So, you've heard your vegetarian friends talking about the monthly Chomp event that takes place in Denver, but you've never been. This coming week is the perfect time to show up, since it's Chomp's 1st birthday celebration! To get an idea of what you'll be in for, I interviewed one of the organizers - Mark Hagelberg.
Jill Harrigan: Hey there! Thanks for talking to us about the Chomp event that is taking place next Wednesday, April 6th at 7pm. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Mark Hagelberg: I help organize Chomp each month along with Josh Labure and Donald Reinhard. Basically, I try to make sure our cooks get everything they need, and then I run around for two days trying to get all the logistical stuff ready for the event.
JH: Chomp is a monthly community dinner that is 100% vegan friendly. It was created by the nonprofit organization Plants & Animals. That said, I think it’s important for readers to understand what Plants & Animals is all about. Can you give us some insight?
MH: Plants & Animals Denver is a grassroots nonprofit advocacy group that is essentially trying to help build the vegan scene in Denver. We are all volunteers who want to share our love for the plant-based lifestyle by hosting community events like Chomp and movie screenings. It all comes down to helping animals by promoting veganism. And we try to do that through business outreach and targeted campaigns.
JH: Why did Plants & Animals decide to create this monthly gathering?
MH: It grew out of a small group of us who started having vegan potlucks last year. The food was so good, and we were like, "If only we could share this with non-vegans!" So we decided to create an event where anybody could come and see how good plant-based cooking can be.
JH: I read that Chomp is aimed at bringing the young vegan community together in Denver. Why is it specifically focused on the young community? Can older people attend the gatherings?
MH: I should mention that I'm pushing 30 myself, and that I will probably consider myself young for a while. I think we try to be youth-oriented because we believe that the youth are the real change-makers. Young people have passion, willingness to change, and a desire to come together for a cause. We love the art and music scenes in Denver, and I guess we are trying to capture some of that energy, and steer it towards something that makes a difference. Anybody is welcome to attend our events. But we try our best to make them the sort of events that we ourselves would want to attend.
JH: April 6thmarks the 1stbirthday of Chomp. As an organizer, how does that make you feel?
MH: Every month we have grown, and it has been so cool to witness. Our last three Chomps have averaged around 100 attendees, and we have been able to use that momentum to do some other stuff that I'm really proud of. The April 6th Chomp will be our attempt to take it to a new level.
JH: Can you give us an idea of what types of food you’ll be serving at this month’s event?
MH: Since only a handful of people had a chance to try the amazing Italian food we had at our first dinner, we will be revisiting that theme for our birthday. We'll call it "Trattoria Night" to make it sound different. We like to make the exact menu a surprise, but you can definitely expect some pasta and sauce, plus a lot more.
JH: Would you like to tell us a little bit about the up-and-coming chefs who take part in these monthly dinners?
MH: Melanie Minard is our head chef. She gets a thrill out of cooking for others, and her ideas drive our menu each month. Trey Rainosek is a talented personal chef with a passion for healthy plant-based cooking. Kayla Gilbert is our core pastry chef who blows our minds with ridiculous desserts every month. We bring in new cooks every month to help share the load. Some of them are cooks by trade. Some, like Kayla Knopp, are devoted activists with great taste. It's a really cool team.
JH: Why should people attend this month’s Chomp event?
MH: We always try to outdo ourselves, and everybody loves Italian food. We will have an amazing raffle thanks to generous donations from the Queen Ann Bed & Breakfast, Whole Foods Cherry Creek, Root Down, and more. Eating vegan food makes the world a better place, so you should come if you want to learn some new dishes. And it looks like we'll have some music after dinner too!