list on our website). Some restaurants don’t like it when their “secret” ingredients are made public, but we occasionally Tweet about new places that are serving Upton’s.

SCV: Are there any super secret recipes in the works for new items?

No, we’re trying to focus on widening the distribution of current products over the next year or so. After that we’ll likely package a couple more varieties of seitan for retail… bacon and chicken are at the top of the list.

SCV: We own some of your shirts & buttons and all the cool kids we know want them (especially the pin collection of mustachioed men, though I’m partial to the clean shaven guy). How can they go about getting their own?

They should be available on our website soon. Also, we occasionally give them away at events, so keep an eye out!

To find out more about Upton’s, including recipe ideas, check out their website: http://www.uptonsnaturals.com/

If you want the inside scoop make sure you follow them on Twitter & Facebook!

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We recently got the scoop on the Vegan Food Truck from Ste Martaen Vegan Cheese co-owner, Nahum St Martin.

SCV: Chicago’s never had a vegan food truck (as far as we know) what inspired you to team up with Soul Veg to bring us one?

I’ve worked for and with Soul Vegetarian for just over 14 years. I learned how to cook vegan through the Soul Vegetarian Cookbook and working in their kitchens. Soul Veg is Chicago’s oldest vegan restaurant, so it’s fitting that they are a part of Chicago’s first vegan food truck.

SCV: How long has the food truck been in the works?

Soul Veg has been operating the food truck for the past 4 years on the South Side of Chicago. I figured it was time to expand their operations.

SCV: Will the food truck be roaming every night for a while or is this just for a limited time?

The truck operates on the South Side Mon through Fri and we will be operating [in the rest of the city] Tues through Sat nights initially. If all goes well, we’ll continue to expand.

SCV: Is lunch delivery exclusively food from Soul Veg?

It will be a combination of Soul Veg favorites and new creations I have been developing.

SCV: How do you decide what you’ll be serving on any given night?

We’re still testing new entrees…Chicago will ultimately decide if they’re good or not. If they don’t sell, we know they didn’t pass the test. Of course, Soul Veg favorites like mac n cheese, greens and BBQ delights will be featured.

SCV: What are some of the dishes you’ve been offering?

We [have been] concentrat[ing] on a couple of sandwiches, a daily Soul Veg meal and Soul Veg side dishes. Also, my wife will be providing desserts like a Chocolate silk pie and pecan pie. All vegan, of course.

SCV: How has response been so far?

We have only operated 3 days, but the response has been fantastic. Chicago loves their food and the vegan community is ultra supportive of positive, healthful new ventures. We are so grateful.

SCV:Will you really go to ANY neighborhood so long as vegans create a demand?
Absolutely. The best thing about the food truck is its mobility. Chicago is so diverse and we enjoy traveling the city.

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There you go Chicago, they’ll go to ANY neighborhood if you create demand! So start following them on Twitter (@stemartaen) or Facebook and let them know where you’d like to see them next. I know we’re looking forward to checking them out next time they’re roving our neighborhood, which just might be tonight, considering it’s already Tuesday!

P.S. They’re giving away a vegan pecan pie to the Name that Sandwich contest winner, plus the winning sandwich will be featured on the Food Truck’s menu!

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