What comes to mind when you think of sustainability in the food space? As the focus on sourcing and intention becomes more and more prevalent, many people are looking to fuel themselves with food that not only causes little harm to them, but to the environment as well. And in most instances, this speaks to the vegan and vegetarian lifestyle. The Mercury spoke to three Portland area vegan chefs about what sustainability means to them, how they sustain after serving the community, and their favorite fall ingredients.

Jewan Manuel

Chef: @itsplantbasedpapi; Bit House Collective/Fortune

Mercury: What does sustainability mean to you?

To me, sustainability means taking care of everything we’ve inherited at this stage. I feel like as human beings we should make this place better than when we came into it. I feel that has a lot to do with helping others. Overall I know that’s more spiritual than global, but that’s just how I feel about sustainability and why it matters to me.

What’s your go-to meal to sustain yourself after a long day of feeding people?

It’s super boring, but I love to steam kale and spinach. We get a huge batch at the restaurant and I always keep two for myself. I’ll steam the kale and spinach, and eat it with rice and chili flakes. And I honestly eat that four to five times a week. Half the time it’s too late to eat anything processed, and I try to take care of myself.

What ingredients are you looking forward to showcasing in your dishes this fall?

One of my favorite things is go downtown to the Portland Farmers Market at Portland State University, and there’s a few local Black-owned farms in town that I actually source fruits and vegetables from. We’re changing over the menu at Fortune [where I’m an in-house chef] to a more dinner-set menu where we’ll be doing things like cauliflower steaks and rotating soups including butternut squash and broccoli cheddar—things that reflect the season.

Nino Ortiz

Co-Owner: Mitate, Vegan/Gluten Free Sushi Cart

What does sustainability mean to you?

I worked at Bamboo [Sushi] around five years when I first moved to Portland, and sustainability was a totally different concept. It was about using and sourcing the right product—like fish. That’s one way of thinking about sustainability.

Now that I’m doing vegan food, it’s more about sustainability in terms of our own small business and supporting the local community. Of course the environment is important and using reusable things is important—and that comes with having a conscience. For us, it’s also: What is organic? What’s local? And how many small businesses can we include in our business? We use a local microgreen farmer, and he started around the same time as us. It's important to keep our businesses and community thriving together, instead of us deciding to use wholesale all the time. Doing vegan food in general, it’s kind of implied that what you do is mostly sustainable, but for us as a new business— and to establish ourselves in the industry—we want to be an attractive place where people want to work in the future. That’s kind of what sustainability means to me now.

What’s your go-to meal to sustain yourself after a long day of feeding people?

I would say, at the end of the day my go-to meal I seem to always be having is—honestly—a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. When you’re working all the time and making food all day, I’m one of those people that has a hard time making food for myself at home. It’s like a sweet treat also. [Laughs.]

What ingredients or dishes are you looking forward to showcasing this fall?

There’s a lot of things that we’re working on, but one thing we’re going to try to have regularly, since it’s getting cold, is our homemade miso soup. That’s actually from my other chef, Thai Nguyen. I wanted to do a miso soup, but she’s the one who put it together. We’re making our own veggie broth, using a locally made miso, and we’re putting things in it that you typically don’t get in a miso soup when you go out to eat. You get your tofu, green onion, and seaweed— but then we’re also adding yam jelly and mushrooms.

Rebecca Smith

Owner: Ice Queen, Vegan Popsicle Shop

What does sustainability mean to you?

Sustainability has a two-part meaning for me: One is awareness, and the other is action. As a food producer, sustainability means creating intentional relationships with other local producers, being aware of where our food comes from to the best of my ability, and asking myself how can I help without responsibilizing individuals for much larger issues.

What’s your go-to meal to sustain yourself after a long day of feeding people?

I tend to order out a lot since I’m so tired by the time I get home. Ordering out for me almost feels social, even though it's the exact opposite. I don't always have time to try new places or support my friend's restaurants, so ordering out helps me feel like I’m still a part of things. If I do cook, it's probably soup—everyone knows I love soup, LOL!

What ingredients/dishes are you looking forward to showcasing (or eating) this fall?

As a basic bitch, I am very excited for pumpkin spice among many other things. I love the heartiness of fall foods, the transition between light summer eating to filling my belly to the brim with potatoes, corn, baked goods, and of course, soup.