Canada 150

Vegans of Ottawa – Joelle Tremblay

Vegans of Ottawa – Joelle Tremblay

Photos courtesy of Joelle Tremblay


In this series, we chat with vegans from around the region to find out what it’s like to be plant-based in Ottawa, discovering tips and tricks for living a like a local - vegan style.

Joelle Tremblay has been all over the map. Born in Vanier but raised in Hull, she moved to Montreal at age 18, followed by Switzerland and Australia. Recently back in Canada’s capital region, she now calls Old Hull home, where she says “the coffee shops are cute, the people quirky and nothing is ever very far.” A self-described veg head for almost 10 years, Tremblay can’t pinpoint the exact moment she became a vegan; it just sort of happened. We tracked down the globetrotter to get her take on the local vegan scene.

Ottawa Life: What inspired you to become a vegan?

Joelle Tremblay: At first, I didn’t even know I was vegan (That girl!).  I had major digestive issues (if you also do, feel free to reach out to me) and tried going raw. The first time I lasted four days, but the second time I managed being raw for almost three months.

While that didn’t solve anything, it opened my eyes to a lot. I was reading blog on books on articles, it was a very eye-opening time of my life.

Was it difficult for you to make the transition to veganism? Why or why not?

Everyone has a different story. While I asked my mother to become vegetarian at the age of 12, for the love of animals, I wasn’t aware that the cruelty didn’t stop there. I also wasn’t expecting all the health and environmental repercussions.

My transition wasn’t overnight, it was step by step, learning it all, putting the puzzle together, not having anyone else in my surroundings even remotely aware of what the word vegan meant to support me and educate me. Let’s just say I went to a few vegan festivals alone!

However, I am very lucky in the sense that whatever path I chose, my parents helped me, welcomed it, and tried it all (even raw vegan!).

What do you find to be the most challenging part about being a vegan? How do you try to overcome that challenge?

Honestly this has been the hardest question for me to answer, it has become a second nature.

I have to say, it’s probably getting rid of the stereotypes and stigmas associated with being vegan. I often make the first joke about the lifestyle, to ease people around me and let them know that it is okay to ask questions and be curious. You can’t know it all, and if you come from the right place, I am very very happy to answer all kinds of protein question you might have!

What is the greatest benefit that you have gained from being a vegan and why?

Knowledge! It is key to everything; key to a well-balanced happy life, key to a thriving career, key to a blooming health, key to healthy relationships, and key to vegan muffins that actually puff up!

What are your favourite vegan spots in Ottawa and why? What are your favourite things on the menu?

Oh.my.God. Everything? We are blessed with an ever-evolving vegan scene and I love discovering it and switching it up. However, we are also creatures of habits and some of my can’t-get-enough-of include Wilf and Ada’s vegan breakfast, Sweet Jesus’ soft serve in a cup, Wei’s noodle house vermicelli bowl, La belle verte raw pizza (all-dressed), Café les Saisons breakfast cookie, Green door tofu and broccoli stir fry, Chickpea’s fawaffle, Beckta’s vegan fixed menu, Coconut lagoon’s mushroom curry, Strawberry blonde’s bread and anything from Little jo berry’s.

I also want to mention that, even though they are now closed, I cannot bring myself to delete Share Freehouse from my vegan restaurant option list.

I would love/hate to open a Strong Heart Café in Ottawa, that focuses on dirty vegan eats but most and foremost building a strong community. Love because I cannot get enough, and Hate because I cannot get enough!

Where do you get your groceries in Ottawa? What does your grocery list typically include?

OK! We need to talk! If you haven’t been to La boîte à grains in Hull and Gatineau, you are missing out. They had the Daiya yogurts before anyone else, the Ripple milks the day it came out in Canada, and they carry plenty of vegan cheeses that I have yet to see elsewhere. However, since my weekly diet consists mostly of fruit and vegetables, I often go to Costco, Lansdowne farmer’s market and Loblaws. If I want an adventure, I go to Mid-East food near the train yards and Kowloon on Sommerset.

Do you find that there is an active vegan community in Ottawa?

When I was in Melbourne, the vegan community was HUGE, very multi-dimensional and complex. Every week there was an event of some sort and it was fun! This is what inspired me to launch @VegansOfOttawa; creating a platform dedicated to our not-so-little-anymore community and its successes, events, etc.

I am in awe over the ever-so expanding community that we have. When I first left, it was still very small and whenever you’d request a vegan option it was as if you had a third eye. Now, the vegans in the group command where the whole group will be eating, so vegan options are appearing everywhere, the stigma is dissipating and the love is growing!

What advice would you give to people interested in or thinking about going vegan?

REACH OUT! Welcome to your new lifestyle, family, community! There are thousands of us and, reports show that our number is growing rapidly, more than any other dietary lifestyle. So ask questions, seek help, find a mentor (there’s even free pairing from Vegan Outreach). You are not alone, and you cannot know it all from the beginning. So learn from our mistakes and flourish!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I would love to take the time to simply thank our small vegan business owners who have the courage to invest into this niche market, believe in it, and give it their all. They make the Ottawa vegan scene fun, easier to navigate, and give it its personality!


Joelle’s Vegan Essentials:

Vegan Snacks (Homemade or Purchased) – CHERRIES on CHERRIES! I also make a banana and date loaf that we slice and eat during the week. In my purse I will always have at least one Larabar, and most often a banana. If I end up not eating them, I usually hand them out to people in need when I walk around town.

Vegan Desserts (Homemade or Purchased) – My colleague’s chocolate Babka, my triffle cake, and anything that combines chocolate and peanut butter.

Sources of Plant-based Protein – I am a confessed tofusexual. Also, Iron Vegan’s protein powder is the best one I’ve tasted in Canada, but if you can get your hands on PranaOn, do yourself a favour and try it!

Blogs and/or Social Media – Love our Facebook community, and I also follow @TheGlowingFridge for her gorgeous pictures and hormonal talks. I love our Canadian girl @ItdoesntTasteLikeChicken and lately one of my followers @TableEtTablier has been inspiring me a lot!

Cookbooks and/or Recipes – I cannot follow a recipe to save my life, my partner has the biggest laugh with that! I modify everything, and go with what is in my pantry at the moment.

Local Takeout Spots - La Belle Verte; you can call ahead and go pick up when ready. They also have a small fridge with take-home containers. I recently discovered Choux-Choux and I am excited to try it out.

Other Vegan Must Haves - I never go a day without my multi-vitamin! Becoming vegan was a huge learning curve for me, and I have noticed an unbelievable difference in my well-being ever since I started incorporating vegan-specific vitamin and minerals.