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NYC’s Most Successful Vegan Restaurateur Shares Her Secrets

As the Blossom empire continues to expand, founder Pamela Elizabeth talks celebrity guests, tips for running a vegan business, and lessons she's learned along the way.

Pamela Elizabeth is a force to be reckoned with. On this entrepreneur’s resumé, you’ll find that she’s the Founder of eight vegan restaurants, including Blossom, Blossom du Jour, Urban Vegan Kitchen, and Cocoa V. Elizabeth has been transforming the vegan food scene in New York for more than a decade, developing most of her own recipes. When asked about the ups and downs of running a vegan business, as well as the important lessons it’s taught her along the way, she is eager to give VegNews a taste of how she created a massively successful restaurant empire in a city as cutthroat as the Big Apple.

VegNews: What was your inspiration to get into the food industry?
Pamela Elizabeth:
I got started in 2005 with my then partner, and opened up our first vegan restaurant in Manhattan called Blossom. I had no previous industry experience, and I was actually pursuing a career in theatre and opera, but my calling to do something for the animals was stronger. I opened Blossom in Manhattan in 2005, then the vegan quick-serve chain, Blossom Du Jour in 2010, which now has four locations. I opened the vegan comfort food haven Urban Vegan Kitchen in 2016. And Cocoa V—an all-vegan chocolate shop—reopened its doors on Valentine's Day this year.

VN: Since you opened the first Blossom, how have you seen veganism change?
PE:
Over the past four years in particular, there has been a tremendous effort made by many people to incorporate vegan food and ethics into their daily lifestyle. It seems as though everyone knows someone who's vegan, which is quite thrilling! Veganism is really becoming a movement. 

VN: What is the most important lesson running a business has taught you?
PE: What's supposed to come will come—that’s what I strongly believe. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't have goals or passion for something, but it's a good idea to plant the seed, water it, and let it grow. At times in the past, my strong passion for wanting to help animals clouded my judgement and decision-making process because I wanted a shift to happen very quickly, not realizing that it's not about how quick someone gets it, but about the impact I can have on others, long-term.

VN: What has been the biggest challenge of working in the restaurant industry?
PE: At first, learning the ropes was quite consuming. Predicting food and restaurant trends is always tricky. Now, of course, it's all about understanding that one person cannot do it alone, and I count on the greatness of so many amazing people that I am lucky to work with. That's something that is very important to me. For example, the concept at Urban Vegan Kitchen is so unique and ahead of the curve. My partner at UVK, David Tianga, was inspired to fill a void in the New York City vegan community -- and just like that, we created a place where vegans and non-vegans can chill, jam out, drink, and eat great food, that just happens to be vegan. UVK actually has an amazing cocktail menu!

VN: Are there any celebs who frequent your restaurants?
PE:
The most outspoken ones are Russell Simmons and Mayim Bialik, who both wrote quotes for The Blossom Cookbook, and Stevie Wonder was in a few times a few years ago! Cory Booker was just in at Urban Vegan Kitchen this month, as was India Arie! Gwyneth Paltrow used to frequent the restaurant when she lived in New York.

VN: What are your personal favorite menu items?
PE:
I have more than one! At Cocoa V it has to be either the Yes Please Bar or the Signature Double Chocolate Cake. At Urban Vegan Kitchen, I’m torn between the UVK Quarter Pounder, Brownie All The Way, and the Midnight Train To Georgia Cocktail. At Blossom Du Jour. it would definitely be the Midtown Melt paired with a Betterfinger Shake. And finally, at Blossom Restaurant, I can’t decide between the delicious Seitan Scallopini and Cashew Cream Ravioli.

VN: What’s next for you?
PE:
For now, I am really focused on nurturing what I've built. I'd love to see Cocoa V go bigger—to see it at hotels, offered at restaurants for dessert, etc. Urban Vegan Kitchen has a lot of potential too, and for now, all I can say is that we're working on "some buns that are in the oven!” I also just released our first—and one of the only gourmet vegan cookbooks in the market—called The Blossom Cookbook. The sky’s the limit!

Sarah McLaughlin is an editorial assistant at VegNews who can’t wait to try the Betterfinger Shake next time she finds herself in New York.

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