For Devalina Waring and Chloe Devine, it was now or never.
The longtime friends and Deep Cove residents met the summer prior to entering high school and became fast friends. They kept in touch throughout university, which took them to different Eastern Canadian cities, as well as in the years that followed as they each embarked on a series of separate travel adventures, taking them from one far-flung locale to another.
While their paths were diverse, for example at one point Devine was working in the kitchen of a yoga ashram in the Bahamas, while Waring was in Denmark, manning a food truck at the Roskilde Festival, they still maintained much in common: mainly their passion for health and cooking.
Reunited upon their respective returns to the North Shore, the women agreed that the timing felt right to act on an idea Waring had floated a few months prior, suggesting they partner to launch their own farm-to-festival vegan and organic food truck, Gaia Ma.
“We had so much inspiration from seeing all the different food systems and cuisines. … We came back and realized this is what we need to do,” says Waring, 26.
Gaia Ma, which loosely translates to “mother earth, mother universe,” is intended to fill a void the women feel exists in the local food truck scene and is focused on bringing customers a health-conscious alternative.
Ready to put their vision to the test, they bought a truck in March, painted it purple and gold, had a kitchen installed, and excitedly set off on their inaugural season, hitting up a series of nearby festivals, including Blessed Coast, West Coast Yoga Festival and the Luminosity Gathering.
Looking back on their busy first food truck season, Devine and Waring are overwhelmed at the positive response they received, both through direct comments as well as in light of the fact that many festival-goers chose to patronize their truck multiple times a day.
“I’m constantly humbled and surprised by the reactions we get to our food. We’re trying to change our menu for the coming season, for spring. We love being creative but it’s hard for us to let go of menu items because people have given us such great feedback on them,” says Devine, 25.
“I love the sense of community that our little purple and gold truck can create. I love meeting people: ‘How are you doing? You’re not just a customer, we’re friends.’ To me that’s super epic to go around to a bunch of different festivals and see your customers, your friends through and through. It’s a really special feeling to create a community around similar values. …
For us, it’s such a beautiful service to feed people, it’s something that connects everyone in the world,” adds Waring.
While they tended to be the busiest at yoga festivals and more conscious gatherings, it didn’t take long for their take on vegan cuisine to catch on at some of the more mainstream events they were featured at, like the Pemberton Music Festival.
“It was a bit of a slow start and then by the weekend we just had a constant line up and flow of people coming to see us,” says Waring.
Their eclectic, mainly raw food menu was inspired by their travels. Offerings include: an Italian-inspired “Raw Law-Zion-Ya,” composed of marinated zucchini layered with cashew ricotta, sun-dried tomato sauce, pesto and fresh tomatillos; a “Taste the Rainbow” pad thai, containing purple cabbage, shredded carrots and zucchini, and topped with their homemade peanut sauce, bean sprouts and lime; and “Wrap Me Up Baby,” which consists of spiced chickpea falafel balls bundled in a collard leaf, topped with shredded veggies and a sauce of the customer’s choosing. All of their vegan cheeses and preservative-free sauces are made from scratch, in-house.
The one cooked dish on the Gaia Ma menu is kitchari, derived from Waring’s two years spent in India and Devine’s experiences learning to cook from Ayurvedic chefs.
“The kitchari is really important to both of us. It’s an Ayurvedic Indian dish that’s really grounding and it’s a full protein, so for someone who does eat vegan, which I do, it’s a really great source of energy and nourishment,” says Devine.
Gaia Ma also offers a number of different breakfast options, smoothies and desserts.
“We try to cover all the bases of somebody who has sensitivities or restrictions in their diet because that’s where Waring and I both come from, is a place of healing. We both have struggled with different health problems and digestive problems and have found that it’s not easy to go out and eat. … I never want our truck to be somewhere that you feel uncomfortable asking to modify something,” says Devine.
While both women believe strongly in the positive impacts of veganism on the body, environment, economy, health and happiness as a result of being conscious about what’s on your plate, they’re quick to point out that their goal is not to suggest their customers become raw vegans or that they should eat 100 per cent organic. Rather, they hope to use their food as a means of making people aware of the benefits and to consider what alternatives might exist.
“This truck has really become a vessel for us to help educate, to spread awareness and to spread love,” says Devine.
Ultimately, they hope to continue leading by example.
“There’s a lot of love that goes into it and I think the community really feels that, so I’m hoping it’s some kind of chain reaction. I hope it inspires other chefs to really look at their ingredients and where they come from and how it affects the world,” says Waring.
While Gaia Ma is for the most part a seasonal business, due to Devine and Waring’s interest in locally sourcing as much of their sustainable produce as possible, they’ll continue offering catering services to interested clients over the fall and winter. They plan to take things to the next level in spring and summer 2017, growing the business as well as their presence at local farmers markets and festivals. gaiamafoods.com