Twenty Weeks, Twenty Stories: Monster Vegan

To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Center City District Restaurant Week, we’ll be spending time celebrating the chefs—and some of their favorite recipes—as we get closer to the event.

This week, we’re excited to share some stories and insights from chef and owner of Monster Vegan, Ron Tadeo. Known for scary good bites, Monster Vegan stands out as Restaurant Week’s sole vegan-only spot!

Q&A with Monster Vegan

What inspired your journey to become a chef?

What really inspired me to pursue the culinary arts was growing up in Northeast Philadelphia. As a native Philadelphian, you're exposed to some of the best food in the nation. I'm Polish and Filipino, so I've had the privilege of enjoying traditional dishes while also eating my way through South Philly, Center City, and the surrounding suburbs. I think people from Philadelphia have very high expectations when it comes to food because they're used to getting the best.

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Image courtesy of Monster Vegan.

What inspired your approach to cooking?

My approach to cooking is constant experimentation to recreate my favorite comfort foods: pasta, risottos, burgers, fried chicken sandwiches… really everything under the sun. But in this case, making something I'm craving and miss eating before going vegan.

All the things that made me love cooking can easily be made without animal products. We're a vegan restaurant for carnivores; there's plenty of places that offer straight health food, but we're not that spot. We want to give the people what they're craving, and that might be a killer chicken parmesan hoagie, rigatoni alla vodka, truffle alfredo, or a burger the size of your face. There's a market for everything with food, and I happen to crave the "good" stuff and that's what I love to cook. Ultimately, I want people to enjoy exactly what it is they're craving and realize it can be done without slaughter.

What has been the proudest moment of your journey as a chef?

This is really corny, but having the epiphany that while I love cooking and certainly love food, I love animals more. Opening a restaurant that people really seem to like is also at the top of the list. Sometimes vegan food can be very stuffy and the one thing we noticed that's occasionally missing are vegan spots that are just fun. That's why we incorporated camp, kitsch, and schlock, which are all synonymous with our second greatest love… classic monsters and horror movies.

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Image courtesy of Monster Vegan.

Can you tell us about the recipe you shared, including the story behind it, its inspiration, and why you chose to submit it?

The dish I shared is a classic Italian pasta but utilizing oyster mushrooms instead of clams. I love this dish because it's something I would make for my father. He's elderly and I care for him, I'm always figuring out ways to provide him with seafood dishes utilizing vegetables since he loves shellfish. I also think this recipe hits the best notes of Italian cooking. It's fresh, it's creamy, it's salty, and you don't feel like you're in an induced food coma after having it.

Click here to view the recipe.

How have you seen Center City evolve since opening?

What's cool is there's always new restaurants opening, and Philadelphia has such a strong sense of community and city pride. Locals are so welcoming and supportive to whoever is trying to get a shot in opening a business here. Seems like everyone has one another's back and rooting for you to succeed. Especially when it comes to our buddies in the industry, we always just want the best for one another.

What do you think is the biggest misunderstanding people have about vegan food?

We just encourage people to come hungry, order a big sandwich or pasta, and ask themselves if they really missed the animal milk or meat missing from what they just ate. Vegan food can be just as delicious, or 10 times better.

Celebrate Twenty Years of Restaurant Week

We thank our friends at Monster Vegan, especially Chef Ron Tadeo, for sharing these insights! To visit Monster Vegan, visit their website, and be sure to follow them on Facebook and Instagram!

Stay tuned as we continue to share more of these stories as we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Center City District Restaurant Week, and check out all of the amazing restaurant options in Center City!

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