dirty raven toronto

One of Toronto's best vegan chefs wants to teach you to eat your damn veggies

The motto of one of Toronto's best vegan chefs and self-described "plant whisperer" Matt Ravenscroft of Rosalinda has become "eat your damn veggies" during the pandemic.

Many of us have likely turned to the convenience and comfort of fast food and carbs to feed ourselves during the pandemic, and a lack of balance in our diets isn't helpful at a time when it's important to stay healthy.

Enter Ravenscroft and his project "Plants a la Dirty Raven," a resource he created for veggie-based recipes and takeout.

"We kicked off the project early COVID lockdown one. With Rosalinda closing down temporarily, I finally had the space and time to focus on building my personal brand, something I had wanted to pursue for years, but it's really difficult to find the time for side projects on a restaurant chef schedule," Ravenscroft told blogTO.

"With a lot of help from my wife, sister-in-law/designer extraordinaire and a lot of talented friends and family, we launched The Dirty Raven brand in May 2020 with a series of weekly Instagram cooking classes, and followed up with the website in July."

On his website you'll find dozens of not at all boring recipes available totally free, for dishes like vegan pineapple upside-down cake, mushroom "lobster" rolls, nachos, cauliflower mac n' cheese, vegan endive gratin, roasted rutabaga and peach panzanella salad.

"As the realities of COVID started to sink in, I recognized an opportunity to empower people to eat more vegetables and to learn to prepare them at home and enjoy the process," says Ravenscroft.

"The articulation of the brand and the means with which I will connect it to the community will be forever in beta, but the goal remains the same, to inspire people to eat and cook more vegetables."

He's also been doing "vegetable reviews" on TikTok as another way of engaging with veggie content.

"The biodiversity of edible plants feels infinite to me, and as a result the possibilities seem endless with what can be done. I also strongly believe that plants are the future. Because of the environment, because of health, because of ethics, because of cost, and because they are insanely delicious if you know some basics about how to cook them," says Ravenscroft.

"You don't need any fancy tools or difficult techniques. The problem is that most people are still pretty intimidated by them. Changing that is my mission."

If you're still intimidated by actual cooking, or just don't have the time or energy, you can try getting your hands on Ravenscroft's "Friday Night Delights" takeout, though it's been selling out. $35 per person includes a starter and main (say, bitter greens salad and mushroom risotto) plus a $5 donation to a local food justice organization.

"We'll switch up the menu every week and post it along with an order form on Instagram every Sunday at 5 p.m. Get it while it's hot! Quantities are limited, I'm just one human, and the first week sold out in under two hours," says Ravenscroft.

"Each meal includes a starter and a hot course with instructions to heat up at home. And we're going to keep things interesting by collaborating with friends and other local businesses to offer optional add on treats: cookies, flowers, etc."

For Ravenscroft, though, "nothing makes me happier than seeing people enjoy cooking at home."

"Trying new recipes that might have intimidated them in the past, and then proudly posting their creations on Instagram. People have also messaged me to mention that it's inspired them to try new recipes and embrace the idea of plant-based meals," says Ravenscroft.

"I'm not out here preaching about any strict rules around how people eat or prepare food at home, but it excites me to see even the most extreme self-proclaimed carnivores or traditional 'meat and potato' type eaters embracing the idea of plant-forward cuisine."    

Lead photo by

Josh Tenn-Yuk

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