Written by Morgan Forde
Photographed by Isabel Yu
For this issue we had the chance to sit down with Southeast DC native and fierce food entrepreneur Alex Walsh, owner of Living on the Vedge to talk about starting her growing business and her vegan lifestyle. The following is a transcript of our conversation (over her homemade vegan crab cakes and grits!) lightly condensed and edited for clarity.
Morgan Forde: So tell us about what Living on the Vedge is and how you got started!
Alex Walsh: “Living on the Vedge is a vegan lifestyle brand designed to encourage people to eat less meat and eat more vegetables. It all started with me going to school New York eating a ton of NY street car food, a lot of really bad processed cheese and gyros, and doing a lot of damage to my body around age 22, 23. When I moved back to DC initially I was continuing that poor diet and poor habits and was lost in my transition from college to becoming an adult.
MF: That’s a hard time to navigate. I think a lot of people can definitely relate to that.
AW: Yeah, and I just felt like I wanted to clean up and the first thing that came to mind was just to eat better and to get myself out of this depressed state by eating foods that made me feel more alive. So to start I just cut out meats slowly. I went from chicken to fish to burgers which were my favorite. Then I started eating vegetables and noticed that my body and my mind and my mood were just better. I got kind of obsessed with the lifestyle and not only was I enjoying what it was doing for my body but the process of cooking became so therapeutic for me. I just started post what I was cooking on Instagram and people started asking, ‘Oh what’s your recipe for that?’ and I didn’t know any recipes I was just like ‘I’m throwing stuff together!’
But I went from throwing things together to actually writing it down and saying ‘ok I’m really on to something that might be good for other people.’ So I decided to write a free cookbook. It’s only got fifteen recipes but I I got my friend who’s really good at graphic design to help me and we launched a website and released it!
MF: That’s fantastic, congratulations! It’s great that you’ve made something like this so accessible for people. So when you made this big life transition were you completely self-taught, or researching vegan cooking on your own?
AW: Pretty much, yes! So I actually had an opportunity in high school to do an after school program called BrainFood in Chinatown. They had a huge kitchen and you pretty much just went twice a week and they would teach you cooking skills. I developed a love of food there but actually never thought to pursue cooking until later when I became more interested in healthy living. But I did reach back out to Brainfood last year and was able to come back in as a guest chef and teach a class in the same kitchen I learned to cook in ten years ago when I was 16!
MF: That’s amazing, so things really came full circle?
AW: They did! To be there teaching kids recipes from my own cookbook was phenomenal. It’s unfortunate that the program actually lost funding after that.
My class was the last class they offered. I’m hoping that changes because DC is becoming such a hub for restaurants, and food and hotels and these kids could really learn about the hospitality trade that is thriving here. So I’d actually love to create a program like that in the future because I really see the value in teaching youth the power of cooking.
MF: What are your thoughts on being an entrepreneur and how do you think you’ve grown as your business has started to take off?
AW: I’ve definitely become a lot more confident. It’s nerve-wracking having people try your food! But I’ve realized that veganism isn’t as intimidating as people think and I’ve found that I can actually do this on my own. I’ve learned a lot from following a lot of vegan cooks on Instagram and Pinterest, but honestly most of my inspiration comes from just thinking about what I want to eat and how I can make that work. Eventually I realized that it’s not really about the meat it’s about the seasonings and those flavors often come from plants and vegetables. Once I realized that, I could make cauliflower taste like my mom’s fried chicken because all the flavor was in the batter!
MF: So what’s next for the brand? And do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs?
AW: I’ve always been such a multi-tasker though and not making as much progress as I want. But in the last year I’ve really been focusing on mono-tasking and not worrying about being on top of every single trend and that’s helped me a lot. I think it will help other people too because I have a lot of friends who have great ideas but they just hop from one thing to the next so quickly that they don’t give their ideas time to grow. Just let something grow! It’s not a rush no matter what you want to do. I don’t care if there’s a vegan chef in every one of these houses there will always be someone for you to feed.
“Food is therapy. I love food. I love to eat food, to prepare food, and to serve people.”
I’m really happy with Delivery on the Vedge right now though and have gotten a lot of great feedback from that. People who have told me that they would never eat vegan have now come back multiple times so that’s a big win. The goal though is to work up to doing this full time and to have products in stores generating more income that way. But right now I’m in that phase of trying to be as good as I can. It’s not about the money it’s about getting people to eat healthy.
You can learn more about Living on the Vedge and download Alex’s free cookbook by visiting www.livingonthevedgellc.com or following Alex @livingonthevedgellc on Instagram