Vegetrails: A Vegan Baker's Journey from Maui to Boise 

Bethany Camp is the one-woman force behind Namaste Vegan

Bethany Camp's cheesecakes are showpieces, scored artistically across the top, drizzled with peanut butter and sprinkled with everything from cocoa nibs to fresh berries and edible flowers. But while most cheesecakes use a cream cheese and sour cream base, Camp makes hers from something else entirely: cashews.

click to enlarge BETHANY CAMP
  • Bethany Camp

"I have two different kinds [of cashew cheese] that I make," Camp said. "I do a fermented one, which is really cool because it has a lot of live probiotics in it and it gives it that tangy flavor similar to a normal cheesecake. And then I also do one that's not fermented. You soak the cashews overnight and then you blend them, and it makes them really smooth and creamy, and then you can add a ton of flavors. I do a chocolate-peanut butter one that's really good, I've done lemon-blueberry and peppermint."

Camp uses cashews in her cheesecakes—as well as avocados in her chocolate mousse, chickpeas in her chocolate chip cookies, and black beans and sweet potatoes in her brownies—so she can stick to a vegan diet without forgoing her favorite childhood treats. Now, she also sells those sweets online under the name Namaste Vegan to friends, family, and, as soon as she can get space in a commercial kitchen, the public.

To someone looking at Camp's life from the outside, starting a vegan bakery business may have seemed like a no-brainer. Though she was raised in Washington and currently works out of her home in Boise, when Camp went vegan in January of 2017, she was living on the Hawaiian island of Maui, attending the Culinary Arts program at what was then Maui Community College (now University of Hawaii Maui College) in Kahului. There, she learned the basics of cooking and baking before dropping out to work as a guide for whale watching and snorkeling tours.

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Before that, she studied photography at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana, but didn't finish that degree either—she's a self-described "free spirit."

While working in Maui, Camp met Alex Baldwin, a Boise native, and less than a year later the two had moved to the City of Trees. For Camp, that meant a big shakeup in her lifestyle. In Hawaii, eating a plant-based diet—which she had turned to cold turkey to combat gut issues—had been relatively easy; fresh fruit and vegetables were everywhere, and the island had seen an explosion of veghead eateries.

"[With] the culture there, there's more of a demand. There are even restaurants that are full-on vegan, which makes it really easy when you want to go out to each with your friends or whatever. It's just easier to have a social life," Camp said.

To compensate for the lack of options in Boise, Camp took matters into her own kitchen, putting her culinary school training to work. As friends and family started raving about bakes like her chocolate and sea salt fudge (which, like many of her desserts, is not only vegan but also free of gluten and refined sugar), Camp started taking orders.

"There have definitely been some disasters," Camp said of her early baking efforts. "... The first few things were definitely not smooth. You just have to find the right recipes and really just experiment with what works and what doesn't work. I remember when I was first trying to bake healthy stuff, when I lived back at home in Washington with my parents, I tried to make a cobbler or something, and my mom was just like, 'This is kind of...interesting. It's very...okay.'"

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Camp does most of her baking on nights and weekends. During the week, she works full time as a barista/cashier/prep cook at a'Tavola Gourmet Marketplace in downtown Boise, and takes health coaching courses online through Institute for Integrated Nutrition. Along with her baking, she channels her photography skills into taking stunning, color-saturated photos of her desserts, which she posts to her website as well as on her Instagram, @na_ma_ste_vegan.

If business continues to pick up, Camp hopes to open a booth at the local farmer's market, and she dreams of someday having her own brick-and-mortar bakery. For now, though, she's excited about her next project: whipping up vegan breakfasts and dinners for a three-day, 10-person yoga retreat at Redfish Lake put together by Boise Hot Yoga instructor Nicole Vickerman. As a yogi herself, Camp is looking forward to the trip on a personal level, but she said it also fits with her vision for her business, which has a yoga term in its name.

"'Namaste' means bowing with respect to others," Camp said, "and it's also a way to express respecting your health, and the environment, and animals."

To read more about Camp's business and check out recipes, photos and descriptions of her desserts, visit namaste-vegan.net.


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