(photo courtesy of Bistro Vonish facebook page)
This week we finally caught a free hour to check out Bistro Vonish for lunch. Proprietor Craig Vanis recently launched the trailer as a precursor to the brick and mortar restaurant he hopes to open some time this year. We’ve been eager to sample his unique high end vegan fare and took advantage of the first (long awaited) sunny day this week to head over to Manor Road and place our orders.
We pulled up a seat at the orange picnic tables and dug into the Hoppin’ Jean Polenta with Seitan and the Apple Arugula Pizza.
Craig was kind enough to take the time to answer some of our questions about the trailer, his plans for the brick & mortar, and why he’s bringing gourmet vegan dishes to Austin.
VSG: Tell us about Bistro Vonish. What distinguishes you from other food trailers and vegan eateries in Austin?
CV: Bistro Vonish offers an elevated approach to vegan cuisine, with inspired dishes that showcase local, seasonal produce. We’re always working to get the freshest flavors from Central Texas farms onto the menu.
VSG: How did you get into the field of fine/gourmet vegan cooking?
CV: I actually started my professional life as a mechanical engineer, graduating with honors form the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and working for several years in everything from building jet engines with GE to the oil fields of East Texas. When my entire department was laid off, I took that as an opportunity to go anD pursue what I was truly passionate about: vegan cookery. Within nine months of this transition, I was managing my first restaurant kitchen with my own menus out. From there I’ve worked in a couple raw foods kitchens, a couple bakeries, restaurants, farmers markets, and more. What began to really stand out was the way we experience food not only as nutrition, but also as social and emotional creatures. I want to help create moments for people to sit and enjoy a meal that brings them closer to their friends and family, that brings back those warm feelings of eating in grandma’s kitchen, or something else that is new, interesting, and entertaining.
VSG: Where do your recipes come from? How are they developed?
CV: One thing I remind myself of continually, is that I am not the first one to create a recipe. These foods have many, many long, storied traditions and cultures deeply intertwined with them. I look to take inspiration from places like my Czech heritage, and carry them into the modern world I find myself in. When a recipe goes from something fundamental to something that I can call my own, it has been made over and over again, continually thinking of where it could use improvement, then trying it over and over again with this new approach.
VSG: Why did you choose to set up shop in Austin?
CV: I swore to myself ten years ago that I would never drive in snow again. But Austin has quite a bit more to offer than its warmer climate, though the year round growing season does make it a pretty ideal place for local foods. Austin IS a place that is young enough, as a city, where there is still a lot of room for a new idea to take off, but is established enough that there is infrastructure and establishED communities to support these new ideas.
VSG: What’s on the menu this season at BV? What recipes are you excited to work on/develop?
CV: Right now we’re doing an Apple-Arugula Pizza with candied walnuts and a mozzarella mornay sauce as the base, and a Butternut Suppli with butternut risotto formed into a croquette, pan seared, and served over collard greens, sweet potato, onion, and pickled cranberries. I’m very excited by both those dishes. It’s always fun finding ways to bring seasonal flavors into the sweet and savory kolaches we create here every day.
VSG: What are your plans for a vegan brick & mortar fine vegan restaurant in Austin?
CV: Bistro Vonish started as a supper club (something we are still looking to do periodically), and has moved into the trailer. Once we move into the brick and mortar, we’d love to keep the trailer going with the kolaches and its own seasonal menus. The full restaurant, however, is a tremendous opportunity to create a complete, start to finish, dining experience with service, ambiance, and beverages aimed at matching the quality of the food. We’re keeping our eyes out for the right moment and space to move to the next level.