Picture above: Spirit Elephant owner CD Young & Actress, Vegan Foodie, Tabitha Brown @iamtabithabrown
Welcome to Chicago North Shore Moms weekly Meet a Mom spotlight where we feature one local mama, what they’re up to both personally and professionally. But first we’d like to extend a very heartfelt thank you to our Meet a Mom sponsor, Lake Forest mom of three and owner of Gifford Law, a solo Estate Planning Law Firm. Mary, we appreciate your support of local moms in our North Shore communities!
This week’s Meet a Mom spotlight is the lovely and spirited CD Young of the vegan restaurant Spirit Elephant, centrally located on Chicago’s North Shore. If you’ve never been, and even if vegan is not your bag, we highly suggest stopping in for the craft cocktails, and expert cuisine that will have you wanting more. The interior space is chique and chill at the same time, while the outdoor patio in back of the restaurant is like a vacation.
CD is hardworking, fun, passionate, and has proven to have the kind of spirit it takes to keep a restaurant, which opened January of 2020, thriving during a pandemic. Welcome, CD!
Hi CD! Please introduce yourself.
I am from Ames, Iowa. I went to Iowa State University for undergrad, graduated in Industrial Engineering and started working for Kraft at a plant in New Ulm, Minnesota. Travelling on business to Chicago, I met my husband and ended up relocating after we were engaged.
You’re a mom! How many kiddos do you have and how old are they? What are they up to?
We have three children. The youngest is at New Trier, the middle is studying computer science in graduate school at the University of Chicago, and the oldest does consulting work in housing here in Chicago. Her name is Maggie and she is pictured in this photo with me at the grand opening of Spirit Elephant in January of 2020.
Photo Credit: Sophie Baron Photography
What has been the hardest part about this pandemic for you personally and professionally?
The pandemic has been very hard on restaurants. What helped us is being nimble, and pivoting to takeout and delivery, but also, the natural health and environmental benefits of plant-based food resonates with folks and we have been extremely grateful for the community rallying around us during this tough period. Personally, it has been nice to cocoon with the family–a gift in many ways.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you…
I think it surprises people that I am no chef–far from–my family will attest to that fact!
There are only a handful of 100% plant-based restaurants on the North Shore. Please introduce your restaurant, Spirit Elephant.
Spirit Elephant was born of passion. There are so many wonderful things about plant-based eating that I wanted to share. Personally, I have always had deep connections with animals, and know they are complex beings with nearly every emotion we have. After learning of the disturbing aspects of factory farming I stopped eating all animal products. Following that, my plant-based journey led me to increased wellness including more energy, losing weight, better blood levels of iron and calcium, and feeling better in my mind. Spirit Elephant was born because I wanted to share these positive effects with everyone.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a restaurateur?
The most rewarding part of this endeavor is to watch omnivores fall in love with our food. I knew they would, but it’s so wonderful to witness.
Ava DuVernay has said, “If your dream only includes you, it’s too small.” Who would you like to thank for the success of Elephant Spirit? Any mentors of influencers?
My family and our incredibly passionate and talented team, picture above, have helped the restaurant get to the success that it is today. They felt this passion for animals I have and helped me turn it into something wonderful for everyone to share. On Instagram, I love the influencer @iamtabithabrown. She skyrocketed on instagram using veganism as her platform and her uplifting style and messaging has been an inspiration. I have equally been inspired by amazing local restaurants–of course the vegan restaurants hold a special place for me as we are a community for sure and the numbers of us are growing. And, of course, the patrons – we wouldn’t still be here today without their support!
Photo Credit: Monica Kass Rogers
How did you come up with the name, Spirit Elephant, for your restaurant?
The elephant is the largest herbivore on the planet, so it’s a natural symbol for veganism. Additionally, they are very protective their communities, just as veganism is protective of the planet, so eating vegan is like looking out for your communities. The “spirit” in the name refers to our cocktail program and spirits!
Speaking of spirits, please indulge us by telling us more about your delicious cocktail program.
I knew that our cocktail program was always going to be a big deal to us. We were lucky to find our Chief Mixologist, Jose Sandoval, who is 100% into fresh herbs and fruits to create the perfect balanced cocktail – he leads the program beautifully!
What’s next for Spirit Elephant? Any new dishes? New locations in the future?
We have a lot going on at Spirit Elephant! We just launched a hugely successful new menu with entrees like crabless cakes, vedgeplant parmesan, and lentil bolognaise. Folks have really taken to our take on these familiar items. Also, a brand new, gluten-free double layer chocolate cake will be launched this weekend. We love to really dive into all the delicious, colorful and remarkable things you can do with plants. Going forward we will also be launching a fast casual vegan restaurant….more to come on that exciting pivot.
Photo Credit: Sophie Baron photography
What’s one or two things you’d love the North Shore audience to know about your restaurant?
I would love the northshore to know that we have a beautiful garden patio in the back, not visible unless you know about it.
We are also adding a glass overhang back there so that it can be used for outdoor events without worry of rain.
I would also like them to know that they needn’t worry if they have family members who are skeptical about eating plant-based. Our barbecue burger and our meatloaf have converted pretty much 100% of meat-eaters into folks who are happy to come back again and again.
Thanks! How can we connect with you for more information and where are you located?