The Vibrancy of Veganism and The Great Green Chef Cooking Competition

Photo by Shriya Deshpande

Sofia Quinones

Finally given the chance to prove their culinary prowess, eager vegan chefs came to the Isla Vista Co-Op to take part in the Green Chef Cooking Competition.

The competition was the most recent quarterly cook-off of the University of California’s Environmental Affair Board. This quarter’s theme was “cheap, yummy, and vegan.”

The Environmental Affairs Board (EAB) is the biggest environmental organization at the University of California, Santa Barbara. EAB is dedicated to improving the community’s environment by focusing on areas such as climate change, water policy, conservation, and food.

EAB has started many campaigns to promote environmental alternatives, such as sustainability and energy efficiency. Another in-progress project is a pop-up Thrift Shop, which is expected to appear on campus Nov. 29.

Six dishes were presented at the contest — three sweet and three savory — and all were made from healthy and vegan ingredients, such as peanut butter, vegan chocolates, fresh vegetables, and pumpkin spice.

After initial deliberations, four of these dishes won awards in the tasting categories of Best Savory, Best Sweet, Most Creative, and Fan-Favorite. Between 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., curious passerby could taste the various dishes on display and vote for what they felt was best.

During the tasting, the atmosphere remained fun and enthusiastic with an air of “healthy” competition. The members of EAB, as well as their friends and fellow foodies, explored the culinary skills of their peers and did so by presenting healthy, inexpensive cooking hacks.

Spring rolls, brownies, muffins, and rice noodles were all delicious recipes included in the festivities.

After all of the food was devoured, the two judges, the Sustainable Food co-chairs of the club, ruled in favor of two spring roll dishes, one for Best Savory, and the other for Fan-Favorite, which also sported a nice peanut dipping sauce.

Best Sweet went to a batch of delicious cookies with vegan chocolate, and last but not least, Most Creative went to an expertly spiced batch of rice noodles that you had to spoon into your hands and pop into your mouth. All the dishes were delightful.

 In an interview, EAB agreed that eating healthy means to eat well for your body, your environment, and for the planet.

“A lot of people are not just vegan for health, a lot of people are vegan because of the environmental impact,” Sheina Crystal said when asked what distinguishes vegan food and why it’s important for people to eat healthier. Crystal is a second-year environmental studies major and Sustainable Foods co-chair with Katee Gustavson, who is also a second year of the same major.

“Going Vegan is one of the biggest and easiest things an individual can do,” Gustavson said.

Crystal agreed, “In the carbon emissions of the planet, and not even just going vegan, but cutting out meat ‘cold turkey,’ no pun intended…just reducing the amount of meat or red meat that you eat, [and] kind of being aware of industries that are supporting your consumption can make a huge difference in the carbon footprint that you have.”

Major CO2 emissions can be reduced by choosing fresh fruit and vegetables, Crystal said. “Animal agriculture is one of the leading producers of CO2, which is why I went vegan. I think that a lot of people don’t realize that their diet can have a huge impact on the environment.”

Finding ways to eat healthy can be hard, especially when living on a budget. Here at UCSB, we are lucky that the dining halls provide healthy options for our meals, but there are also times when we eat outside of those infamous halls or go to the market for a midnight snack.

Healthy alternatives are good for your body and can make a huge impact on the world. The EAB campaigns for all sorts of ways, big and small, that one can get involved and give back to the community and the natural environment.

EAB meets every Wednesday in the MultiCultural Center and regularly offers various workshops to teach people the ways in which they can live green.