Chef Seth Kirschbaum of Sublime and Darbster Raising Funds For New Vegan Restaurant
It appears 2014 will be a healthy year for South Florida. New juice bars, raw food finds, locally-sourced dishes, and vegetarian-themed concepts abound -- and it's only getting better.
Adding to the momentum, South Florida vegan chef Seth Kirschbaum -- former executive chef for both Sublime and Darbster -- has announced plans to open his own vegan concept later this year. The local chef is looking to offer Boynton Beach its first 100 percent vegan, organic and cruelty-free restaurant. After years of dreaming, planning and prepping, he's dubbed his concept Sage Wine Bar, and launched a Kickstarter last week to propel the project into action.
What is Sage? "Sage is about giving back, sustainability, supporting local farmers and small business," Kirschbaum told Clean Plate Charlie. "It's sharing our vision for total health and well-being."
Born and raised in New York City, Kirschbaum's fondest memories of his early life are time spent in the kitchen, helping his mother to prepare healthy, wholesome meals for the family. The training came in handy when -- at the age of 16 -- he dropped out of high school to help support his struggling family through hard financial times and began working at a nearby Italian restaurant to make extra money. It started with prep work, learning the basics of how to make dough, pasta and cheese. A few years later, at 18, he was promoted to head cook.
Despite a love of kitchens and cooking, years of working with cheese, meat and grains left Kirschbaum feeling sick and sluggish. And before he knew what eating vegan truly meant, he was watching others battling poor health. When his father became ill, and hoping to alleviate the symptoms of his own digestive disorders, Kirschbaum began following a more natural diet. The true turning point came when -- in his early 20s -- his abdominal pain became so severe, he had no choice but to change his eating habits. His brother, who was working at a local health food store on Staten Island at the time, introduced Kirschbaum to rice and almond milk. From there he overhauled his diet, eliminating all dairy, meat and gluten almost overnight.
The discovery that foods could heal changes Kirschbaum, who became passionate about helping others in a similar manner. In 1997, Kirschbaum began working as the chef at the small cafe inside the same health food store that helped to launch his new diet, revamping a vegan menu that already offered fresh-pressed juices, from-scratch soups, and a variety of foods that appealed to his changing palate.
"Of course I began cooking the way I wanted to eat," said Kirschbaum. "People would come in and say I can't have gluten, wheat, dairy -- so I began making foods that worked with different people's allergies."
Kirschbaum later attended culinary school to hone his skills, graduating from the International Culinary Center in Manhattan while working more than 40 hours a week. He realized even then that he eventually wanted to have his own business where he could truly help people.
"I don't want anyone to suffer. That's part of my credo, my movement. People can have better health," said Kirschbaum. "That's what I want to achieve with Sage."