A new vegan restaurant recently opened near Rittenhouse Square at 1706 Locust Street — and its owner, Andrea Kyan, wants to teach you how to cook like a vegan.
Kyan, who became a vegetarian at age 13, a vegan at 28, and gluten-free at 33, opened Pure Sweets & Co., Philadelphia's first-ever vegan, flourless, gluten-free, kosher-style and 97 percent organic cafe and juice bar, on May 10, bringing a wide array of vegan morsels to the Rittenhouse area. P.S. & Co.'s unique menu boasts a wide array of sweet and savory options, from lemon lavender macaroons to pumpkin goji wraps.
“I built the menu around recipes I grew up enjoying,” Kyan said. “[I] also hired a talented chef, Julia Deppe, to recipe test and add her own brilliant menu items. It has been a wonderful collaboration.”
Kyan has long been passionate about promoting general health and the particular role that food plays in it, an expected consequence of growing up in a Chinese-Burmese household where delicious, plant-based food was a staple.
Following an "eat well and feel well" mantra, Kyan believes that clean eating is the key to good health.
“Prevention is the best form of medicine, and plant-based, clean food is the best medicine,” Kyan said.
The café also offers classes for beginners to advanced chefs in juicing, mixology, gluten-free baking and a basic series of vegetarian cooking throughout the summer. The summer cocktails mixology workshop will be held on June 12, and a gluten-free baking series will be taught on June 19.
"I love selling the knowledge of vegan cooking because people should learn to do it on their own," Kyan said, adding that she enjoys having a "direct relationship with customers."
Kyan’s path to opening P.S. & Co was almost as exotic as its menu. According to her website, Kyan studied physiological psychology and East Asian studies at Smith College, learned herbal medicine in China, studied Buddhism in India, taught English in Taiwan, had 4 months of silent meditation in Burma, undertook the post-bac pre-med program at Bryn Mawr College and worked in HIV/AIDS and medical research for several years before opening P.S. & Co.
“When I was 28 and about to go to medical school, I realized that I would be 40 by the time I finished everything and I didn’t want to wait that long," Kyan said. "I then began to test the market for my desserts.”
Kyan's largest obstacle so far has been the pricing of her products, though she is confident that expensive organic ingredients result in a high-quality menu.
“It’s going better than I expected! But my fear is pricing," Kyan said. "No one is doing 100 percent organic so the prices are higher, but we are putting more thought into the food. A lot of labor is involved and we are making a totally different type of food product.”
A meal at P.S. & Co. does not only include sensations for the taste buds, but also a rustic ambience fitting of the Rittenhouse neighborhood. Kyan spent about six and a half months with the help of Groundswell Design renovating the restaurant — previously a clothing store — into the bright, welcoming space it is today.
Kyan credits the idea behind P.S. & Co. to her own cravings for vegan sweets.
“Upon adopting a vegan lifestyle in 2007, my sweet tooth went through a dry spell until some late night baking experiments began to fill the void," Kyan said. "I realized I had an idea that would combine my love of animals, food and wellness into a profession that could help people eat better, live better and experience the perks of a healthful lifestyle."
P.S. & Co. is open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. seven days a week.