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The Most Complicated Easy Thing w/ Roy Elam of Donna Jean

Dive into the vibrant world of Donna Jean and the art of crafting incredible plant-based pizza with Roy Elam. In this podcast we'll uncover the nitty-gritty of his restaurant build-out, the heartbeat of Donna Jean's menu philosophy, and get a sneak peek into the rollercoaster journey of operating a vegan hotspot. Roy spills the beans on team dynamics, spicing it up with tales of marketing strategy battles and the ever-evolving vegan terrain. Join the chat for a glimpse into Roy's 20-year vegan escapade and the unique Donna Jean approach, turning vegan eats into a joyride for everyone.

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In This Episode

The episode features a conversation with Roy Elam of Donna Jean, a vegan restaurant. The discussion covers various topics, including the challenges of restaurant build-out, sourcing farm-fresh produce, and the expansion of Donna Jean. Roy Elam shares his 20-year journey as a vegan and talks about the philosophy behind Donna Jean’s plant-forward menu, emphasizing simple ingredients and bold flavors. The episode also touches on the appeal of vegan pizza and highlights Donna Jean’s unique approach in the vegan culinary scene.

Vegan Cuisine and Pizza Journey

The conversation delves into Roy Elam’s accidental entry into pizza making, the evolution of Donna Jean’s menu, and the decision to focus on vegan cuisine without relying on mock meats. Roy explains the importance of being a good restaurant first and a vegan restaurant second, creating an inclusive dining experience for both vegans and non-vegans. The episode explores Roy’s perspective on the vegan movement and how Donna Jean aims to make veganism approachable and enjoyable for everyone.

Insight into Donna Jean’s Operations

Roy Elam shares insights into the challenges of running Donna Jean, including the restaurant’s unique features, such as its lack of mock meats and commitment to fresh, high-quality ingredients. The conversation touches on the learning curve of managing a large space and the use of technology, specifically the adoption of the Toast POS system. Roy also reflects on the restaurant’s growth and his approach to team management, emphasizing the importance of a collaborative and capable kitchen team.

Marketing Strategies and Challenges

The episode concludes with a discussion on marketing strategies and the ongoing process of figuring out what works in different locations. Roy mentions the need to differentiate Donna Jean’s approach in Los Angeles compared to San Diego. The challenges of communicating the vegan aspect of the menu are explored, along with the restaurant’s goal of surprising customers with the realization that they enjoyed a vegan meal.

Pizza, Veganism, and Beyond

The conversation spans topics beyond the restaurant industry, including Roy’s favorite pizza-related books and influential figures. The episode also touches on Roy’s musical background, drawing parallels between his experiences in a band and his role at Donna Jean. Overall, the podcast provides a comprehensive look into the complexities and triumphs of running a vegan restaurant, offering valuable insights for those interested in plant-based cuisine and the culinary industry.

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