The Kimchi Dude Dishes Out Classics With Vegan Twist
After Randy Ryan graduated from Wallenpaupack Area High School in 2005, he earned his commercial driver’s license and hit the road as a trucker.
He still drives rigs from time to time, but he also makes his living through his passion for sharing vegan, raw and gluten-free food as the Kimchi Dude. His journey from selling fresh juices out of his home to establishing himself as a weekend vendor in the Marketplace at Steamtown started during one of his breaks from driving.
“Once I got to a financial point where I could take time off, I was reading and writing and spending more time in nature,” Ryan explained on a recent afternoon at his Scranton stand. “I had a lot of time to think about natural design. We’re not natural predators. Becoming vegan just made sense.”
Ryan made the lifestyle switch about four years ago, and the benefits are undeniable, he pointed out. Once he adopted a cleaner diet, he dropped 150 pounds, and he never takes medicine because he doesn’t typically get sick.
“There’s no workout plan. My strength and endurance are good,” Ryan said. “Now that I eat so clean, I notice subtle things, like a lighter feel in my body.”
But his dedication to raw foods sets him apart even within the vegan community, which tends to fall into either processed foods, or the more wholesome versions Ryan chooses.
“It’s light on the stomach, easily digestive. You don’t have to count calories,” he said. “Everything is raw.”
Business started off simply in 2015, with Ryan focusing on blending three juice recipes a week at home in large batches, which he then marketed to gyms, farmer’s markets and juice-cleanse devotees. He provided door-to-door delivery for customers until he established enough of a base that he could set a monthly market at his house where they came to him.
Ryan admitted he got bored, however, and started incorporating food into his business plan. By 2016, he rebranded himself as the Kimchi Dude to better reflect who he was.
“As a young entrepreneur, you do have to filter yourself to appeal to a wider audience,” Ryan said. “I switched to the Kimchi Dude to be less about a business and more about expressing my truth, being myself and sharing my experiences and having a more personal connection.”
He moved into the Marketplace at Steamtown at the start of June, where he changes his menu weekly but always keeps his old standards — Earth Juice (mixed greens, cucumber, lemon and pear), Sun Juice (orange, carrot, ginger and apple cider vinegar) and Moon Juice (cashew, coconut, maple syrup and cinnamon).
Ryan also designates a smoothie of the week and designs about a half-dozen entrees and as many side dishes based on what’s available in produce seasonally or whatever catches his interest at the market.
Most of his menu takes classics people are comfortable with and transforms them in a raw and vegan version of that food. His nachos, for example, are made from guacamole and a cashew-cheese sauce, while the chips are comprised of flax and carrot that have been dehydrated for a day until they’re nice and crispy. His pasta dishes are made with “zoodles,” or zucchini noodles he hand-cranks.
“We just make them more simple. It’s whole ingredients,” Ryan said.
His namesake Kimchi, which he calls the “healthiest food on the planet,” is like a Korean sauerkraut, Ryan said, made from Napa cabbage, Daikon radish, carrot, green onion, garlic, ginger, sea salt, sugar and the Korean spice mix Gochugaru, which gives it a kick.
The Kimchi multiplies beneficial bacteria and reintroduces it to the eater’s gut, “so you’re getting medicine and food at the same time,” while the shelf-life of the ancient recipe is “longer than you,” Ryan joked.
The rotating smoothies tend to draw people in, and soon, he’ll add Kombucha to his permanent menu. He also partners with local gyms and yoga studios to offer juice-cleanse packages for the health-conscious.
Though word of mouth has been a huge boost through the years, having the dedicated brick-and-mortar space in the mall helps business, too.
“It’s cool. We see a lot of new faces,” Ryan said. “The vegan community in particular is so supportive of each other, but now we’re getting more people who are into fine foods. The ingredients and techniques we use are used in five-star restaurants.”
The foundation of his company is a devotion to sustainability, he noted. Every excess scrap is composted, and even styrofoam containers are repurposed as planters.
“The original inspiration was to help steer humanity from destructive practices: deforesting, using more than we give back to the planet,” Ryan said. “Sometimes, living in NEPA, it’s hard to get sustainable (supplies), but I try my best to get things with minimal packaging. We do things manually as much as possible, so we do a lot of knife work. For me, it’s like therapy. It’s very calming. It’s like a form of meditation in its own right.
“I think the next jump for us is to get solar at the mall, and power the entire stand that way,” Ryan added.
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The Kimchi Dude
Address: Second floor food court, the Marketplace at Steamtown, 300 Lackawanna Ave., Scranton
Owner: Randy Ryan
Cuisine: Raw, vegan and gluten-free food
Hours: Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Online: Follow @The
KimchiDude on Instagram and Facebook.