Trishell Joffrion and Kate Becker created Flights of Fancy (www.facebook.com/flightoffancyfood), a pop-up restaurant and catering business focusing on innovative vegan and vegetarian cuisine. Joffrion spoke with Gambit about New Orleans' growing vegan scene, making food that caters to people with dietary restrictions and reimagining Southern cuisine for meat-free diners.
Why does Flights of Fancy focus on vegan and vegetarian cuisine?
Joffrion: Our Monday night [pop-up] meals are always vegetarian, and 99 percent of the time they are vegan — at least the main meal, but not necessarily the desserts. We did that so we could have everyone be [included] and so we didn't exclude anyone from eating with us. Our focus is ... on dietary restrictions and whatnot and being able to please everybody and give them a very flavorful meal that they can eat.
Do you think the New Orleans restaurant scene is becoming friendlier to diners with dietary restrictions?
J: I think the scene is improving. When I moved to New Orleans, I had been a pretty strict vegetarian for about half my life — since I was 16 years old. When I moved here I found myself really struggling to eat out and really struggling to be a part of the food culture. I wanted so badly to be a part of that. I went to the doctor and had to get on this nongluten diet, and all these things were taken away from me as far as food was concerned.
Eating out in New Orleans can be very tricky still, but things are getting better with pop-ups. Everyone who is doing a pop-up has some real inspiration behind what it is. A lot of it seems cultural, which is great. I'm from the South and I like to eat really heavy, hearty meals, and I like the majority of those meals to be vegetarian and gluten-free. I have to find a way to make my culture and my dietary needs fit together, and that's how I approach cooking at Flights of Fancy.
What's been the hardest dish to translate into a vegetarian or vegan version?
J: I used to think gumbo would be difficult, but we got that down. We learned that traditional vegan gumbo had already been created, so that was pretty cool to find out. Doing something like jambalaya or Creole dishes, I thought those were going to be hard, but we conquered those. Maybe something like a vegetable [jambalaya] instead of a shrimp or sausage jambalaya has been the biggest challenge.