The Daily Illini

Three of a kind: The Red Herring looks to promote vegan cuisine

By Abby Paeth, Contributing Writer

Three different types of beans, sweet potatoes and bell peppers are some of the main ingredients used to make vegan chili at the Red Herring in Urbana. The restaurant is interested in getting the community more involved, and will start today with its first vegan chili cook-off.

The cook-off is a fundraiser to support the Channing Murray Foundation and to raise money for social and environmental justice. It will feature a three-course dinner that includes the Red Herring’s own chili recipe and vegan cornbread, as well as three different types of chili made by both community members and a registered student organization known as the University Vegans. Participants will vote on their favorite chili and a winner will be announced at the end of the evening.

“With the permission of the person who wins, we will feature their recipe as a special sometime this semester,” said Holly Curia, head chef and kitchen manager at the Red Herring. “It would be awesome if somebody made a chili that I was blown away by … If people think it’s better we might have to change (our) recipe.”

According to the Channing Murray Foundation’s website, the fundraiser aims to promote its goals through events that are “radically inclusive, social justice-centered and spiritually alive.”

Sean Hennessy, outreach coordinator of University Vegans and graduate student in Agricultural and Applied Economics, will volunteer at the event with other members of the group. He said one of the great benefits of maintaining a vegan diet is learning how to cook and get creative when preparing food.

“At first, (the diet) seems super restrictive, like no meat, no milk, no eggs and those things are in a lot of different foods. But then you start exploring other foods and you discover that it’s this whole (other) world,” he said.

Geeta Bharathi, junior in Business and Media, was a vegetarian most of her life before she started eating meat during her senior year in high school. While Bharathi doesn’t consider herself a vegetarian anymore, she said she still enjoys vegetarian cuisine and tries to stay away from meat.

“It was harder to be vegetarian in college. If you go to the Ike there is a vegan section but everything just (doesn’t) taste fresh,” she said. “(The Red Herring) makes it easier having the option to go somewhere where you know that everything is vegan.”

Hennessy said he’s excited to participate in the event and thinks it’s a good way to get community members and students introduced to vegan foods.

“Chili is one of those (foods) where even some meat eaters will say vegan chili is better than a chili that uses meat,” Hennessy said.

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