What NYC’s ‘vegan’ mayor served at this year’s Pride party

mayor pride 2024
Patrick Kwan, senior advisor of the mayor’s community affairs unit and member of the LGBTQ+ advisory council, taught Mayor Adams hot to snap a fan at this year’s Gracie Mansion Pride Party.
Photo ET Rodriguez

When Eric Adams was elected into office in 2021, he was lauded across media outlets as NYC’s first vegan mayor. And in his tenure, he has taken grand stances on healthy eating.

He purports to have reversed diabetes in his book, “Healthy at Last: A Plant-based Approach to Preventing and Reversing Diabetes and Other Chronic Illnesses,” and in February 2022, he instituted “Vegan Fridays” in NYC public schools, now called “Plant Powered Fridays.” That same month, Adams was at a press conference talking about his food initiative when a reporter asked him how many times a week he ate fish.

“I eat a plant-based, centered life,” was the only response the seemingly annoyed mayor gave to the question while adding, “Vegans eat Oreos and drink Coca-Cola; I don’t,” which stresses the importance of conscious eating versus an exclusionary diet. Since then, Adams was no longer considered vegan, but still holds on to dietary restrictions.

Here’s what the club-going, sharp-blazer-wearing, plant-based-centered mayor of NYC served his guests at this year’s Gracie Mansion Pride party.

Gracie Mansion’s Pride party got whimsical with their recipes — like this rainbow bagel with beet cream cheese.Photo ET Rodriguez
Officer Phillips, with the community affairs department of the NYPD, was enjoying the plant-based chocolate cake from Allan’s Bakery in Brooklyn. “This is vegan?!” he exclaimed.

From the vendor tables to the dessert station to the never-ending line at the buffet prepared by the mayor’s kitchen itself – everything was vegan.

“That’s why I’m not in line,” said Tym Moss, all-around entertainer who makes appearances at LGBTQ+ events across NYC. 

Other guests were more open to the food and most admitted to already taking a meatless approach in their personal lives.

“I’m not vegan, but I’m really diving into this non-meat world,” said Adal Gutierrez who had a cornucopia of food on his plate; he particularly enjoyed the vegan sausage. “It’s been really amazing to discover options I never paid attention to before.”

One of the most interesting options were the bacalao sliders by sponsored vendor, HAAM Caribbean Plant Cuisine; an acronym for Healthy As A Motha. Hearts of palm stood in as a substitute for the salt-cured cod. The texture gave more octopus than bacalao, but the fact that there was a conscious effort to make vegan dishes from whole foods, instead of using ultra-processed meat substitutes, was appreciated.

For the entire two hours of the Pride party at Gracie Mansion, the buffet line was relentless.Photo ET Rodriguez
(l.) Casey Daniels and his friend Kenyai Hill enjoyed the food at Gracie Mansion on Thursday, June 13. Hill was a fan of the corn fritters, but the not so much the vegan sausage.Photo ET Rodriguez

“When I learned what being vegetarian was – it was like this foreign concept and I got excited about it,” said Yesenia Ramdass, co-owner and executive chef behind HAAM. When she became vegetarian at the age of 17, her family told her, “you’re loca,” she said. Growing up in a Dominican household in Washington Heights, vegetables were considered a side dish with limited options of avocado, cabbage or starchy tubers. Today, Ramdass’ 40-seat vegan restaurant in Brooklyn is seven months strong.

But catering a vegan menu to non-vegan diners isn’t without its difficulties.

“Coming up with different ideas that will attract people [is a challenge],” said Joseph Simon who has been the sous chef at Gracie Mansion for the past six years. “We just do our best, we really just try to make people happy.”

Servers walked around with trays of rainbow bagels smeared with bright purple, beet cream cheese and the buffet served vegetable skewers of thoughtfully arranged tomato, orange pepper, yellow squash, zucchini, red onion, eggplant and mushroom.

On June 3, Jaya Saxena wrote, “The Food That Makes You Gay,” — a deep dive into the relationship between gender constructs and food, like ideas about men who lick ice cream. What would she say of the bagels?

The black bean and vegan cheese empanadas were the tastiest item of the evening and especially gooey. The cauliflower ceviche, which was just a pico de gallo with added cauliflower and diced carrots, was a flop, marinating in a pool of way-too-much lime juice. 

The bao buns made with a rainbow slaw could have benefitted from a protein like seitan or tofu.Photo ET Rodriguez
The dishes were varied ranging from empanadas to bao buns.

In the end, the focus wasn’t on food, but rather, on what food can do — bring people together. Everyone ate while exchanging comments about what they liked and didn’t like. A couple of friends chatted about the overly-chewy bagels, some people raved about the corn fritters and one friend finished off another friends’ sausage.

In a world where being queer can result in death by the hands of your own government, community and acceptance is all the more necessary, especially when it’s in your mayor’s backyard. 

“You fought hard to state that you are not going to be denied because you choose to live your life and love who you want,” Adams said of historical gay rights activists Harvey Milk and Bayard Rustin, while addressing the crowd who still had plates in their hands. “And because of that, people are now visibly seeing how much you have been holding up our entire existence.”