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Vegan group plans Charleston cooking contest featuring mac-and-cheese, hold the cheese

There is no cheese on this plate.

Provided/Stephanie Tassone Creative

Mac-and-cheese doesn’t seem like an obvious theme for a vegan cook-off, since animal products account for at least half of the cherished dish. But organizers of the upcoming Mac Down Charleston say the event will help demonstrate that eaters don’t have to give up comfort food when they cut dairy out of their diets.

“Cheese is something people tend to miss,” Vegan Outreach spokeswoman Stacy Shepanek says. “It’s something I hear a lot: ‘I could totally go vegan except for cheese.’ I don’t think they even realize how delicious and easy vegan eating can be.”

At previous Vegan Mac Downs in Los Angeles, Denver and Columbia, competitors have swapped out cheese for nutritional yeast, cashews, coconut milk and butternut squash, among other plant-based workarounds. “It’s going to have fat and salt, which are really the things that people are craving in the first place,” Shepanek says.

The winner of Charlotte’s Vegan Mac Down took a more direct route to victory, stirring Field Roast’s packaged Chao slices into her mac-and-not cheese. The Seattle company, which has been manufacturing grain loaves since 1997, makes its cheese-like product from fermented tofu, coconut oil and potato starch.

Adjoa Courtney is bringing her Chao to Charleston in hopes of reprising her winning performance. Other chefs scheduled to compete in the Feb. 10 event at Cypress Hall in Wannamaker Park include Smarel Nicole Brown of Dellz on the Macon; Ken Immer of Culinary Health; and Tatjana Washington, a member of the College of Charleston’s Vegan Club.

Attendees are invited to vote alongside the guest judges recruited by Vegan Outreach. Ticket sales are capped so event goers can taste all of the entries. “It will sell out before everyone who wants to attend gets a ticket,” Shepanek says.

While they last, tickets are priced at $22. The event starts at noon. For more information, visit

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

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