The menu offers vegan and non-vegan, locally sourced, non-GMO, and organic options. Pictured are three of the restaurant’s most popular dishes. Sophia O'Keefe | Mustang News

A flamboyant skeleton named Lola greets customers as they enter Vegetable Butcher. Sporting a sash that reads “Bienvenidos” and a wide smile, she sets the scene for Latin American cuisine with a twist.

Vegetable Butcher is a restaurant that offers a variety of vegetarian, vegan and meat dishes served in a refined, rustic atmosphere with a constant buzz of chatter and movement. The restaurant is owned by husband-and-wife duo John and Becky Windels and their third business partner Rich Hanen.

Creating Vegetable Butcher

Becky’s 26-year-long cooking career started in Scottsdale, Arizona. She began by working in catering and eventually became the owner and executive chef of her own business, The Herb Box. On the business’ 20th anniversary, Becky sold it and set off with John to travel along the California coast.

The Windels were on a mission to find the best location to start a new restaurant. San Luis Obispo was the first place they visited, and after four months of looking elsewhere, they knew it was the right place. However, they still had one main concern: the type of cuisine the restaurant would serve.

Sophia O’Keefe | Mustang News
Sophia O’Keefe | Mustang News

“We would go out and talk to almost every demographic and ask, ‘What is needed here in [San Luis Obispo]?’ A lot people would say modern Mexican … And I’m a very vegetable-forward chef, so I combined the two,”
Becky said.

The name “Vegetable Butcher” was born three weeks prior to the restaurant’s opening — July 5, 2017 — during a meeting between Becky, the executive chef and a freelance butcher.

“He introduced himself as, ‘Hi, I’m Josh; I’m a meat butcher.’ And my wife goes, ‘I’m Chef Becky; I’m a vegetable butcher,’” front-of-the-house manager John said.

Zach Donnenfield | Mustang News

Developing the menu

Becky created the menu from scratch, sourcing more than 90 percent of the  local farmers here. But the pork is from Nebraska, where I’m from,”
John said.

Becky’s menu items began as basic ideas in her head, which she then added an element of surprise. She does not pay attention to trends, instead relying on her creativity when it comes to food.

“I constantly have ideas, and I get excited by that,” Becky said.

The menu consists of many small-plate meals, the concept being that customers can come in for any occasion and order as much food as they like.

“It isn’t the basic steak and potatoes — you can have a lot of fun,” Becky said.

Becky credits her staff as her greatest source of motivation when coming to work. She loves being a mentor to them and ensuring that they enjoy coming to work as much as she does.

“I love the ambiance, the small plates, the flavor of the food and [the] management,” server Ashley White said. “The teamwork alone is super valuable — they’ll ask me to come in and do dishes sometimes, and I’ll just come because I care about the whole restaurant, not just my own success.”

Executive Chef Becky Windels prepares a dish at Vegetable Butcher. Zach Donnenfield | Mustang News

Located at 712 Marsh Street, the restaurant sees a flow of local students and residents as well as tourists. One of the main values of Vegetable Butcher is achieving excellence in every situation, which includes treating each customer like a “VIP.”

“I feel like everyone truly wants me to enjoy my experience here,” biomedical engineering sophomore Esther Park said. “They’re all so friendly, and the food is presented so nicely.”

While the Windels are open to the idea of establishing a second Vegetable Butcher location in the future, they are currently content with the San Luis Obispo location.

“I want Vegetable Butcher to be a place that people feel comfortable coming into,” Becky said. “We have so many different things to offer, a variety
for everybody.”

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