For lunch at Chiwawa with Flyer friend Justin Fox Burks of course we ordered the Chubby Vegetarian, a terrific taco with fried avocados that is based on a recipe from the Chubby Vegetarian blog, which Burks runs with his wife Amy Lawrence.
I also got a Bianca Dog, named after my coworker Bianca Phillips, and as I was biting into this very spicy hot dog, I managed to propel the whole thing onto the floor.
That was bad news for me, but it was nothing but good news, and lots of it, from Burks on the various Chubby Vegetarian endeavors.
First, Burks and Lawrence were invited to the prestigious James Beard House in New York City to appear as part of its Enlightened Eaters series.
"How ridiculous! Such an honor!," Burks says of the Beard event.
The New York trip will cap off a busy year for Burks and Lawrence. Their cookbook The Southern Vegetarian was released in May. More recently, they teamed up with Acre/Brushmark chef Andrew Adams to cook for a sold-out dinner that was part of ArtsMemphis' Beauty and the Feast series. They cooked for a recent GrowMemphis fund-raiser dinner.
On Thursday, Burks leaves for Las Vegas to be a judge at the World Food Championships. And, TV host P. Allen Smith recently visited Chez Chubby Vegetarian for a couple segments set to air next spring.
Enlightened Eaters is a lunchtime series of readings and workshops. Guests can bring their lunch, but snacks are provided as well. For the Chubby Vegetarian event on December 4th, Burks will be making the snacks, something he's particularly excited about.
Burks says they plan to talk about how living in the South has influenced his and his wife's cooking and points to the Beard House description of the event that he says puts it perfectly: "The South's culinary roots start in the garden."
Geography aside, it was Burks' decision to become vegetarian when he was a teen that led him to take up cooking. And, now all these years later, Memphis diners are starting to see the Chubby Vegetarian influence on local menus.
Case in point is that taco at Chiwawa. He was also asked by Kelly English to come up with a few ideas for a veggie po'boy for the Second Line menu. Cafe Eclectic sought Chubby Vegetarian input as well.
"When people ask, we're happy to help," says Burks.
Burks says it's both about getting people to eat their veggies and getting people together, vegetarian or not.
"It's important that we can all sit at the same table and eat," he says.