Russell Sage College alumna Ann Wolcott Wheat’s name is synonymous with good, wholesome food, as is Millennium, the San Francisco restaurant she owns with her husband.
Alumna of the Millennium:
Ann Wolcott Wheat ’57
The Wheats opened Millennium—a vegan restaurant that serves no meat, dairy or other animal-derived products—in 1994, before words like vegan, vegetarian, and organic were common fare.
Chef Eric Tucker dispels the myth that vegan food is boring said Wheat. Consider the menu served at a recent meeting of the Northern California Chapter of the RSC Alumnae Association held at Millennium: rosemary marinated portobello, with potato-celery root gratin, sauté of bitter greens with black olives and caramelized cipollini onions, and truffled Syrah green peppercorn reduction; butternut squash chickpea griddle cakes with sweet pepper and fennel ragout, garlic seared haricot verts, cilantro chimichurri and spicy avocado and charred scallion salsa; and for dessert, blackberry-fig and mango-kiwi-pineapple sorbets.
Wheat, who was a physical therapy major at RSC, has long been interested in health issues and has followed a vegan diet since 1979. “I found that the health problems I had faced for the first 42 years of my life were eliminated when I removed dairy from my diet on the advice of my physician,” she said. “He had scientifically-based peer-reviewed material to back it up. My husband Larry, who was training for the Honolulu Marathon at the time, went vegan as well and did very well in the Marathon. We felt good and haven’t changed our eating habits since.”
Recipe for Success
The Wheats had been eating a vegan diet for a number of years when they came across the talented chef Eric Tucker at a favorite vegan restaurant. “We were excited when the owner said she wanted to open another restaurant. We wanted to help it happen because the food at the restaurant was outstanding in taste and presentation and it was creative,” said Wheat. “We felt that it would be another venue to show people how fabulous vegan food can be.”
“My husband wrote the business plan for the owner and we invested in it—with no intention of getting involved in running it. Six months after Millennium Restaurant opened, the owner decided to give up the restaurant business and we bought out her interest.”
Wheat said her only restaurant experience had been working at her father’s soda fountain during her high school years. Larry Wheat—a retired certified public accountant from an international accounting firm—had worked in his college cafeteria. “We hired a good manager who ran the business and Larry advised him and kept track of the financials.”
Now 12 years later, Millennium has been named “Favorite Vegetarian Restaurant in North America” for five years in a row by the readers of the national magazine VegNews. Millennium has been the subject of articles in Bon Appetit, Wine Enthusiast, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today and featured on The Food Network. The restaurant has also published two cookbooks, The Millennium Cookbook and The Artful Vegan, and offers cooking classes.
“Our clientele comprises a variety of people. Dressed up on their way to the theater, casually dressed, and those who make eating at Millennium a special occasion” said Wheat, adding that movie stars, politicians, and physicians known for their stand on healthy lifestyles have also dined at Millennium. “We have found out from an in-house survey that most of our repeat customers are not vegetarians.”
“Larry spends considerable time overseeing operations of the restaurant and I am the historian, public relations person, and represent Millennium at conferences and special events. Though we are not at the restaurant tending day-to-day business, we go in for dinner at least once a week.”
For more information, visit www.Millenniumrestaurant.com.