CUSP Magazine is a Chicago based publication focused on helping up and coming creatives gain exposure for their brand and products. Our company is a collective of highly motivated individuals who work together to bring a new voice to the creative community.
ON THE RADAR//UPTON’S NATURALS 10 UPTON’S NATURALS <strong>CUSP</strong> MAGAZINE WINTER ’14 ISSUE ALL AMERICAN VEGAN Written by Danielle Masterson Photography by Matthew Thompson I’m your typical, cheeseburger loving American. I grew up in Michigan and wasn’t exposed to a lot of exotic food choices. Family dinners consisted of a rotating menu of chicken, spaghetti, and meatloaf. It wasn’t until I moved to Chicago that I tried my first piece of sushi or enjoyed a jiberito. But Chicago has a way of taking a fodder-sheltered girl and making her an open-minded, adventurous eating woman. I sat down with Upton’s Naturals’ Nicole Sopko, a dedicated vegan since the age of sixteen. Unlike what some may picture a vegan to be like, Sopko is a lot like any other Chicagoan. She enjoys walking her dog, practicing yoga, and eating good food. And as it turns out, Sopko and I have a lot in common. After talking with her I learned we grew up in the same metro Detroit city and attended the same university. Who knew vegans were just like you and me? Vegan life got off to a rough start for Sopko. When she first began her journey in veganism in Michigan, there were not as many options available and she really wanted to change that. Today, she is the Vice President of Upton’s Naturals, a company that manufactures a vegan meat alternative called Seitan (pronounced say-tan). For the last eight years, Sopko and her partner Dan Staackmann have been making and distributing Seitan, a process that involves rinsing the starch away from wheat and retaining the protein. The duo thought it would be even more rewarding to have a restaurant and have customers experience eating their recipes firsthand, so they opened Upton’s Breakroom in West Town. It’s a vegan eatery that left me pleasantly surprised by how normal and American the menu is. I happily sampled customer favorites like the Fried Bacon Mac (bacon Seitan), the Italian Sanwich (Italian Seitan served Chicago style), and let’s not forget the chocolate shake, sure to bring any boy (vegan or not) to the yard. My favorite was the Korean Tacos, made with homemade kimchi, Seitan marinated in Korean BBQ sauce, crowned with avocado and cilantro atop a tortilla. They are packed with flavor, contain just the right amount of zest and the tangy sauce is perfection. For $6.00, you get three. Upton’s Breakroom has managed to take an unfamiliar idea and have it not only fit right in, but stand out because it’s that good. It’s a place for vegans, vegetarians and even carnivores who enjoy the occasional Meatless Monday. It’s a café for people who like good food, started by two normal people who dreamt of more vegan options. It’s the American Dream, served up vegan style.