Having a personal chef is often a perk only those making at least a six-figure salary can enjoy. Or at least that used to be the case in Madison before local culinary ace Lauren Montelbano started offering an affordable weekly meal service and private catering via a new moniker, The Vibrant Veg.
Launching a business endeavor during the COVID-19 pandemic certainly presented a number of challenges for Montelbano in terms of building relationships with clients without consistent in person interaction. “I soon realized that I was providing a lot of the same sort of food to many clients but all at different times. This proved to be exhausting for me and expensive for them,” she says. “So I decided to streamline the process and start offering weekly meal plans so that I could cook for more people at one time to reduce the cost for them and the workload for me. I still offer a la carte services to those with extreme dietary restrictions or special requests as well.”
And this latter aspect of The Vibrant Veg is starting to attract a loyal following from vegans and households for which allergen-friendly cuisine is a must. Thankfully, plant-based doesn’t mean plain by any means from Montelbano’s perspective—resulting in sapid combos like crisp falafel crowns nestled into a bed of lemon dill quinoa, flanked by fresh spring vegetables.
Montelbano says her mojo in the kitchen is constantly whipping up original fare her customers may not have tried before. “I don’t rotate; I just create. I might have a similar concept or component in a dish, but the actual dish is always different. The menu is based on seasonality, though I may throw a curveball in every now and again,” she says. “I also regularly accommodate individuals who are gluten-free.” One recent example being gluten-free flatbread with shallot, mushroom and fig, a sensational pairing of savory and sweet flavors—memorable for its taste, smell and visual presentation.
“I have always been a very creative person, so all of the meals focus in on a key ingredient that I know a farmer has available, what I’m personally craving and what foods should be eaten in what season according to Ayurveda or random internet food-blog surfing,” Montelbano says.
“I’m also always trying to anticipate what the needs of the community will be post-COVID. The nice thing about having your own business is that you can grow and shift as needed.”
For the time being, her future expansion plans include offering items for wholesale purchase through other vendors in the region such as Pasture and Plenty and Vitruvian Farms. Plus, continuing to showcase how much tasty food can really be prepared with a few baskets of veggies.
To book The Vibrant Veg weekly meals or catering services, visit www.thevibrantveg.com/order.