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Farmers’ Market Profiles: CheFe’s Natural Kitchen

October 9, 2011

Today I’m very happy to feature a very special farmers’ market vendor as part of my recently started Farmers’ Market Profiles series. Who is it, you ask? None other than…

CheFe’s Natural Kitchen! Unless you’re a regular visitor of The Stop’s Green Barn Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings, you’ve likely never heard of CheFe’s, since you can only find them there (and only every other week at that). And that’s a shame, because CheFe’s really is a hidden treasure of our dear city, offering a wide array of Japanese-inspired snacks and desserts that are all 100% vegan, as well as 100% delicious!

For me, CheFe’s is an extra special treat, since, as some of you already know, Japan and Japanese food are near and dear to my heart. Four years ago I spent nine months in Japan, and Japanese cuisine remains to this day one of the strongest influences in my cooking. However, although I’ve always found Japanese cooking to be very accommodating to the vegan diet (as there is no centuries-long culinary history of using milk, eggs, or butter), it is very rare to find a Japanese restaurant in the West these days whose menu isn’t entirely dominated by various preparations of fish, beef, and pork. Because of this, I’ve generally resigned myself to the fact that if I want vegan Japanese food, I’m just gonna have to make it myself—and I’m fine with that, since I love cooking so much. But thanks to CheFe’s Natural Kitchen, all Torontonians now have the opportunity to enjoy Japanese food that is healthy, delicious, and cruelty-free.

Even more incredible, the whole operation is the handiwork of just one single person: Chihiro (千紘), a lovely cook originally from Osaka who moved to Toronto a year ago. Having studied macrobiotics in both Japan and the States, Chihiro has used her knowledge to create traditional Japanese dishes with an extra healthy spin, with a particular emphasis on brown rice, seaweed, vegetables, and nuts. The sushi logs pictured above are a good example of what she does: a typical Japanese dish on the outside filled with only the best of ingredients on the inside.

Chihiro’s creations also often present some interesting flavor combinations. The last time I visited, I picked up three onigiri rice balls: black rice and coconut, walnut and shiso (a Japanese herb), and the classic umeboshi (sour plum). These are some of the best onigiri I’ve ever tasted, and I love the unique ingredient pairings!

Chihiro also makes plenty of sweeter treats as well, although her commitment to healthy and macrobiotic ingredients is just as much present, with her cookies and cakes making use of brown rice flour and oatmeal (making all these treats also wheat-free!). Here’s a closer look at her Brown Rice Cakes…

…and a zoom-in on her Brown Rice Cookies!

So if you’re a vegan and have any interest in Japanese food, you should really make the trip to The Stop’s Farmers’ Market on Saturdays and try some of Chihiro’s food (remember, though, that she is only there every other week). Currently this is the only place in the city to find their stuff (unless you get them to personally cater an event for you), but it’s definitely worth the visit. Hopefully CheFe’s will keep expanding in the years to come, and we should all be very happy when they do.

VeganMoFo #9/31

Until we eat again,

Willie

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3 comments

  1. Nice photos! The food looks wonderful.


  2. Thanks for this highlight. I keep meaning to go to the Stop farmers market, but never making out there. I should change that. Very soon (and really make it happen!)


    • You have to go! Chihiro should be back at The Stop this Saturday (October 15), and even if she’s not, there are so many great other farmers and vendors to check out. And if you do end up going this week or anytime in the future, hit me up on Twitter or whatever beforehand; I’m almost always there, and I’d love to say hi!



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