We Found a Four-Course Thanksgiving Feast in the Desert

While hearty Thanksgiving hosters leaned over a hot stove, wiped sweat from their brows, and filled their homes with the comforting scent of the holidays, we packed up the car and headed towards Las Vegas. Even though we planned on spending the long weekend sipping champagne, catching a show, and wandering the iconic strip, we didn't want to miss out on those classic Thanksgiving favorites. Wondering if we could truly have it all, I scoured the internet in search of vegan restaurants and stumbled upon VegeNation.

Downtown Las Vegas VegeNation Storefront

VegeNation is a 100% plant-based restaurant serving fresh street food. With two locations in Las Vegas, Nevada, hungry visitors can expect seasonal, locally-grown vegetables. Its beer, booze, coffee, tea, artisan cheeses, and herbs are all sourced from small businesses. Its chef, Donald Lemperle, is a man with over 30 years of restaurant experience, many of which were spent in some of New York city's finest restaurants. After a health scare in 2005, he went vegan, and now seeks to provide fresh, healthy, delicious plant-based foods to his community.

Kelly Bennett and Chef Donald Lemperle

We sat down with VegeNation's creative director, Kelly Bennett, who (with a big smile) told us she has been working with Chef Donald for seven years. For the past four years, VegeNation has thrown a popup Thanksgiving fundraiser, where a part of the proceeds are donated to a local school garden. Kelly explained how the school primarily teaches students who are sometimes home-insecure, sometimes homeless, and often don't know where their next meal is coming from.

Course 1: A Delicious Winter Soup

VegeNation continuously fundraises to help build school gardens in schools around downtown Las Vegas. Their goal is to help provide fresh, healthy food options for students who may not otherwise have access to them, along with food stability. Many of the students live in food deserts and do not have normal grocery stores, which makes a community garden all the more valuable.

Course 2: Cheese-Filled Ravioli

After helping raise the money to create the garden, Chef Donald provides cooking demonstrations, teaching the students how to make a plant-based meal using ingredients from the garden. The recipes are translated in both English and Spanish, and the students are sent home with their own produce to share with their families.

Maine Course: A Roast, Stuffing, Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Gravy, and Collard Greens

Kelly told us that VegeNation was created to be a community-based restaurant, and that they work with many local organizations, non-profits, and grassroots organizations to help create positive change in Las Vegas.

Dessert: Pumpkin Pie, Candied Walnuts, Cranberries, and Whipped Cream

We finished our meal with full bellies and big smiles. Not only was the food delicious, but it was a wonderful feeling just knowing the work VegeNation was doing in the community and that, in a small way, we helped contribute to it.

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  • West Hollywood, California