When most people bake cupcakes, they do one of two things — either throw a boxed mix together with eggs and water or Google a recipe, blending butter, flour, baking powder, eggs, butter, salt, oil and milk in a mixing bowl and hoping for the best.
But for Brookfield resident Valerie Vedral, perfecting the art of cupcake making is something she’s approached in anything but the conventional way.
With heaping cups of vegan ingredients, tablespoons of tenacity and a dash of sass, the Brookfield resident has whipped up The Vulgar Vegan — a one-of-a-kind business dedicated to creating vegan cupcakes made from the highest-quality ingredients and packed with a punch of personality.
And right now, Vedral finds herself in the quarterfinals of Carla Hall’s Favorite Chef competition — a nationwide online contest sponsored by celebrity chef Carla Hall in which one chef will win $25,000 and appear in a two-page advertorial in Taste of Home magazine.
In the contest, everyone from sous chefs to hobbyists is judged based on public voting. The quarterfinals voting ends Aug. 3. If she makes it into the semifinals, voting will take place through Aug. 17 before a national winner is named.
Wherever Vedral sets up shop, she includes a voting QR code at her table and asks if people wouldn’t mind casting their vote for her. You can also vote for her on Carla Hall’s contest website by clicking here.
In her specific contest bracket, Vedral is the only vegan chef, and if she wins, Vedral said she’s putting the prize money toward opening her own storefront.
“I’ve always loved cooking, and for years and years, I talked about wanting to open up my own restaurant one day or have a vegan restaurant or bakery to highlight vegan food, but never really did anything with it,” she said.
Vedral’s journey started a few years ago during the pandemic, at a time when many people were reevaluating their lives, including jobs and passion projects.
When she couldn’t stop thinking about how much she wanted to create a vegan food business, Vedral figured there was no better time to get the wheels turning on making her dream a reality.
While Vedral had publicly served her cupcakes several years ago at a wedding, she never had an official business. With a background in journalism and communications, pivoting into the culinary world would be a complete 180.
In July 2021, she created The Vulgar Vegan, baking cupcakes out of her home while researching a location where she could have access to a licensed commercial kitchen, offering her an opportunity to yield dozens more of her goods.
After establishing her business as an LLC and securing baking space at The Hatchery — a 67,000-square-foot production facility for food entrepreneurs in Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood —The Vulgar Vegan took off.
Last year, Vedral earned a space inside the inaugural Berwyn Shops small-business incubator program in the city’s Roosevelt Road corridor — a venture which helped her gain experience with having a storefront, business education, promotion and future business building resources.
“One of the things that was nice about being a part of the Berwyn Shops was it really gave me that experience of having a mini storefront,” she said. “Even though it was on a small scale, you got a good sense of what it would really be like and if it’s really for you or not.”
This year, The Vulgar Vegan has operated as a pop-up at the Riverside Farmers Market, Brookfield Farmers Market, Oak Brook Artisan Market, Chicago Vegan Test Kitchen’s markets and Austin Town Hall City Market.
The first question Vedral usually gets from customers is the story behind her business’ peculiar name.
“Vulgar Vegan came about because my initials are V.V. and I also do have a potty mouth,” she said. “It just kind of made sense and is catchy and funny. The marketing behind the business really does embrace an upscale experience, but the vulgarity is still there — and it really makes people laugh.
“When I’m out in public and people see my logo or they read the menu — like the Lemon Twist being ‘f*cking refreshing’ — people tell me, ‘Well, I have to get this cupcake now.’”
With recipes created on the fly, Vedral first comes up with a cupcake’s name and then reverse engineers a recipe.
“The Vulgar Vegan is for people who really want that experience of having this cupcake that’s got some crazy name but will make you feel good and put a smile on your face,” she said.
A vegan for the past decade and a longtime vegetarian prior, for Vedral, creating a business incorporating organic ingredients and environmentally conscious sourcing was a huge priority.
“I walk the walk and talk the talk for sure,” she said. “It’s really important to limit our exposure to so many chemicals, and I think we really have a responsibility to make some better choices with products. For a lot of my customers, especially those who are vegan, it’s important to find things that have organic ingredients and companies that are eco-friendly.”
In addition to cupcakes, Vedral also offers a line of premium roasted coffees, partnering with a local coffee roaster who helps her create her private label line of coffees.
Though running a one-woman business has its challenges, Vedral credits her husband, Brian Moore, and her kids, Elliot, Elise and Mira Moore, for their help and love along the way.
And while she’s loved meeting so many different people at popup events, her ultimate goal for The Vulgar Vegan is for the business to become brick-and-mortar.
To any budding bakers and chefs in the area, Vedral has a simple message: just go for it.
“Don’t wait until your idea is perfect, because if you wait, your idea will never be perfect,” she said. “You’ll always find a reason to talk yourself out of it. I think of how many years I finally waited to start this business, and sometimes it makes me sad that I didn’t go for it a lot sooner, because I truly love this.”
To learn more about The Vulgar Vegan, visit thevulgarvegancupcakes.com.