Going Vegan For A Month Taught Me the True Meaning of Hospitality

Going Vegan For A Month Taught Me the True Meaning of Hospitality

A personal cooking challenge delivers a much bigger lesson in compassion.

November 14, 2016

To celebrate his birthday this year, Austin chef Philip Speer challenged himself to go vegan for one month. While he expected to learn techniques that would make him a better chef when he opens his upcoming venture Bonhomie, he encountered a surprising lesson in compassion.

I went to Lucy's Fried Chicken, a place you probably wouldn't think of as a vegan place. I knew they had a grilled veggie plate, so I got [it]; then I ordered a watermelon salad and it had some feta on it. I said, "Can I get that without the feta?" [The server is] like, "Yeah, cool." Then he's like, "Hey are you vegan?" I'm like, "Yeah, I am.”

He's like, "These black-eyed peas — no dairy — these are awesome, that'll round out your meal nicely." This was in a Texas fried chicken place. I ordered it, I left there happy. I'll go back any day because the experience was made so easy and so accommodating just by someone paying attention. Rather than treating me as a problem guest, a person with “limitations,” he took the time to notice the cues and help me. 

It was then that I realized: who are we to judge? As chefs, I think our first reaction to vegans and people with special diets a lot of the time is “then just stay home.” Why not just take it that extra step and create what could be a customer for life? We don't know the whole story, why not be accommodating and create these new relationships by going that extra step of being friendly and helpful? By having a little knowledge and compassion? That's what chefs are there for. That's what I learned being a vegan: if I’m really truly being hospitable and doing my job correctly, I’m going as far as I can to be accommodating to my guests. 

Most people want to go into a restaurant, they want to be served. They want to be taken care of. They want to be hospitality-ized. It's my house and you're coming to join me for some food — I want to be able to cook for you.

As told to Roxanne Webber | Image by ChefsFeed