Every witch needs a coven, said Olive Cooke, Sylvia Metta and Kim Conyers; so they conjured a community in the West Bottoms to serve their vegan bites.
Cauldron Collective — a plant-based, comfort food venture co-founded by self-proclaimed “cooking witches” Cooke, Metta and Conyers in January 2021 — made its mark in Kansas City through pop-up events. Looking to expand outside the pop-up space, the women turned to The Ship, a bar and restaurant in the West Bottoms where Cauldron Collective serves food 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Monday.
“We had already been using The Ship’s kitchen [to cook] for our pop ups on the days they were closed — Sunday and Monday — so it made sense to serve the food here as well,” Cooke said, noting their more anchored presence at The Ship began in early October.
Click here to read more about Cauldron Collective’s beginnings and its employee-owned business model.
The partnership has allowed the Cauldron Collective team to offer a full menu of their plant-based potions, whereas pop-ups proved to be much more limited, they explained.
“With our pop-up set up, all we could make was one sandwich,” Cooke said. “Now we’ve got several sandwiches, tater tots, corn dogs and mac and cheese.”
“And being able to serve people food that just came out of the deep fryer tastes much better; it’s incomparable,” Metta added.
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Although Cauldron Collective is renting a temporary space at The Ship, having that physical location also allows for the trio to create a space where all feel welcome and safe — a goal they long for once they have their own standalone restaurant, they shared.
“The best part is the people who come here every week, having lunch with their friends or just to hang out in the afternoon,” Cooke shared.
“We’re using this opportunity to figure out a blueprint for what we want our future space to look like,” Conyers noted. “Because that’s always what we’re striving for — everything we’re doing is to take steps to our own spot.”
Eating vegan for the holidays
With the holiday season well upon Kansas City, the Cauldron Collective team is brewing their own take on traditional dishes (though they took this week off to relax and celebrate their first year).
Conyers’ recommended dish: vegan shepherd’s pie.
“I’ve made my shepherd’s pie three times this year, and it’s been a holiday hit,” Conyers said. “It’s a combination of lentils, mushrooms, corn, peas and carrots, and then cook all that in some veggie stock. Season it with sage, thyme and pepper; and then I like to put in a little curry powder — it’s a secret mix up that seems like it doesn’t make sense but actually tastes great.
“Then you make pretty standard mashed potatoes with some vegan butter and spread that on top,” she continued. “My mom has refused to eat vegan food on Thanksgiving, but I got her to come around two year ago with some brussel sprouts, and then again this year with that shepherd’s pie. I felt really good about it.”
Check out Cauldron Collective’s “Beetball Sub” — scratch-made Italian lentil and beet balls, sweet wine red sauce, sunflower cheeze, and a healthy mix of peppers and onions — then keep reading.
The trio often comes across customers who are not accustomed to vegan food, but enjoy it after giving a dish or two a chance.
“We had a really good review from someone who brought their in-laws,” Metta recalled. “They loved it.”
“We catered for the West Bottoms’ Neighborhood Association last month, and a bunch of them are not vegan or vegetarian, but they enjoyed it,” Cooke said. “A lot of vegan food can come off standoffish and bougie, but we like to prepare it in a homey, comfort food sort of way.”
“It’s the same as any restaurant — we just want to make good food,” Conyers added.
Click here for a vegan shepherd’s pie recipe containing mushroom and lentils.
Metta’s favorite holiday side: miso-glazed roasted brussel sprouts.
“Brussels sprouts are the way to go; they’re some of my favorites,” Metta shared, noting that it would make the perfect side dish. “Cut them in half and season them with some salt and miso. It gives them this crunchy glaze which is really good.”
Click here for a miso-glazed roasted brussel sprouts recipe.Cooke’s staple recipe: vegan caesar salad.
“I like making vegan caesar salad for the holidays; it’s super easy but it seems like a fancy dish,” Cooke noted. “I make a dressing with tahini and kalamata olives. The kalamata olives give you that brininess you get from anchovies, and the tahini thickens it up nicely.
“Mix together fresh romaine, a squeeze of lemon, some shredded vegan parmesan and of course, croutons.”
Click here for recipe for a kale caesar salad with tofu croutons and kalamata caesar dressing.
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What’s next on the menu?
For those interested in Cauldron Collective original recipes, the trio is set to release a zine in early 2022, they teased.
Those who cannot make it to The Ship on Mondays can also find Cauldron Collective sandwiches at Mud Pie Bakery on Tuesdays. In 2022, they plan to be spotted in several more places across Kansas City, they said — noting that Cauldron Collective’s Instagram is the best place to stay up-to-date on their whereabouts.
Click here to follow Cauldron Collective on Instagram.
Their big goal for the new year: secure a brick-and-mortar location.
“If we could find a spot and start opening it this next year, that’d be amazing,” Cooke said. “We feel like we’ve got a lot of good momentum, so we’re definitely going to use that.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.