Expansion of vegan eating in Houston
“I knew I had something when I won my mother over,” smiles Courtney Lindsay, leaning back in her chair. “When she was convinced it was good, I knew we were headed in the right direction.”
Lindsay is the owner and founder of Houston Sauce Co., a vegan cooking collective that has gone from a barbecue pit to a food truck, an extra barbecue pit and a brick and mortar on the corner of Wayside and Griggs called The Shoppette. In her office at the back of the Shoppette, seated among piles of papers, model buildings, blueprints and merchandise, Lindsay talks about the future of Houston Sauce Co.
“Ultimately, I want to become a vegan hotel business. We are working on the Sauce Co. Creamery to create vegan ice cream. We have a project called The Green Zone which is an outdoor market for vegan food trucks and vending machines very soon. We’re even now working with a company to create vegan tamales that will incorporate all of our flavors. Our goal is to keep trying to push the boundaries and offer more products to our employees. We want to be able to supply a plethora of vegan products and companies so that people who have chosen not to eat meat don’t have to guess at the ingredients of the product. I want to be involved in new products and new concepts in the vegan world.
The vegan world has grown significantly in the United States over the past 25 years. Tofurkey might have been a sitcom joke back in the 90s, but its popularity has continued to grow with new players in the plant market like Morning Star, Impossible Foods, and Beyond Meat. Now you can find plant-based foods prominently in grocery stores, the star item in new restaurants, and as an option for almost any fast food combination meal. Lindsay is successfully growing the herbal market here in Houston, and while that success may seem like overnight, he’s been honing the craft for years. Lindsay often laughs at the idea of running the operation because he didn’t even start with the goal of making vegetarian food at all.
“We started with a hot sauce. Our original red sauce. My friend, who eventually became my partner in Houston Sauce Pit, had excess peppers from his garden and didn’t know what to do with them. I made a pepper sauce. It was good but I wanted to perfect it, so I continued to polish the recipe. Every time someone came to the house, they left with a small mason jar of hot sauce. Sometimes it ruined them because it was too hot and sometimes it was too mild. It took me two years to develop the flavor, but we stumbled upon something unique.
The two years of developing the sizzling condiment spelled out the Houston Sauce Co. name, but it was a change in Lindsay’s health that led to the creation of a meatless menu.
“My 32nd birthday made me uncomfortable. I felt like I had a chemical imbalance. I went to the doctor and got checked up and everything was fine. I started researching and discovered raw vegan detox. Now I thought I was in good shape when I was in the military at 25, but after doing this rehab I felt better than ever.
Lindsay, continuing to work on hot sauces while entering the world of raw foods, was also trying to start a restaurant business. His first attempt was a barbecue. The new business bumped into his new diet and he quickly saw the need to make a choice.
“Shortly after I bought the pit, I went vegan. Now I’m a vegan with a barbecue, ”Lindsay laughs. My wife told me to make vegan food, but I kept saying no one wants barbecue without meat. Turns out she was right, and I was wrong. I was preparing a vegan menu, but with meat options. The problem was that every night I would sell vegan options and come back with some leftover meat. One day I decided to go completely vegan and we have never looked back. The community really answered the menu and really came out to support the movement. ”
With that support there were more profits and with that profit Lindsay was able to buy a bigger food truck. There, he decided to create a menu that was still vegan but specialized in a mixture of cultures. From Boudin Empanadas to their “Chick’n Sammich” to spring rolls, Lindsay has tried to create a menu that appeals to a number of people and cultures in Houston.
“Today there is a different kind of vegan. We don’t make salad. I wouldn’t even say we were doing diet foods. We cook up a cultural mix of Houston-related cuisines that don’t contain meat. Houston has South, Asian, Creole, Cajun, Latino, and South communities and we try to touch it all because I love all that food.
The community reacts. There are queues at BBQ Pit trucks, typically found in the Heights and on Almeda near the Turkey Leg Hut. The Food Truck can be found at various locations around town and the Shoppette remains stocked with vegan and vegetarian products from the local community and abroad. Even with all of this success, there was a band that Lindsay wanted to impress with her cooking.
“My wife and immediate family were good with all vegan food, but then I had to walk past my mom and the rest of the family. We got together for the holidays and everyone brought food. At first my family didn’t want to try anything vegan. Traditionally, much of our food is cooked with meat. But I’m a chef, so I kept doing it, making sure he looked good, and eventually I won them over. I conquered my mother. Now, she might not be completely vegan, but she really worked on cooking meatless foods. I even asked her to do some drug rehab challenges with me.
With her family convinced, Lindsay wants to continue to spread veganism and vegetarianism in the Houston community. Especially important to him is the ability to serve food to a city that has supported him and his brand during a pandemic.
“I want to thank everyone who took the time to go out and support during these times. We have a growing niche market and we really feel the support of the city. Everyone stays indoors and protects themselves, but a lot of our customers want to experience something that they just can’t do at home. I am grateful that they continue to choose Houston Sauce Co. ”