Charlotte chefs throw down in a vegan Mac and Cheese competition

 By Shirley Griffith 

July 15, 2018

This Thursday, C3 Lab hosts Vegan Outreach’s Mac Down Charlotte, a fun, family-friendly event centered around a southern staple, mac and cheese! Vegan Outreach is an international nonprofit organization working to reduce animal suffering by educating the public about veganism and its benefits. By bringing exciting and unique events like the Mac Down to Charlotte, Vegan Outreach offers insight and approachability to vegan alternatives in a judgment-free and inspiring way.

Some of Charlotte’s best vegan chefs will compete in the Mac Down which will be judged by both attendees as well as three judges: journalist Courtney Devores, professional race car driver and environmental activist Leilani Munter, and Chef Matt Martin (Executive Chef at Fern). Multiple cruelty-free vendors will be set up around the space, displaying how accessible a plant-based lifestyle can be in the community. One of the vendors, Cotton Branch Farm Sanctuary located in Leesville, SC, will share proceeds from the Mac Down. Cotton Branch is a refuge for farm animals where people can interact with rescued animals and become educated on the importance of farm sanctuaries and how to reduce negative impacts on our environment by adopting a more compassionate diet.


Head organizer of Mac Down and South Carolina Vegan Outreach Coordinator and Communications Designer, Stacy Shepanek, took some time to provide further details on the event.

There are so many amazing competitors in this event, all from differing backgrounds. How is a competitor chosen?

Shepanek: We’re excited to host a mix of chefs from well-known venues to community members and groups. Our Mac Down will show that with a good recipe, vegan food is not only delicious, but can even be made by those less confident in the kitchen.  

Portions of the proceeds go to Cotton Branch Farms. Why was this sanctuary chosen for the event?

Shepanek: Cotton Branch Farm Sanctuary is a haven for rescued, abandoned, and neglected farmed animals and has always been near and dear to the Charlotte Vegan Community. Because of its close proximity, Charlotte residents sponsor animals, and come out to volunteer days and farm events. Including local events like the Charlotte Dam Festival and the Charlotte Rooster Run 5K.

What will be the difference between people voting for a favorite versus the judges’ ultimate decision?

Shepanek: There will be three awards at the competition, “Best Overall” and “Most Original” will be chosen by the celebrity judges. We also plan to have a “People’s Choice” award so everyone gets a chance to vote for their favorite!


Are there any prizes up for grabs for the winners?

Shepanek: We will have goodie bags for all the chefs to show our appreciation to all the groups and individuals who are competing in the event. The winners will each receive a plaque, a canvas print of a rescued farm animal from Cotton Branch, and bragging rights!

What types of vendors will be at the Mac Down?

SUM bucha, Move That Dough, VegNation, Sustainable Apparel, Zico Coconut Water, Humane League – Charlotte, Cotton Branch Farm Sanctuary, and more.

Are there any industry flavor secrets to the proper way to taste mac and cheese?

Shepanek: Oh man, great question. One of the reasons why we’ll have Kombucha sold on site is to help people refresh their palettes! Bubbles and acid should help every second or third taste, so everyone’s amazing creations don’t start blending together.

How can folks get involved with and support Vegan Outreach after this event?

Shepanek: For quick actions to help animals, you can sign up for our action alerts here

For anyone whose interest in vegan eating gets ignited at this event, check out the Vegan Outreach 10 Weeks to Vegan email series. People who sign up will receive an email once a week for ten weeks that’s jam-packed with great information, including recipes, nutrition information, facts about farmed animals, and more!

Enjoy samples of our city’s best takes on vegan mac and cheese on Thursday, July 19, at C3 Lab. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $15 per person and should be purchased in advance here. Find out more about Vegan Outreach and their events and follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Check out the full list of competing chefs: 

Julia Simon, Nourish
David Wright, Good Life Cafe
The Humane League – Charlotte Team
Chef Mehr, Zizi’s
Chef Scott, Viva Raw
Chef Joya, Cooking with Joya
Chef Colleen Harris
Amy Gross, Veganosh
Jeff McElwee, Queen City Grounds and FuD on the MuV

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