Night-time Sous Chef Spencer Anderson is only 21-years-old. He is exceptionally talented. He is exceedingly creative. He is an integral part of the Bordinos culinary team. And he’s a vegan.
What began as a challenge among friends, Anderson began cutting meat, dairy, and other animal by-products out of his diet seven months ago. Now he is bringing his creations to the Bordinos kitchen with the hope to be more inclusive to the vegan community that he has come to wholeheartedly embrace.
“There’s a community of people living in Fayetteville that we’ve never catered to,” Anderson says. “When I Google ‘vegan options near me’ Bordinos isn’t on the list and I want to change that.”
With weekly specials and his newly developed “Meatless Mondays,” Anderson has been offering creative comfort meals with a healthy twist over the last few months. Some of his most popular vegan dishes have been a gluten-free lasagna made with zucchini noodles and almond ricotta as well as his carrot and potato latkes served with warm mirepoix salad and a smoky carrot catsup (carrots three ways!) He keeps nut-based “cream” sauces on hand and creates customizable pasta dishes when he isn’t running specific vegan features.
Anderson says he is not looking to change the classic Bordinos entrees that have delighted our clientele for the past 20 years, however he aims to provide alternatives to current menu items with dairy-free pasta sauces, high-quality meat replacements, and more whole foods and vegetables.
“One of my big goals for 2018 is to get into vegan cheese making so we can try to have it on the charcuterie and cheese appetizer or even to just have some sort of a dairy-free alternative to the dish,” he says.
Anderson converted to veganism as a self-challenge but now has come to appreciate and promote the positive environmental aspects that accompany the ditching of meat and dairy products from his diet. He is also a strong advocate of understanding the sources of the food we eat. Smaller scale local producers are often more transparent about their farming practices.
“I think that’s the biggest thing that I want people to realize is where their food comes from,” he says. “A lot of people don’t really put it in to perspective.”
“At Bordinos we strive to bring fresh, seasonal food to the table that we can see has a tangible impact on our community,” Anderson continues. “We try as often as possible to source from local farms such as Sweden Creek for our shiitakes, Foothold Farm for greens and other vegetables, or Tri Cycle Farms.”
Anderson also explains that the Bordinos team works closely with local farms to provide community outreach through food drives benefiting charitable organizations.
He keeps a level head when it comes to his moral standards surrounding food and his personal responsibility as a chef at Bordinos.
“One of the biggest things that I have to keep in mind is that I’m still a chef and I cook for other people,” Anderson says. “I still have to taste my food. I’m still representing Bordinos as a whole. People want their beef tenderloin cooked perfectly and I still have to uphold that end of the bargain,” he says.
Anderson explains that he understands he is on a personal journey with veganism but is grateful for the opportunity to experiment at an established restaurant where he hopes to bring in a broader clientele. He credits his executive chef, front of house managers as well as Joe Fennel with providing him with the encouragement to experiment. Anderson says feedback from the staff in general is important to his process and the response from guests has been “awesome.”
“That has been one of the biggest things that’s been driving me forward,” Anderson says.
“Even if I only get one vegan table a night at Bordinos, the reception I get out of them is sometimes better than the reception I would get out of other customers because they have to go so far out of their way to find food. When they finally do they’re so appreciative and I love that feeling,” he says.
Anderson hopes to open a vegan soul food restaurant in the future, but until then, staff and guests alike are thrilled to enjoy his creations here at Bordinos as he continues to hone his craft.
You can follow Anderson’s vegan journey through photos on the Bordinos Instagram and his personal food Instagram @plantpoweredpowerplant
Photos by Charles Rausch