A new vegetarian bistro has settled into the Platzl. Called Heartbeet, it provides something for every kind of food orientation from gluten-intolerants, to vegans, to vegetarians and even those following the raw food diet.
The owners, Michel Kuhn and Nicole Vogt, are originally from Switzerland but are now living in Cranbrook. They thought Kimberley was the perfect place to have a restaurant that targeted more specific food needs.
“We just want to offer a variety of vegetarian cuisine, not just vegetarian but vegan as well as gluten-free. Especially gluten-free is high in demand right now and there are not a lot of places to eat out for gluten-free people so we wanted to give this opportunity for gluten-free people to eat here,” said Kuhn.
Both chefs understand the difficulty that these dietary routes bring and they wanted to provide a place where the food was gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian guaranteed.
“I think it’s nice as a vegetarian to have a choice between a couple of items on the menu, not just the one that you have to go for and you don’t even know if the stock is vegetable stock or if they used chicken stock,” said Vogt.
The owners themselves aren’t vegetarians but they rarely eat meat – when they do they know where it came from, not from a factory.
Michel is a trained chef who learned the trade in Switzerland, where he worked in a vegetarian restaurant for five years.
But the two are passionate not only for providing options for those with specific dietary restrictions and choices, they are also passionate about doing the best they can to support local farmers, supporting the community of Kimberley and being as eco-friendly as possible in their business.
“We make everything from scratch and we grow our own vegetables and we incorporate that into our menu. We buy as much local as there is available and at times there are some things that are very hard to get,” said Kuhn.
With their restaurant, the two have supplies from their own garden as well as other gardeners in town. They said there are a lot of benefits in going the local, homegrown and organic route.
“Transportation for one. You don’t have to ship it from who knows where. (You) waste a lot of gas and a lot of mileage. Those fruits and vegetables are picked when they are not ripe for the transportation and then there is not enough flavour in that,” said Kuhn.
“Also, it supports the local economy. If I buy from a farmer here, he spends the money here again and then it goes around and around. If I buy from a big, big company they just pay to their shareholders and the area doesn’t really benefit,” said Kuhn.
“For me, I wouldn’t know how many more vitamins an organic beet has to a regular one but I know that the pesticides are not there and that is a big plus for me because eventually I end up eating those too. I think that’s the main reason for me,” said Vogt.
And as for the meat-eaters, to whom tofu is taboo, Vogt and Kuhn encourage them to give the new flavours and ingredients a try.
“I think that they are also scared that they are only going to get a salad with a couple of seeds on it, a few sprouts and that they will never be full. But everyone has been full, even the meat-eaters,” said Vogt.
Vegetarian food choice is very broad and there is a lot of variety, explains Kuhn. There is a stigma that the only vegetarian options are salads and plates of veggies but Heartbeet has a lot of unique vegetarian creations with bold flavours – Beet Gnocchi and Tofu Stroganoff to name a few.
Another aspect about Heartbeet is that their menu will change with the seasons, according to what is harvested when.
“We want to challenge people to try new things. Because everywhere else you find the same things and it’s all basically comfort food. We want to get people out of their comfort zones and trying something new; 99 per cent like it! It’s just a matter of trying but people are kind of afraid of trying new stuff because they are used to their flavours,” said Kuhn.
“I think that again, there is the stigma that vegetarian food is only salads and seeds. As well, people think that just hippies eat the vegetarian food. I think that’s another challenge, we are trying to say, ‘Hey, we can be up-to-date and modern too,'” said Vogh.
The bistro is here to reconnect people to food, to do their part in helping Kimberley’s economy by buying locally, and to inspire veggie-lovers and veggie-haters alike. To remind people of where their food comes from before it gets to their plate and to not only challenge their palettes but to challenge in terms of causing awareness about the food choices – to buy locally or to give even more money to the bloated superstores.
The bistro is open for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. on Tuesdays, 5 to 11 p.m. on Thursdays and 5 to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
“Even just to start with, one day a week have a meat-free day. If everyone would do that we could do a lot,” said Kuhn.
For more information about the bistro you can check their website at www.heartbeet.ca.