From heart attack survivor to vegan entrepreneur
SPONSORED — There are two words you’d never associate with a man who runs 10-20 miles per day: heart attack. But for Jim Lustig, those words became a very real threat. For all his physical exertion, Lustig considered himself invincible. In 2004, that assumption came to a dead halt, when a heart attack left him needing a triple-bypass operation. That’s when Lustig learned that he couldn’t outrun his meat-centered diet.
Growing up the son of a butcher, Lustig was accustomed to eating meat — and a lot of it. Not only was his diet high in saturated animal fats, but Lustig also operated a large catering company which produced meat-based meals on a daily basis. After doctors advised him to reduce his running, he opted for an alternate solution: cutting the meat from his diet. His inspiration was a TV program and a few online resources claiming that low-fat vegan diets free of animal products and other fats could actually reverse heart disease.
A new venture
Immediately, Lustig began experimenting with meat alternative products — none of which suited his tastes. After contacting Vegetarians of Washington, a local nonprofit group that helps people switch to a vegetarian diet, he was invited to cater the organization’s monthly dinners, which featured a wide variety of vegetarian foods. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Lustig took his catering company, The Upper Crust, along for the exciting (and healthy) ride. Working with Field Roast, the Seattle-based grain meat company, Lustig’s dinners became wildly popular, generating participation of 90 to 100 people each time.
Experimentation and innovation
Having switched to a vegan diet, Lustig began turning that lifestyle into an entrepreneurial passion. He began promoting his catering company at Vegfest, the largest vegetarian food festival in the country, held right here in Seattle. The event gave The Upper Crust the chance to market to and network with the creators of more than 500 different types of vegetarian foods.
Along with his business associate Don Howard, Lustig identified a unique need in the vegetarian and vegan worlds: gourmet frozen vegan products that make a healthier lifestyle attainable and delicious for everyone.
Lustig and Howard debuted their first product, a mushroom strudel wrapped in puff pastry at Vegfest the following year. The response was wildly enthusiastic, and a new company, Harbor Creek Farms, was born. A Brazilian black bean strudel quickly followed and most recently, Harbor Creek Farms introduced an artisan dairy-free mac and “cheese” strudel.
From conception to calzone
Today, Harbor Creek Farms is wildly popular for its frozen vegan meals. It’s most successful product line, vegan calzones, will be offered to attendees at this year’s Vegfest in Seattle.
Never felt better
Thirteen years after his heart attack, Lustig still follows his vegan diet, a change that has both improved his health and led to an exciting new career venture. Even better, he’s running 18 miles a day — and claims he’s never felt better. Lustig will be featuring his products at Vegfest this weekend. For more information on Vegfest, visit www.seattlevegfest.org