Meet Erika Hazel, vegan food critic from Bizerkeley

The sprawling metropolis of Berkeley, Oakland and Richmond is home to countless vegan restaurants – so many, in fact, that it can be difficult to know where to start. But blogger and vegan food critic Erika Hazel, known as The Bizerkeley Vegan, try them all slowly and help others transition to veganism in the process.

“My goal as a food critic is to guide people towards veganism in the funniest and happiest way possible. I want to avoid trial and error to become a vegan, ”Hazel said. “I don’t want people to quit because they can’t find the stuff delicious.”

Hazel began her own transition to veganism when she made the connection between the cruelty of factory farms and what was on her plate. She started blogging about food in 2016, writing restaurant reviews and documenting her culinary adventures in a popular Instagram page. Hazel believes vegan cuisine has the power to connect people and form meaningful communities.

“Anyone can eat at the vegan table. Not everyone can eat at the omnivorous table but everyone can eat at the vegan table, ”Hazel said. “Food is my way of showing my love. “

Animal rights remain at the heart of Hazel’s commitment to veganism. But she points out that it’s difficult to separate compassion for animals from compassion for humans. According to Hazel, vegans who fail to extend their compassion to humans are hypocritical.

“I just want everyone to be free – animals and humans included,” Hazel said.

Hazel mentioned several local restaurants that use their businesses for the good of society, including Curbside Creamery, The Butcher’s Son, and Stand-Up Burgers, all of which have contributed to local causes. The Butcher’s Son in particular has made an effort to actively seek out and support vegan vendors belonging to BIPOC.

A few other vegan places recommended by Hazel include Super Super Pho, Kiku Sushi, Ginger Pastries, the taco truck Tacos El ltimo Baile, Nature Vegetarian for Chinese cuisine and Roast and Raw near Jack London Square for the best vegan chicken waffles Hazel has ever tried.

If you’re a vegan in transition, Hazel points out that you might get more support than you expect from your coworkers, friends, and family. As a school counselor, she noticed that her world started to accommodate her once she made the switch – for example, her workplace orders vegan catering for staff parties or hosts a vegan plate for staff. her at dinners. And she gives that support to her students, providing them with nutritious snacks while gently educating them about the benefits of adding more plant foods to their diets.

“I always have fresh fruit in my dining room,” Hazel said.

Hazel will host the Bizerkeley Food Festival on Sunday, September 5 at the Sports Basement Berkeley outdoor parking lot from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Berkeley Animal Care Services. Vegans and non-vegans are welcome to attend.

Hazel is thrilled to organize the Bizerkeley Food Festival in Berkeley, a city close to her heart.

“Our vegan community is all. These are the knees of the bees, ”Hazel said.

Sarah Siegel is associate editor of sports and former associate editor of the blog. Contact her at [email protected].

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Tanya S. Norvell

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