Meet Roni Zaide, the Vegan Calgary Chef Behind Roni’s Kitchen

The Calgary chef and owner of Roni’s Kitchen, which offers vegan cooking classes and catering services, aims to launch an online vegan cooking school next.

Photograph by Hannah Burne

Roni Zaide has a passion for wholesome living experiences, and she shares that passion with others through Roni’s Kitchen, a Calgary business offering vegan nourishment through cooking classes and catering services.

“I think a lot of people feel intimidated by cooking in general, and even more so, transition to a new kind of diet like a vegan one. I know a lot of people want to eat better, healthier food, but also to enjoy their food,” Zaide says. “My goal is to help people feel more comfortable in their own kitchen and to help them get excited about cooking and eating their own delicious food!”

 

Zaide’s journey to veganism

For Zaide, veganism started from a place of compassion. “On my 11th birthday dinner, I decided to become vegetarian. My family went out to a restaurant and my cousin ordered a lobster. That was the first time my brain made the direct connection between what was on his plate to a living thing. I announced immediately that I will not eat animals any longer,” she says.

Over the years, Zaide realized there were many ancillary benefits to being a vegetarian, including health and environmental reasons. This guided her transition into a fully vegan, plant-based lifestyle.

 

Starting Roni’s Kitchen

Prior to starting Roni’s Kitchen, Zaide worked for seven years at the The Coup, a popular vegetarian restaurant on 17 Ave. S.W. Working in a variety of roles including prep, line cook and kitchen management, she began to think about starting her own restaurant business. “I started working on a business plan for a vegan and vegetarian Mediterranean brunch place, and realized I didn’t want to take such a big financial risk by opening a restaurant,” she says.

Zaide found a way to “test the waters” with her business idea. “My friend used to own Cafe Koi at the time, and he offered [to let me do] a weekend pop-up,” Zaide says. “After a year and a half filled with fun, an overwhelming amount of support and many lessons, I realized I want my business to align better with my lifestyle, which includes a lot of traveling and flexibility. Both are hard to have while being a restaurant owner.”

So, instead of opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant, Zaide launched Roni’s Kitchen in 2014 to offer vegan cooking classes and catering services. Her classes feature delicious recipes from around the world that are made from scratch, and include her family’s Mediterranean and Persian recipes. She also loves catering vegan dishes for events such as weddings and yoga retreats. Zaide’s first cookbook was also published in 2019.

 

Online Classes and Cooking School

After offering in-person classes for seven years, Zaide found herself having to pivot to online classes last year, not unlike many others during the pandemic. This afforded her a broader reach, with people joining her classes from all across Canada, the United States and Europe. Noticing that many were watching the class recording after the live session due to being in a different time zone, Zaide was inspired to build an online vegan cooking school.

Zaide recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help build the online school, which will help her create 10 cooking classes that will each cover several recipes and tips. The campaign is open until June 8 and has already almost reached its funding goal.

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