Ithaca, N.Y. — How do you make tasty french toast without any eggs?
That was the question Regina Randall wrestled with as she worked to feed her daughter, who has five chronic illnesses and dietary constraints.
“It was, ‘How do I keep everything delicious so she keeps eating this food?’” said Randall, the co-founder of a vegan food truck soon opening on the Ithaca inlet. “I had to get really creative.”
Randall would figure it out. Now, she and her business partner Sean Lunny are prepared to take their recipes to a wider audience: “cafeWILD,” as the food truck is called, will hold its soft opening in Ithaca Sunday after Porchfest.
The location could hardly be better: cafeWILD is opening at 301 Old Taughannock Boulevard, on the Ithaca inlet, in the parking lot of The Jewelbox.
When finished, Randall said, it will be more like a “pop-up restaurant” — complete with places to sit, tables with candles and a stage for music along the water.
“It’s going to be a really, really special place,” Randall said.
“It’s going to be dreamy.”
Randall stresses that the food truck will use local ingredients: local vegetables, local seitan, local spices, local maple syrup.
“I think the big seller is going to be my grilled corn,” Randall said. “It’s very cheese-y.”
Other offerings will include “unbelievable” breakfast sandwiches, paninis, a vegan Sloppy Joe’s variant, and “Sean’s McMuffin.” Randall notes that Lunny went to the Natural Kitchen Cooking School in Princeton, New Jersey, where he worked with well-known vegan chefs.
“It tastes like a McMuffin, but none of the ingredients are like a McMuffin,” Randall said. “It’s layered with two breaded slices of tofu that taste like egg.”
Randall said diners will be shocked that the meals — all “plant-based” — lack meat.
“A lot of people are attached to these flavors, when they taste this they’re blown away there’s no animal product in the sandwich,” she said. “It’s so delicious and it doesn’t make you feel bad — everything in it is really good.”
The food truck was bought several months ago from New Jersey. Inside were a few wilted hot dogs possibly years old.
“We absolutely gutted it and started clean,” she said.
Now, the truck has new walls and a new floor.
“We have state of the art equipment,” Randall said. “It’s a commercial kitchen.”
It took months to get the truck ready.
Her daughter, 17, and generally healthy now, has helped out.
Born for the kitchen
Randall grew up in the kitchen. Her grandfather was a chef for the Elks Lodge.
“Since I was a little girl I was either doing dishes or helping prep food,” she said.
Randall — a certified yoga instructor — is originally from Corning, but later moved to Houston, Texas.
When looking for places that would make it easy to cook for her daughter, a friend suggested Randall come to Ithaca.
“He said, ‘If there’s any place you should be, it’s Ithaca,’” Randall recalled.
“It’s the greatest place to get good, healthy, organic food.”