The Cheat Sheet: Rich Landau of Vedge

Eating vegan doesn't mean downing tasteless tofu and carrot sticks every single day. Chef Rich Landau of Philly's best vegan restaurant, Vedge, is out to prove it.

Rich Landau with wife/co-owner Kate Jacoby

It’s rare to find someone who truly practices what they preach, so I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Vedge’s Rich Landau is one of those people. If you’re not familiar with Vedge, it’s an amazing vegan restaurant (we’re talking not a single animal product, people) that has caused a significant amount on buzz here in the city. The food is nothing short of amazing and people are loving it, whether they are strict vegans or die-hard carnivores.  I recently dined at Vedge, and my friend and I agreed that we didn’t miss the meat, cheese, cream sauces, etc., and left feeling more than satisfied.  If Rich and his team cooked for me everyday, I could happily be vegan!

I wanted to find out more about this meat-free chef to see what he eats at home, how he stays fit, and what ingredients he likes to cook with most. Here’s what he had to say.

Finish this sentence: “When I was 16, healthy meant …”

I ate anything that tasted amazing—so pretty much a diet of things that will kill you.

You own an amazing vegan restaurant.  Are you a strict vegan?

My wife, Kate, and I are 98 percent vegan, but we hate to label it. To us it’s more of a state of mind and approach to life rather than a strict religion.

We have always been vegetarian but lately more and more we have been realizing how ridiculous human dairy intake really is. I mean, most of us are allergic to it and don’t know it, we are the only species on the planet that consumes dairy after we are done nursing, the animals are tortured for their milk (and then killed), and there pretty much no health benefits to dairy compared to the negative effects it has on the human body. It’s just one of those things that the more you read the more it just becomes a turn off to consume it.

We’ll still eat it every now and then, but we do it these days with more thought and awareness (read: no cheap stuff).

Are you more “sweet” or “savory,” and what’s your go-to guilty pleasure?

Savory all the way. My guilty pleasures are hoagies and eggplant parm. I could probably eat three full sandwiches in a sitting if no one does an intervention.

Another one: “To stay in shape I …”

Run, do push-ups, walk and plan my meals sensibly. Japanese for breakfast and salad for lunch is a good foundation.

Wait, Japanese for breakfast?

We fell in love with Japanese food in Japan (of all places, right?) so while I wouldn’t call our meal a definitive Japanese breakfast, which is pretty elaborate, we usually just make noodle bowls with a homemade stock & sea vegetables and serve it with fresh greens, vegetables and nori. It’s a great start to the day.

What’s your favorite healthy cookbook?

The Horizons books, of course. (Here and here.)

What’s your favorite healthy kitchen tool, and why?

The stock pot. I am obsessed with making stocks, and when done right they can beat out a butter or cream sauce any day.

If you could only cook with one whole grain what would it be, and why?

Tough one, but I’ll go brown rice since it can adapt to so many ethnic cuisines.

If you were an herb what would you be, and why?

Rosemary. I can exist happily in all seasons except deep winter. I am familiar and comfortable once you get to know me and I evoke strong beautiful memories when I am around you. The things you can do with me are surprising, and once you cook with me it’s hard to take the rest of the herbs seriously.

If you could only cook with three vegetables what would they be?

Easy: potatoes, cauliflower and mushrooms.

“In my garden I have …”

Flowers and shrubs and fountains

What’s your favorite comfort food?

Pizza, dolsot bibimbap and classic spaghetti.

What’s your best tip for creating a healthy, delicious dish?

Stop using so many animal products. A fried egg and cheese aren’t necessary to make a vegetarian dish sexy.

Katie says: I honestly can’t stop recommending this restaurant to people, especially my meat-eating friends. My recommendations? Have a few of the specials on the “dirt list” which spotlights the day’s seasonal produce choices. The fingerling potato fries and crispy cauliflower made a lasting impression, so hurry in soon while they’re still on the menu. Other standouts: salt-roasted gold beets with avocado, smoked tofu, rye, capers and creamy cucumber; nebrodini mushroom “fazzoletti” with shaved corn, salt-baked gold potato and basil; fresh hearts of palm with pan-seared tofu, gold lentils, curry, tomato chutney; and the braciole, smoked eggplant and cauliflower with Italian salsa verde and cured olives. If you go, be sure to pre-gam with lots of water, and guzzle it while you dine, too. You will likely consume far more fiber then you usually do, and the last thing you want to deal with after a tasty meal is an upset stomach.


Have a restaurant or chef you’d like us to feature in the Cheat Sheet? Let us know in the comments!

Restaurant menus are reviewed by Phillies dietitian and owner of Healthy Bites Katie Cavuto Boyle. In most cases, the individual restaurants were contacted for specific ingredient and recipe information. Note: Many restaurants have seasonal menus and some items may not be available.

>> See Cheat Sheets for other Philly restaurants here. And for Katie’s healthy dining-out tips, go here.