A Minneapolis native with a degree in nutrition, Jehan Strouse migrated to New Orleans, where she co-organized the NOLA Veggie Fest for five years. Strouse left her post at the festival and along with partner Zachary Campbell opened 3 Potato 4 (2727 S. Broad St., Suite 102, 504-298-7761; www.facebook.com/3p4neworleans), a franchise of the national chain offering vegan and gluten-free potato bars with a 1950s sci-fi theme. Strouse spoke with Gambit about veganism, health and potatoes.
What's the mission of 3 Potato 4?
Strouse: You could call us a gourmet organic potato bar with different toppings and sauces. People who've traveled in Europe, especially Belgium, relate us to a pommes frites stand. We use organic potatoes with lots of different toppings, and recently we added soups to the mix. Soups and potatoes and chilis make for a nice lunch. We have 18 different sauces, though we alternate special sauces through the week. We basically have a base and then mix them with different spices, so we don't use any high-fructose corn syrup, genetically modified tomato ketchup or anything like that. Then we have things like malt vinegar, homemade hot sauce and more.
The potatoes are from Washington state, where they have stringent guidelines for certified organic potatoes. We have Russet potatoes, waffle-cut sweet potatoes and rosemary-garlic red potatoes.
Potatoes get a bad rap, I think because they're so often fried (ours are baked). But they're actually high in potassium, Vitamin C and fiber, and they're naturally gluten free. They're a really great, whole food and very good for you. And we also have our banana rockets, which are frozen chocolate bananas. We source the chocolate ourselves. It's all organic, fair trade dark chocolate.
What are the benefits of vegan and gluten-free diets?
S: There are many. Of course a vegan diet is going to be the most heart-healthy diet you can have. It's low in saturated fats, it's a low inflammatory diet and low in animal products that can clog your arteries. It has a really light carbon footprint, too, so it's not only better for you and the animals, it's better for the planet. That's another thing we focus on here: being eco-responsible. We don't have any trash; we don't even have a trash can. Everything is compostable, recyclable or biodegradable.
We also like to include less processed food, eating more like we would in nature. As for gluten, wheat became hybridized in the '70s, and that's when problems started to happen. Scientists started messing with the makeup of the wheat, and it raised gluten content, causing a lot of inflammatory problems with digestion and joints for people who are gluten sensitive. So, having a low or gluten-free diet can definitely help with those sorts of issues.
How have you been received in New Orleans?
S: We've been very well-received. So many people come in here and are so happy, even their kids, because more people are becoming vegan in this country than ever before and raising their families that way. And the vegan options in New Orleans have multiplied in recent years. Some people are damned near in tears when they come in — they're so happy to have found a great vegan or gluten-free option with us. It makes us feel great that we're providing that for people.
When it comes to people who aren't already vegan, if that conversation comes up, I'm happy to have it. I have a nutrition degree, so I can talk for hours about it. But if it doesn't come up, we'll just go about our business and sell some great food. One girl came in the other night and said, "I never knew vegan mayonnaise could be so good." We're here to show people that vegan food can taste great, and you're not going to feel terrible when you leave.