A conversation with Green Chef and co-owner Mike Behrend

Mike Behrend - Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo
Mike Behrend

How did you make the transition from Lulu's to this establishment?
In 2005 I became a vegetarian for ethical and environmental reasons. I could no longer cook chicken fried steaks, put them in Styrofoam to-go boxes, do that kind of business anymore. So, we sold Lulu's in 2006, and my mom and I moved over here and opened up Green, and my brother Chris joined us shortly after.  At the time, there was no vegetarian restaurant in San Antonio.

How did you decide on your menu and how has it changed?
Our menu is still the kind of food that we grew up eating here in San Antonio — [faux] chicken fried steak, enchiladas. I tell everybody I'm a Tejano from here. So, chalupas and breakfast tacos. We were the only place in town that served that niche, and a lot of vegetarians want light, healthy, vegan stuff, so now we have that. There's vegetarians that want onion rings that don't have dairy, and they still want cupcakes. People want Mexican food, and they want stir fry — so our menu's got very big, because of all the different people we are trying to help out.

How did you bring in the kosher aspect?
The Jewish community approached us. We're not Jewish — I'm Seventh-day Adventist. So we've always been closed on Saturdays. Lulu's used to close Friday night and re-open Saturday night. I've always been a Sabbath keeper, so that fits in really good with them. Kosher restaurants can be a meat or a dairy restaurant, but never the two combined. It's easy for a vegetarian restaurant — a lot of things, like flour, can be bought kosher off the shelf.

Have your cooks had to go through any special training?
There are some additional cleanliness procedures that they have to go through on vegetables. No one wants to eat bugs, but Kosher diners really don't want to eat bugs! Training on our staff to clean the greens, and soak lettuce, is a little bit extra, but not anything we wouldn't want to do anyhow.

Is the vegetarian community in San Antonio getting stronger?
I think more people are wanting to become locavores, or eat a primarily vegetarian diet. We're not out to convert everyone to become vegetarians, but we do want everyone to eat a more plant-based diet. It's good for here and good for the planet.


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