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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Take a Bite

Chef Tori Chapman is helping Evansville expand its palate

Photo of strawberry mini cake provided by Tori Chapman

Tori Chapman grew up around cooking. Her grandmother whipped up southern-style food, her mother cooked homemade meals daily and baked a cake for every birthday, and her uncle Glen was a chef at the former Tropicana casino, now Bally’s Evansville. Through that legacy, Chapman, a Benjamin Bosse High School graduate, harnesses her talent to bring vegan baked goods to Evansville with Vegan Eats and Treats.

She was inspired to go vegan – which involves nixing meat, dairy, and all animal byproducts while cooking – after watching the 2017 documentary “What the Health,” a film linking food to chronic diseases, and she soon after started a food blog called Vegan Eats and Treats. She transformed tinkering with recipes into a business selling her own creations from the apartment she shared with her partner Ryan Herring and their first daughter. At first, Chapman sold her inventory to friends and family, but that changed when word got out.

Photo of bang bang fried chick’n provided by Tori Chapman

“It was the community hyping me up. The community just wanted something different, and I could provide it,” Chapman says.

When she first brought her vegan options to Evansville foodies, she was peppered with questions, which have dissipated over the years as more people are exposed to vegan food.

“Evansville has really opened their minds to different kinds of food. It doesn’t have to be meat and potatoes to taste like meat and potatoes,” she says.

She moved operations out of her home and started cooking out of commissary kitchens before landing in October 2023 at Kitchen 812, where she also hosts monthly popups. She operates most of her business from social media, while Ryan helps behind the scenes.

Soul food cornbread bowl photo provided by Tori Chapman

She primarily produces baked goods – cookies, cakes, pie scones, cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, and doughnuts – which she makes with vegan substitutes for eggs, milk, and butter. Her baked goods also stock River City Coffee & Goods on Main Street. While she mostly bakes, she grew up on soul food like fried chicken, collard greens, and mac and cheese, which she has learned to convert to vegan options using plant-based chicken, dairy free cheeses and milks, and vegan friendly oils and butters. She also offers custom orders, curbside pickup, and catering.

“Our most popular is savory food because customers can’t get it all the time,” she says.

Chapman dreams of having a brick-and-mortar location or a food truck.

“This is just a starting point still to us,” she says. “Eventually, we’ll be able to branch out.”

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