Profile: Paul Graham
Las Vegas has become a land of farmers markets and artisanal vegan cheeses seemingly overnight, and it now has one of the most active and connected vegan communities in the country. At the center of it all is Paul Graham and his popular blog Eating Vegan in Vegas
“I believe that there’s a goodness here,” he says at his favorite coffee shop, the vegan-friendly Sunrise Coffee near Sunset and Pecos. Graham’s tall frame is draped in a dark suit, and he speaks slowly and thoughtfully. His speech is polished, his demeanor dignified. It’s easy to appreciate his diplomatic approach to a topic as potentially controversial as veganism.
Before moving to Las Vegas in 2004, Graham counseled some of the world’s top athletes as team chaplain for the Oakland A’s from 1984-1992 (they won the World Series in 1989). He still performs wedding ceremonies, and during our conversation, I feel as if I’m taking a master class in public speaking.
“I feel a sense of destiny being here,” he says. “There was a higher likelihood of me becoming a vegan in the Bay Area. But that’s why I say, ‘If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.’”
Initially becoming a vegan for his health, Graham says that once he became aware of the “ethical, environmental and spiritual reasons” for abstaining from animal products he vowed to not only remain vegan, but to become involved in the movement. Las Vegas, as it turns out, was desperately in need of a reliable source for vegan culture and cuisine.
“I heard from many people that it was hard to find vegan-friendly food when dining out in Las Vegas. That simply had not been my experience,” he says. So in June 2011, inspired by the film Julie & Julia, Graham did something radical. For an entire year, the father of four and grandfather of seven ate a vegan meal — either cooking at home or dining out — and blogged about it daily.
“Within the first week I was being contacted by locals and visitors from around the country looking for dining options here in Las Vegas,” Graham says. He says that he noticed a subtle shift taking place as he went along: “From restaurant owners to chefs to general managers to servers to bartenders to other local and visiting vegans, a deeper sense of community began to develop here.”
Graham’s blog was so well-received by the vegan community that he wrote a companion book, Eating Vegan in Vegas: If It Can Happen Here, It Can Happen Anywhere, published recently by Sullivan St. Press.
“I wanted the story of what was happening here in Las Vegas to get out on a broader basis, and this would afford me the opportunity to do so. We set up the book on telling my story, the story of the change happening in our city, a guidebook on where to eat in the city by area — but even more importantly, why we should consider being vegan for health, ethical, environmental and spiritual reasons.”
Graham also brings people together in person with Las Vegan Eatz Events, a monthly gathering of anywhere from 30-150 people for dining and social activities. He has even started his own apparel company, Vegan Royalty, with partner Mindy Tatti.
“I have had people who were vegetarians, or what I call ‘V-Curious,’ who have decided to become vegan because of my blog, book or column.” (Graham’s column, Being Vegan, is featured Sundays on the Las Vegas Informer website.) On a practical level, you can simply appreciate that Graham consistently updates his blog with the pictures, phone numbers and addresses of vegan-friendly places that you’d never find otherwise. Like Pop Up Pizza in The Plaza downtown. It’s a pizza parlor that offers vegan pizza and vegan soft serve. Together. In one place. In a historic hotel. Now that’s eating vegan in Vegas.