To go vegan is to give up cheese in all its many-splendored forms. Grilled cheese, cheese pizza, mac and cheese, all lost forever in pursuit of a plant-based diet.

...just kidding. In truth, Portland herbivores have their pick of vegan pizza and dairy-free grilled cheese. As for cheeseless macaroni, well, more than 30 local chefs and home cooks recently proved how easy, creamy, and delicious dairy-free mac can be. Last Sunday's Ultimate Mac & Cheese Showcase pitted local chefs from the Cheese Plate PDX and Paradox Cafe against reps from big-name brands like Heidi Ho, Vtopian, and Field Roast and and amateur cooks eager to share their secret recipes. The resulting spread of slow cookers and Corningware sent the sold-out crowd into a communal food coma.

This community cook-off is the latest in a line of events from local nonprofit Vegan Iron Chef. Founded in 2010 to celebrate culinary excellence and unite the ever-expanding vegan community, the volunteer-run organization has plugged steadily along at the rate of one event per year. (Previous years have featured a pop-up taco shop and a tofu scramble showdown.) Each competition features a panel of esteemed judges—in this case, the Sudra's Sanjay Chandrasekaran, Portobello's Dinae Horne, and renown artist Nicole J. Georges—charged with crowning the new Vegan Iron Chef. This year, Paradox Cafe's Danny Belthius took home the trophy, thanks no doubt to the savory soy curls and pickled okra that accompanied his Cajun Garlic "Bacon" Mac. 

Hosted at the Hatch on Nov. 16, the event—and any leftover noodles—is sadly long gone. But if you're curious as to what a room full of cheeseless mac looks like (and we know you are), check out our slide show above!

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