WORCESTER – Picture this: an electrician and an organizational psychologist, both vegan, meet and fall in love in the meatpacking district of New York City. Several years later, at a festival celebrating vegetarianism and environmental sustainability, they fall in love again – this time, with a midsize Massachusetts city they decide to make their new home.
It’s not your typical love story, but it is the story of Victor and Nicole Broushet, the soon-to-be owners of the new Vegan Nest Cafe in Worcester. The latest addition to the city’s burgeoning restaurant scene will open November 5 at 6 Waldo St. The menu will feature fresh, rustic meals with a home-cooked feel – vegan food so savory and delicious it hardly seems vegan.
“We wanted to bring something to Worcester that the downtown area doesn’t have,” Victor said. “We are going to have nice brunch menu on Sundays – with french crepes, waffles, huevos rancheros, things you normally don’t see in a vegan restaurant.”
The Broushets, founders of the nutrition education and health advocacy organization Vegan Nest, had spent several years running an online store and hosting pop-up cafes in New York when they attended the New England VegFest at the DCU Center in April and fell in love with Worcester. They knew it was the perfect place for their pop-up cafes to permanently call home.
“There was something really special about the first time we came to Worcester. We met so many people and everything that we were sharing and the conversations we were having were so well received. We really connected with the people,” Nicole said.
After VegFest, the couple was invited back to the city to host a number of pop-up cafes, including Out to Lunch on the Worcester Common in August. These visits cemented their suspicion that Worcester was the best place for their business and family.
“We fell in love with this city. One of things that we talk a lot about was that we were captured by this idea that people in the community were really passionate about revitalizing the city and bringing art, culture and health and all of these other different things into the city,” Nicole said. “Because that’s such a foundation of what we believe in and our faith and its purpose of creating and breathing life and energy into things, that just seemed so in harmony with everything we are about. It was serendipitous that we were being led to Worcester.”
Victor, 47, went to school in Jamaica Queens, and is an electrician by trade. Nicole, 32, is originally from Texas and is an organizational psychologist. The couple has been married for nearly five years and have four daughters — Abigail, Gabrielle, Valencia and Charlotte. The family is Seventh-Day Adventists, and their faith plays a large part in their business and vegan-lifestyle.
“It’s a very important aspect of our faith – to talk about the whole person and treating that whole person in a compassionate, loving way that is in harmony with good health. Because we have this love and passion and inspiration in our faith, it gave us this desire to connect with the community and people we come in contact with to share those principles,” Nicole said.
The Brushets’ business began as a health advocacy organization that provided culinary nutrition education through cooking demonstrations, nutrition counseling, and health seminars. Their work centers around teaching, educating, and providing a platform for parents and families to reclaim their health with a focus on nutrition and its effect on emotional, mental, physical and spiritual well-being.
“We started by taking courses at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York. We both found our love for cooking when we got married. Our first morning as a married couple, for breakfast we had a burnt Morningstar sausage pattie, which was horrible. And that’s when we decided to take courses and train at the Gourmet Institute,” Nicole said.
Victor will handle breakfast and all the baking, while Nicole will prepare the entrees and sandwiches at lunch.
“By living in New York, we had the opportunity to learn from a lot of top-notch plant-based professionals. We really started cooking about three years ago. That’s when we started the cooking demos and as we were learning, we were sharing and growing. We spent so much time cooking, that we really took off from there,” Nicole said.
One of the key menu items will be the Vegan French Dip sandwich. “It’s super savory and it should be a big hit,” Victor said. “You won’t see something like it in many vegan restaurants.”
They have connected with Lettuce Be Local – a local foodhub in Central Massachusetts — who will serve as The Vegan’s Nest Cafe first source for connecting with some of the local farmers.
“As we grow and expand and find out what people want to see in the store, we will begin to partner with farmers as well as people that produce jams and preserves to host in our marketplace as well,” Nicole said.
The Vegan Nest Cafe will replace Viriditas at 6 Waldo St. The cafe and sandwich shop, which opened in 2015, will close Friday. Owner Timothy Moynagh said closing up shop will be tough, but he’s excited to see what the Broushets can do with the space.
“I hate to see us close, but I’m looking forward to getting them into that space to see what they can do. It was time for us to go, and it’s time for something new and exciting to go in there. And that’s what they have here. They fell in love with the cafe space and that’s all I can ask for. They should be a great addition to downtown,” Moynagh said in an interview on Monday, Oct. 23.
Nicole said, “It was really the picture-perfect image of what we had imagined. We want to keep that European-style bistro look and that’s the kind of food we want to serve. We want people to feel like they’re walking into a little bistro or cottage in a French countryside and sitting down for some fresh-baked bread and a hearty stew.”
The Broushets hope to find immediate success in the downtown area by capitalizing on the large student population.
Nicole said, “One of things we are really excited about is reaching out to the city’s student population and young professionals. A lot of students are coming away from home and they haven’t had a home-cooked meal in some time.”
“The students can come, they can hang out, they can do their work and they can get food that’s going to be really nutritious for them and that’s going to help them to think their best, and perform their best in school. They’re going to enjoy eating there and it’s going to be a fun, cool place to hang out,” she added.
The Vegan Nest Cafe will be open 7:30 AM to 10:30 AM for breakfast Monday thru Friday, and 12:30 PM to 3:30 PM for lunch Monday thru Wednesday. They will be closed on Saturdays, but reopen for brunch on Sunday mornings.
Thursdays the Vegan Nest Cafe will host a community night featuring a health related speaker and/or documentary until 9:30 PM or later.
The Vegan Nest also has an online store selling Moca Capomo – a maya nut coffee substitute, soy-based candles, and organic, plant-based linen spray.