The Easy Vegan Wins Big for Its Community

The Easy Vegan: Alexi Mandolini (Head Chef), Matt Heikkila (Prep), Taylor Herbert (Hype Person), as seen on The Great Food Truck Race, Season 16.

Vegan food can be daunting to those unfamiliar with it. The Easy Vegan seeks to make the venture into vegan cuisine less scary by creating what its slogan states as, ‘Food Made for Friends.’

“That just means everyone gets a seat at the table,” explained co-owners and life partners Taylor Herbert and Alexi Mandolini. “We want to make food for vegans, non-vegans, literally anybody who is willing to give us a chance. It’s making food for all the people we love basically, whether we know you or not, that’s our love language.”

The Cast of The Great Food Truck Race

The Denver-based pop-up kitchen, which was born out of the pandemic due to both owners losing their jobs and finally chasing their dream of starting a business, is the most recent winner of The Great Food Truck Race on Food Network, where they were assisted by their friend Matt Heikkila and given a food truck to compete.

Their philosophy of making food approachable for all is what helped them cinch the winning $50,000 prize. “We try to avoid meat substitutes and just do really approachable plant-forward street food. Our main three are pasta, potatoes and pierogi, and I think that’s something anyone can get behind.”

The Easy Vegan serves customers on their first day of selling

The duo comes up with new menus frequently to try and work with the Colorado growing season and introduce different items they find at the farmers’ markets, whom they work alongside and have befriended. Some of their items, such as their best-selling loaded potatoes, will always be a staple on their menu which releases weekly.

When asked about their journey throughout The Great Food Truck Race, they stated, “It was the hardest thing we’ve ever done in our lives, but we also had the best time and wouldn’t change it for the world. We met the best people as our competitors quickly became friends, so I think we are walking away with more than just money but also lifetime friendships.” Due to being a queer-run business, they also have received supportive messages from the community who are excited about the representation. “That’s so important to us and exactly why we are loud about being gay.”

Tyler Florence tasting The Easy Vegan’s pink tacos with Taylor Herbert, Alexi Mandolini & Matt Heikkila.

Herbert and Mandolini will use the prize money to construct their own brick-and-mortar store, making them a permanent fixture. They are excited to add to the Denver vegan food scene and to give diners more vegan options. “We feel like we are winning this for everybody in our community. It felt like we had our vegan friends and businesses with us, so we are really excited to bring this win back home for everyone.”

The Easy Vegan posts its schedule online and can be found every Saturday at City Park Farmer’s Market and every Sunday at South Pearl Street Farmer’s Market. Check out their Instagram for weekly menu changes.

All photography courtesy of Food Network.

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