By Michelle Scott
The Loving Hut (with one location on Chandler and another on Hamilton) is not unique to Worcester. In fact, it’s not even specific to the East Coast. The brand is international, with restaurants spanning the globe from Brazil to Singapore to Australia. Each restaurant follows the same format and serves the same function: one part vegan eatery, one part spiritual eye-opener. The same lavish logo can be seen in 128 different shops in the world. Yet, somehow, patrons of Worcester’s location can’t help but feel that our Chandler Street Hut is special.
You can thank the Supreme Master for its success. If you’ve ever stepped foot inside a Loving Hut, you’ve at least seen her face and mostl likely her striking bleach blonde hair. The Supreme Master, Ching Hai, is the product of a very unique Vietnamese upbringing. At a very early age she felt unsatisfied with the morning Catholic services her parents had her attend and the afternoon Buddhist teachings her grandmother would instruct.
Eventually, this spiritual eagerness and years of practice led her to found the Quan Yin Method of meditation (or in English translation: Contemplation of the Sound Vibration Method). There are many rules and regulations that accompany her method, but there are five basic precepts one must abide by: No killing other sentient beings (and consequentially no not being vegan), no lying, no stealing, no sexual misconduct and no intoxicants (alcohol, drugs, gambling, porn, etc.). It is not a religion or “ism” that she is marketing; one of her many brochures boasts, “I simply offer you a way.” With approximately 20,000 followers worldwide, she might be on to something. Along with her role as spiritual leader she is an undeniable entrepreneur, with a clothing line, cook and picture books and a successful line of all vegan restaurants.
The Loving Hut opened in Worcester in 1993. At the time, there weren’t too many vegans rooming Main Street or strolling around the downtown area. The restaurant has moved locations a couple times since and expanded into two separate buildings. But The Loving Hut’s success stretches beyond simple business strategy. One of the key mission statements of the chain is to get people to go green and go veg. The whole culture around veganism in Worcester has greatly changed since the Loving Hut opened its loving doors.
Walking into the startlingly white eating establishment on Chandler Street, one is most immediately struck by the startling whiteness of the place and then by the two large flat screen televisions pasted on two parallel walls. You might also have time to process the huge light fixture in the center of the ceiling baring the restaurant’s name, but that’s asking a lot of one’s visual perception.
Tai is one of the members of this completely family-run and owned Worcester business. He says he recently took a trip west to tour the Loving Huts of Southern California. After all the tasting, he was able to unequivocally say that this Worcester location is special in its combination menu, where you can get anything from a vegan cheeseburger to pho. Since the family does own the restaurant, it is their responsibility to come up with different recipes. Tai is especially proud of his cakes – the frosting that coats their mouthwatering mouth-watering chocolate cake is a good pick.
This particular location hosts monthly buffets to raise profits for VegWorcester, a group of vegetarians who make it their job to advocate for animal rights and educate the community on issues surrounding the food industry. VegWorcester is the same group that brings you the annual VegFest, which offers free vegan food samples and a whole bunch of education. This year VegFest will be held at Worcester State University on April 17, from noon to 5 p.m. In order to pay for such an event, VegWorcester has to find money somewhere. Every second Saturday of the month, the Chandler Street Loving Hut cooks up big vats of some of the best food from their menu and creates an assembly line of vegan sorts. The cost is $10 (plus tax) and the food is all you can eat – 10 percent of the profits from these buffets are donated to VegWorcester.
The Loving Hut at 415 Chandler is open Monday through Thursday from 11am to 9 pm and Fridays and Saturdays from 11am to 10 pm. It is closed Sundays.