While many people might think of vegan food as an assortment of boring vegetables and bland tofu, Julie and Dean Couchey are on a mission to provide dishes full of flavor – but void of meat and dairy.
In the weeks since announcing their plans of opening a vegan meal delivery service, SoCo Vedge, the news has traveled far and wide among the vegan community across the state. And while their services will be offering something that’s largely lacking in southern Rhode Island, the couple stresses that you don’t have to be vegan to try their dishes.
“You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy it,” Julie said. “It’s still going to be delicious, regardless.”
In fact, Julie and Dean aren’t vegans themselves – just two people who realized how difficult it can be to find prepared, artisanal vegan meals outside of Providence. The idea for their new venture was borne out of a friend’s request for Dean, a classically trained chef who was put out of work due to the pandemic, to prepare her a few vegan meals each week.
It was this request, and the limited employment opportunities in the food industry, that sparked the idea of offering vegan meals to a much wider audience.
That idea will be coming to life this week, once Julie and Dean release their first official menu offerings. According to Julie, each order will include three meals – inspired by local and international cuisine.
While the duo had intended to service Narragansett and South Kingstown, social media and word-of-mouth carried it far beyond town lines. The vegan community in Rhode Island may be smaller than some other places Dean has lived and cooked, but it’s a very tight-knit group.
After getting inquiries from people as far away as Johnston, Dean and Julie decided to expand their deliveries out further than intended. While deliveries to those in Narragansett and South Kingstown will be free, the couple is thinking of creating a small, base per mileage delivery fee.
“If you want it, we will get it to you,” Julie said, whether that means home deliveries or possibly meeting somewhere in between for those who live much further away from the communities they originally set out to serve.
Both Julie and Dean have been blown away from the number of people who’ve already reached out to express interest in the vegan delivery services – even before there was an official name in place. The feedback and enthusiasm they’ve received has only further demonstrated how much something like this has been lacking in southern Rhode Island.
“A lot of places will offer an impossible burger, but then they’ll put mayo and cheese on it,” Julie said. “I feel like a lot of the places that offer vegan things might not think about a lot of little things – like bread – but a lot of bread has dairy in it.”
“We’re excited to bring different kinds of options,” she added.
Customers won’t be receiving their first orders until Jan. 10, but the food will be well worth the wait, according to Dean. All orders will include a mixture of homestyle and international dishes – many of which have been inspired by Julie and Dean’s extensive world travels.
In 2017, shortly after the couple married, Julie and Dean set off on an eight-month long adventure that traversed six continents and 44 countries. As they made their way around the globe, enjoying the best food and drink that every country had to offer, the couple documented their travels on their blog – Two Fat Americans.
They hoped to inspire others to travel, too with the collections of photos and pros about the incredible destinations they visited, from Columbia and Peru, to Vietnam and Thailand. They made all of their travels possible through savings and smart spending – not social media fame or sponsorships.
And while Julie and Dean did gain an additional several thousand followers after Travel and Leisure featured the couple halfway through their epic journey, one of the most important messages they had to share was that you don’t have to be a size 2 or young, to travel the world or chase your dreams.
Although Julie and Dean have missed being able to travel to new lands, taste new dishes and meet new faces, Dean’s cooking skills have thankfully helped them relive some of their best meals.
“Dean is very, very big on authenticity,” Julie said.
“If I’m going to make risotto, I’m going to make it the way it’s made in Italy – not the way someone on television might have come up with using a shortcut,” he added. “I like to appreciate the classic dishes.”
While there’s always room for “play” in a dish, Dean and Julie said they don’t want to make meals and then call them something completely different from what they are. Some of his favorite meals from his travels are those that have been unadulterated and stay true to their original recipe – like having goulash in Budapest.
While some of the dishes they hope to share with customers may be slightly altered by adding tempeh or tofu in place of meat, the flavors and cooking methods ring true.
As they look to officially launch SoCo Vedge in the weeks ahead, Julie and Dean are eager to hear feedback and requests from the community.
“We really want to hear from our customers and our potential customers about what they like and what they want to see,” Julie said. “We want to hear from people. We want feedback.”
“We’re really here for them,” she added.
As the delivery service grows, they hope to offer sides and desserts, and different sizing for larger families. In the future, Dean and Julie hope to potentially open their own vegan restaurant in southern Rhode Island.
Once their services are launched in the weeks ahead, orders will be delivered on Sunday – along with the menu for the upcoming week, according to Julie. Customers will then have until Wednesday to place orders for the week ahead. One order, which includes three 32 oz. meals, comes to $50 before tax. Contactless delivery will be free for Narragansett and South Kingstown residents, but those from other communities can expect a nominal delivery fee.
To learn more about SoCo Vedge, visit their Facebook page or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.