If meat is murder, much of the world is guilty as charged. But the Federal Liberals only wish they could retake the public's imagination like the resurgence of craft burgers, the continued obsession with snout-to-tail, or be half as popular as bacon. Enter YamChops, a "vegetarian butcher," preparing to open at 705 College St. early June, helmed by Michael and Toni Abramson, former owners of a Toronto-based marketing and advertising agency. While the couple has worked on food campaigns for clients, this is their first personal venture into the world of food (with an eye to franchising) and they're doing it with a ton of homemade vegan hamburger helper. To find out what YamChops is all about – not to mention what the heck a vegetarian butcher is – Eater called on the plant-based slaughterhouse to have a brief chat with Michael Abramson.
What gave you the idea to open YamChops?
I've had the idea of opening a vegetarian/vegan-prepared food shop for about a decade. About six years ago, I decided to formalize (my food passion) and got a degree that turned into three. I'm in my mid-fifties. I don't have a lot of working years left and wanted to follow this passion. I can't say that I was inspired by any other similar ideas during the early years - but have come across a couple of similar shops in the past couple of years. The most prominent is Vegetarische Slager in The Hague.
How do you describe YamChops?
Our vegetarian butcher shop can best be described as a venue for vegetarian and vegan protein alternatives for meat, fish, and seafood. With a focus on great tasting plant-based food, our appeal is (needless to say) to those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet - and we also appeal to the much broader category of "flexitarians" or "meat reducers." These are individuals looking to replace a number of their weekly meat-based meals with plant-based, great tasting options.
What is a vegetarian butcher all about?
Great question! From our Carrot Lox, to our noCrab Crab Cakes, to our Coconut Ba-con, to our Korean BBQ noChicken Chicken, to our Mongolian noBeef Beef, to our noPork Pulled Pork, to our noCream Cashew Sour Cream, we're out to serve up innovative, great tasting, protein alternatives.
If YamChops is all about plant-based food, why do you name so many of your products after fish or meat dishes? What's the fascination with mock meats?
We have a lot of fun and take some creative license when we turn a commonly understood animal protein on its head by substituting a plant-based protein instead. We're not fascinated with mock meats, per se, but you could say we're obsessed with creating vegetarian and vegan dishes that have customers of all dietary pursuits asking for seconds.
I'm assuming you're both vegetarians or vegans?
Next year is 40 years (of being vegetarian). Toni is at home because I cook, but she sometimes eats it when she goes out. We have absolutely nothing against meat eaters. We're not anything about preaching. We just want to present a different flavourful alternative to meat and fish.