VIDEO: Marc-Olivier Brouillette has no beef

Former Montreal Alouettes linebacker Marc-Olivier Brouillette talks living a vegan lifestyle as an athlete in a panel discussion at this year’s Montreal Vegan Festival.

Video by Calvin Cashen

Student Life

Sixth annual Montreal Vegan Festival is bigger than ever

This year’s Montreal Vegan Festival was back and better than ever. Boasting over 160 kiosks, over a dozen conferences and cooking demonstrations, and close to a dozen workshops, the Montreal Vegan Festival showcases the different aspects of a vegan/plant-based lifestyle.

During its first year, in 2014, the Montreal Vegan festival saw a mere 5,000 attendees at the Université du Québec à Montréal Coeur des sciences. The following two years, the festival was held at the Bonsecours Market, seeing 15,000 attendees in 2016. Now in its sixth year, the 2019 rendition of the festival was expected to accumulate nearly 20,000 attendees at the Palais des Congrès over the Sept. 21-22 weekend.

Christoper the Pig. Photo by Cecilia Piga.

Many of the kiosks showcased food items such as ready-to-eat products you could purchase there. There were cooking ingredients from brands like Redpath, plant-based drinks, cheeses and meat alternatives — but there was so much more. There were kiosks showcasing food supplements, clothing, reusable and sustainable alternatives for everyday items, makeup, and even kitchen supplies geared towards making an effort to be more environmentally conscious.

With all these different aspects, there was a variety of people in attendance, including families with young children and babies. Also in attendance was Christopher the Pig, famous on Instagram — he has more than 82,000 followers and his profile describes him as a “public figure” — for being a rescued miniature pig (who actually isn’t so small). Christopher is featured on merch of Vgan Styles, a clothing brand that had their own kiosk at the festival.

If you’ve ever wondered how long it takes to organize a festival of this size, Jonathan Levac-Chaloux says people were working on it since before he was elected president of the administration council at the general assembly in April. One of the reasons it took so long, Levac-Chaloux explained, is that they were trying to find more zero-waste serving options for the festival.

“It was better this year compared to last year, we definitely took a step forward; it wasn’t the full distance we hoped to achieve, but we’re going in the right direction,” said Levac-Chaloux.

Vegan since Sept. 1, 2014, Levac-Chaloux is familiar with the festival, having attended it in previous years. He has seen the evolution and the growth of the festival as well as the vegan movement in Montreal.

“This year, being on the organization team, I see the extent of the progress and the extent to which people know we’re a big festival in Montreal,” said Levac-Chaloux. “The fact that we have more exhibitors helps with having more of a variety of services available at the festival,” he added about the different kiosks at the festival.

He explained that at the beginning there was a focus on food. But now there is a shift in what was showcased, as already explained — some of it still related to food.

“Me, being a vegan, I know that being vegan is more than just about food,” said Levac-Chaloux. “It’s a lifestyle.”

Photos by Cecilia Piga, Video by Calvin Cashen


Vegan athletes break down stereotypes

When you think of a football player, a hockey player or a bodybuilder, veganism doesn’t necessarily come to mind right away. But with increased popularity, a vegan lifestyle has become more prominent for athletes.

At this year’s Montreal Vegan Festival, former CFL safety for the Montreal Alouettes and Saskatchewan Roughriders, Marc-Olivier Brouillette, was the spokesperson. On Sunday, Brouillette was on the All Gain, No Pain: World-Class Vegan Athletes Break Stereotypes panel to talk about his life as a vegan athlete. Also on the panel was former NHL player Georges Laraque, nationally certified fitness trainer John Lewis, as well as wellness coaches and couple Josh Goldman and Rebecca Theofanis.

During the hourlong panel, a moderator asked questions, the first being “how long have you been vegan?” Brouillette began by saying he’s been vegan for four years, having played his last three seasons in the CFL as a vegan, and citing the 2016 season as his best ever.

“As a professional athlete, when you get to that level, everyone’s good,” said Brouillette as he explains why he made the switch to being vegan. “How am I going to find that extra edge, that’s going to make me, Marc-O. Brouillette a better football player?” After doing research and after a short period of time implementing veganism, he realized the benefits and hasn’t looked back since.

Lewis was already a vegetarian. When his mother was diagnosed with colon cancer and doctors told her it was due to too much animal protein and fatty foods, he did more research and finally made the switch to being vegan. In Theofanis’s case, she made the switch after doing her research and with the aim of reducing inflammation in the body, increasing her ability as an athlete and increasing her longevity in life.

As for Laraque, he’s been vegan since 2009, which was his final NHL season. For him, the switch to a vegan lifestyle happened after seeing the documentary film, Earthlings, which asks the viewer why we, as a society, tend to value some animals above others – which the film labels “speciesism.”

The next question was where the athletes got their protein since they don’t consume animal products. For protein, a general consensus was that it can be found in everything, just not every food has the same amount. Laraque brought up a popular argument that humans need to eat meat just as animals do. The difference between us, though, is that when animals eat meat, their prey is still alive so they’re receiving all the nutrients as their body breaks down the meat. When humans eat meat, it’s already dead and processed, so we don’t get nearly the same benefits.

As for misconceptions they’ve dealt with as vegan athletes, Laraque brought up how not all vegans are necessarily healthy. Some turn vegan and don’t fuel their body with nutrient-filled whole foods, often eating meat alternatives. “The reason why I stopped [eating meat] is not to find something that tastes the same that’s actually really unhealthy,” Laraque said.

Also spoken about throughout the hour were intermittent fasting, food pairings, the amount of protein you actually need, each panelist’s favourite food and more.


Feature photo by Cecilia Piga, Video by Calvin Cashen

Student Life

Making veganism palatable

Chef Jean-Philippe Cyr talks about the food industry and his diet transition

Are you curious about vegan food? Always wondered if it’s affordable for you as a student? Here’s your chance to learn more about it! The Montreal Vegan Festival will be hosting its fifth edition this weekend, on Oct. 20 and 21.

Given the festival’s success in previous years, organizers had to relocate from Marché Bonsecours to the Palais des Congrès for this year’s event. The Montreal Vegan Festival is one of the biggest in Canada and is free for all, since the organisers want to keep it accessible and affordable. Many activities and workshops will be held in both French and English by well-known vegan chefs—such as Gaz Oakley and Sébastien Kardinal, a French chef and founder of, a platform for an array of restaurant reviews, food tastings and new recipes.

Jean-Philippe Cyr—known for “La cuisine de Jean-Philippe,” a Facebook page, website, and now a book of recipes translated into English—is this year’s festival spokesperson.

Photo courtesy of Danny Payne.

Environmental and ethical issues surrounding the food industry are some aspects of veganism the chef wanted to share. Cyr said that, since the 1960s, the world population has doubled, while the population of cows has quadrupled, meaning our beef consumption has increased significantly in that time. He also mentioned issues concerning antibiotics given to the animals we consume. Cyr said the main problem our society faces now is caused by industrialization. “Back in the day, people had a cow and a pig to feed the family; it wasn’t a major environmental problem,” he said.

Cyr is a good model for students that want to try to out a vegan diet. He said becoming a vegan can’t be done on the drop of a dime—it requires a period of transition. “I was a classically [trained] chef, already cooking vegan food in a Buddhist temple, but still I was going to McDonald’s like everyone,” said Cyr. When asked about how he began cooking vegan food, he said his breaking point came one day when he had to serve lamb at a funeral home. The atmosphere of the funeral home combined with the fact that Cyr was serving a dead baby animal was, for him, a revelation. “It was an intense connection,” he said. That day, Cyr decided to quit his job. His wife suggested that he start sharing his vegan cooking knowledge online—which Cyr thought was a good idea—so he began to do so on Facebook.

Aiming to make vegan food accessible to as many people as possible, Cyr offers alternatives for traditional recipes to help make this transition easier. “My meals are simple and easy to do and are cultural references; spaghetti sauce tastes the same whether you put beef or tofu. There are ways to eat vegan without noticing it,” Cyr said. “I am a chef, not a nutritionist,” he added.

If you are on a tight budget, switching to a vegan diet can actually help you save some money. “Last time I checked, chickpeas were still cheap and tofu is half the price of ground beef,” said Cyr.

The Montreal Vegan Festival will take place Oct. 20 and 21 at the Palais des Congrès. Jean-Philippe Cyr will give a workshop on how to prepare tofu on Saturday, Oct. 20. On Oct. 21, he will take part in a vegan poutine contest with Sébastien Kardinal.

Feature image courtesy of Danny Payne.

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