Plum Bistro's Vegan Queen
A small woman with a giant smile, Makini cooked for a ridiculously star-studded Earth Day party hosted by Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix and planned by Simone Le Blanc, at the home of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner in Pacific Palisades. EcoStiletto’s Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff joined the party to nab an exclusive interview with the chef, who might just do for vegan food what Alice Waters did for organic.
Guests ranged from hard-core vegans like Mike White—wearing a “vegan mafia” shirt made especially for the occasion—to admitted carnivores. All were curious about Makini’s innovative cuisine—what she calls “bridging the gap between carnivores and plant eaters”—which brought fans Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix on board as investors to launch Plum Bistro LA this fall in Los Feliz.
A lifelong vegan, Makini represents the third generation of a nearly 40-year-old family business. “I don’t believe animals are made for food,” she said. “Violence begets violence…veganism feeds a vision of peace.” She and her family own four vegan restaurants in Seattle, all of which serve certified organic food and are operated with environmental consciousness in mind. Plum Bistro LA boasts a partner in Graham Baba Architects, who specialize in sustainably rehabbing and reusing existing building materials to create spaces that are at once vintage and modern.
For Makini, veganism is a natural progression of environmentalism. “You have to see the big picture of veganism and sustainability and how it affects the planet,” she said. “By the mere act of being vegan you reduce your carbon footprint.” Her stance is backed up by facts: Livestock production is now responsible for 51% of greenhouse gas emissions—that’s more than all modes of transportation combined. And last year, the U.N. went on record to recommend that people cut down on meat consumption in order to combat global warming.
Veganism is also about health: As the federal government exposes slaughterhouse practices that result in salmonella in chicken and feces in beef scandals, data on vegetarianism finds lowered cancer rates and rates of obesity.
But back to the food: This is not your mother’s tempeh. Makini served up mouth-watering dishes like her signature “mac and yease,” cornmeal-encrusted seitan sliders and ricotta tofu served with pears as examples of what she calls “rustic, vegan, American food.” After introducing the finale—a coconut-lime cheesecake with a chocolate cookie crust—Makini concluded, “We want to make sure you don’t miss the meat.”
With Makini in town, not likely. For more of EcoStiletto's exclusive interview with Makini Howell, please visit the EcoCelebrity section.