Pamela Elizabeth was 17 years old when she got a pamphlet in the mail that changed the course of her life. The flyer, from a place called the Fund for Animals, decried the animal practices surrounding factory farming—which was something Elizabeth had never thought about. “I immediately went vegetarian. That day,” she said. A few years later, she gave up dairy, too. Now Elizabeth runs a thriving vegan restaurant chain of eight (soon to be 10) restaurants, including several locations of Blossom and Blossom DuJour, plus Blossom Bakery and V-Note; she sells a line of frozen vegan food products at Whole Foods; and she’s working on a cookbook for early 2016. Food & Wine spoke to Elizabeth about her path to becoming a restaurateur, her philosophy on vegan conversion, and why a plant-based diet is so much more than brown rice and tofu.
How did you get into the vegan food industry? Did you always want to be a restaurateur?
Not at all. [Laughs.] I was an opera singer and I studied acting. But I became a vegan for moral reasons, and I wanted to encourage people to think about what they were eating. The original thought was just to open a little café with maybe four tables. One day, about ten years ago, my then-partner and I were walking around Chelsea and we stumbled upon this small Italian restaurant that was going out of business. That became the first Blossom restaurant. It happened in about two and a half months.
I had no restaurant experience. I wasn’t into cooking. When I think about it today, it seems crazy. But I had this passion that made the idea seem doable.