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The Bliss Burger is back at Peace Pies. Photo by David Boylan
The Bliss Burger is back at Peace Pies. Photo by David Boylan
ColumnsFood & WineLick the Plate

Peace Pies is back and better than ever

I remember the day vividly in September 2019 when the building housing Mozy Café, Shatto & Sons, and Peace Pies was destroyed in an all-consuming fire. All three establishments had long local histories and devoted customer bases.

Mozy was my go-to lunch spot, and I dabbled in Peace Pies at a point when my vegan sensibilities were not yet as evolved as they have become.

Over four years later, building owner Jim Shatto’s vision to provide spaces for small businesses to flourish arrived with the opening of the new Peace Pies on January 12 and Leucadia Barbershop shortly after.

I love that Peace Pies is back in the neighborhood it helped to define, and that owner JP Alfred has created a beautiful new indoor and outdoor environment to enjoy his elevated vegan delights. JP has a backstory worth telling in brief, and then I’ll get to the vegan goodness he is creating at the new Peace Pies.

He was raised in southern Rhode Island and grew up on a very standard American diet with a heavy emphasis on pasta. His grandfather had a large garden, which was always incorporated into dinners seasonally, so the early seeds were planted with JP, so to speak.

JP Alfred is the chef and owner of Peace Pies in Leucadia. Photo by David Boylan
JP Alfred is the chef and owner of Peace Pies in Leucadia. Photo by David Boylan

His kitchen gigs began when he was 13 years old, washing dishes and peeling shrimp while quickly falling in love with restaurant culture. The hard work, comradery, and meditative tasks that passed the workday were all appealing to him. This began a series of restaurant gigs, including seafood, burgers, Italian and Mexican. The kitchen became his haven.

At 18, seeking a change from East Coast winters, he headed west in search of the California lifestyle. He landed in Ocean Beach and formed the jaded misconception that all of California would be exactly like it — kind of like when I landed in Encinitas!

He quickly landed a job at an Italian restaurant in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood, where the head chef spoke Italian, and the rest of the kitchen spoke Spanish, so he was forced to quickly learn how to prepare entrees without verbal communication — a key skill in the restaurant world.

Next up was People’s Organic Food Co-op in the vegan deli, where he was given the freedom to create recipes using the co-op’s amazing produce and grocery aisles as his pantry. He quickly realized the need and demand for raw food and began a deep dive into raw vegan recipe development. He loved the challenge of manipulating traditional recipes to make them vegan.

In 2007, he was frequenting farmer’s markets and noticed the lack of clean, vegan-prepared food options. He set up shop at a market, bringing pie and pizza crusts and creating dishes on the spot with what was locally and seasonally available.

In 2008, he opened his first location in Ocean Beach, which served as a commissary to make food for the markets. With growing demand, in 2011, he took over a former raw food restaurant called The Greenery in Leucadia from Chris and Melissa Carrier. A devoted base of North County patrons quickly developed until the fire in 2019.

Given all that restaurant experience, the artistry that JP puts into many of his dishes made more sense, as it is truly chef-driven vegan cuisine.

“I’m a firm believer that people eat with their eyes first and there’s something to be said about how a dish is served,” JP said. “You can tell how much respect and love is put into every aspect of our offerings by how they look when they’re presented. I want our plates to showcase the vibrance of raw food and be parallel with the atmosphere in which it’s served.”

Kelp & Kale Salad at Peace Pies in Leucadia. Photo by David Boylan
Kelp & Kale Salad at Peace Pies in Leucadia. Photo by David Boylan

I can attest to the fact that some of his creations are truly culinary works of art.

All of the offerings at Peace Pies are made in-house, raw, vegan, gluten- and soy-free. None of the food is heated above 115 degrees to protect the integrity of the nutritional benefits of the ingredients. They use seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables as their main ingredients and manipulate them into nostalgic dishes in a very aesthetically pleasing manner.

I also found their desserts amazing and can’t really tell the difference between them and non-vegan pastries. They utilize seeds, nuts, and fruits to prepare their desserts, and JP tries to recreate childhood favorites such as Girl Scout cookies, Hostess cupcakes, Butterfingers, and Twix, all free from refined sugars, gluten, soy, and grains.

My visits to Peace Pies have included the Majestic Mediterranean Wrap with falafel, cucumber dill, hummus and veggies. Wow, this was a hearty and flavorful lunch, though next time, I may have to make it dinner as it is quite substantial! I’ve also tried the Kelp & Kale Salad with kelp in noodle form, kale, cashew cheese, olives and avocado. I’ve never experienced kelp in this form, and it was a delight. I loved this dish, and it’s another visual masterpiece from JP.

And how could I not try the Bliss Burger? The name itself sold me, and well, this was so pretty to look at that I almost didn’t want to disturb it. But I did, and it was delicious.

Their pastry case is a beauty, with several decadent offerings. I went with their version of Twix, and it was presented with culinary flair as well…and tasted better than a real Twix, in my opinion!

Peace Pies is back in a big way and worth adding to your North County culinary mix, regardless of whether you are a full-on vegan or can just appreciate a healthy balance in your diet. Quality, purity and integrity need to be nurtured and supported, and Peace Pies has all that and more.

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