Imagine being an internationally-renowned chef and an avid meat-eater, and then waking up and realizing that you could never eat meat again. For chef Jon Emanuel, co-owner of The Old Caledonian Bed & Breakfast in Caledonia, Missouri, that’s exactly what happened.
In 2018, Emanuel had to give up meat after developing a rare allergy called Alpha-gal syndrome, which he contracted from a tick bite. He struggled to come to terms with his diagnosis: before he and his wife, Penny Province, moved to Missouri to open The Old Caledonian, Emanuel worked as the executive chef at a nonprofit in Denver and tutored butchery at local restaurants.
“I had to go through a mourning period. Not only was I chef a for 25 years; I was a meat guy. I cured my own bacon at the inn,” Emanuel says.
Province, a former vegan, suggested to Emanuel that they become vegans and convert the Old Caledonian’s menu to entirely vegan. It was a tough sell for Emanuel, who missed eating meat and doubted that plant-based meals would satisfy guests. Even though he grew up eating tofu, he admits that he's not a fan of other plant-based proteins such as tempeh.
“It took months to settle into the idea. I’ve had an amazing culinary life of eating whatever I want. I said to myself: I can do vegan. But I have to want to eat the food,” Emanuel says.
Emanuel and Province traveled to St. Louis to research vegan food to create their menus at the inn. Their first stop was SweetArt, a popular vegan bakery and café in Shaw. Even though Emanuel was “still rolling his eyes” after ordering a scrambled tofu breakfast burrito, one bite changed his mind. “I tried it and I thought, this is really good,” Emanuel says.
The couple also visited LuLu’s Local Eatery, a South Grand spot known for its vegan fare. They tried Buffalo cauliflower, which Emanuel describes as “delicate, light, crispy and not greasy,” that further sold him on vegan food. “There’s something to be said for technique,” he adds.
Armed with newfound inspiration, Emanuel returned to the inn and created vegan menus for breakfast, daily afternoon tea and dinner. In June, the inn became entirely vegan. The concept has already taken off with guests.
“It’s great. We’re getting a whole new clientele from out of state. Everybody is just so happy to have a vegan B&B to come to,” Province says.
Emanuel continues to hone his vegan menus, which draw from his diverse training and love for international cuisine. Recent dinner dishes include arepas with black beans, mushrooms, and green chile sauce, butternut squash gnocchi with Brussels sprouts and jackfruit pozole with housemade corn tortillas. Breakfast, which is served daily at the inn, can include vegan sausage, pancakes, "cheese" grits, fried green tomatoes, waffles and cinnamon rolls. Emanuel also accommodates guests with special allergies.
“I was a carnivore coming in skeptical. My goal was to be satisfied with the food, because if I liked it, everyone else would, too. I think I’ve accomplished that,” Emanuel says.
The Old Caledonian Bed & Breakfast, 116 MO-21, Caledonia, Missouri, 573.779.1300, oldcaledonian.com