Tampa Bay vegan pop-up Uncle Mince's celebrating 1 year of seitan worship

The plant-based sandwich purveyor's anniversary goes down this weekend.

click to enlarge Uncle Mince's new vegan gyro. - Uncle Mince's World Famous Seitan
Uncle Mince's World Famous Seitan
Uncle Mince's new vegan gyro.

In honor of its one-year anniversary, Uncle Mince’s World Famous Seitan has promised to break out a new sandwich. The vegan gyro, launched last month, is the most ambitious recipe yet for Uncle Mince’s founder Chris Mince, who turned his plant-based sandos into a full-time pursuit around this time in 2017.

Mince stopped eating meat more than a decade ago. But before introducing Uncle Mince’s to the masses, the longtime animal lover would serve homemade seitan to friends and bands. The first folks to sample his vegan protein, which is derived from wheat gluten, were a band he hosted from Scotland.

“I’ve made it for several people and bands from different countries, including Germany, Venezuela, Mexico, England and Ireland,” Mince told CL in an email. “So, technically, it could be said that it’s world famous.”

Ultimately, Mince’s taste-testers said his seitan was so good that he should start selling it at public events. So he did.

“I left my job of 13 years that provided excellent pay and full benefits to pursue my passion for cooking and showing the world that giving up animal products doesn’t mean giving up flavor and texture,” he said.

The founder hopes to draw an ambitious crowd of 200 to Uncle Mince’s anniversary bash, scheduled for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13. Independent Bar St. Petersburg hosts the celebration, where the pop-up’s gyro will mingle with its cheesesteak. Spicy vegan mac and other side dishes are also in store.

Members of the local vegan community come across Uncle Mince’s at concerts, festivals, indie markets and other happenings around town. The cheesesteak, barbecue sandwich and gyro are staples of the menu, which keeps customers on their toes with rotating sides like chickpea salad and pasta salad. Mince switches up the grub when doing multiple events a month, too; the bigger the event, the more options to expect.

Anywhere from 50 to 120 sandwiches can leave the pop-up within a few hours, and there’s typically a friend or two helping Mince handle money or assemble ’wiches. However, since the gyro debuted, he’s taught his second-in-command, “cousin” Scott Barker, how to season and sauté the cheesesteaks, which allows Mince to focus on the gyros.

All they need for setup is a tent, a table, some pans and a couple of camping stoves.

The most popular order by far is the cheesesteak, followed by the winning combination of half barbecue and half cheesesteak. According to Mince, the latter offers “the best of both worlds.”

When Mince isn’t slinging meatless goodness on both sides of the bay, he’s supplying two restaurants in Tampa — Vegan International Kitchen & Market and District Tavern — with his signature ingredient. District Tavern’s Korean barbecue wrap and chicken wrap both feature the seitan, while the Vegan International crew uses it in their own cheesesteaks and gyros, alongside Uncle Mince’s sweet potato-based cheese and vegan tzatziki.

Uncle Mince’s is always looking for restaurant partners. So much so that Mince plans to tap into more distribution soon, meaning the pop-up will scale back its presence at events. In the next few months, he hopes to have new eateries sourcing seitan from him locally and beyond.

“Seitan is a super versatile product and can take on nearly any flavor you add,” the founder said, “but still maintains the hearty texture people crave when they bite into something that’s supposed to mimic something like a cheese steak or BBQ sandwich.”

As for Uncle Mince’s one-year anniversary, the milestone is significant.

“I’m doing a lot of promotion and hustling for this one because it means so much that people still ask for us by name and come out to our events,” Mince said. “We’ve survived our first year, and I’m really proud of and humbled by that.”

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