If you had told me that one day I would be cooking only vegan food in my professional and personal life, I would have laughed.
It is such a humbling experience to believe something so passionately and have the courage to question it. To have the courage to open your mind and heart.
Before Planted Table, I owned my own catering company, taught cooking classes and created food and wine pairings with local wineries and worked as culinary advisor for a Wine Bar Franchise, writing recipes and creating wine bar menus for shops all over the United States. I also taught kids cooking camps, catered large weddings, corporate events and private events.
As a chef, I thought if the animals I cooked were raised well, lived a good life, and weren’t pumped with hormones or antibiotics, that I was being compassionate. I didn’t want to think about how I would eventually pay someone to kill these animals for me, so I could eat them.
At this point, I had nine backyard chickens and subscribed to a butchery service from a farm in Petaluma with animals who were being raised in a peaceful setting, all grass fed and organic.
Due to popular request, I started offering vegan cooking classes along with my other classes. I realized, my food style has never been to add a ton of butter or cheese to my recipes, like so many other trained chefs. I was finding myself creating vegan and immensely enjoying the process.
The produce was the star of the meals and the seasonality was celebrated. I was lifted out of the confines of meat, and was challenged to create new and exciting dishes without the boundaries of the same four animals. I had a whole world of spices, plants, legumes and grains to play with. After months of doing this, I would find myself more excited about my vegan cooking classes, than my conventional ones. I was taking all of my knowledge for building flavor and cooking techniques into vegan dishes. I slowly started to integrate more of my vegan recipes into my meat cooking classes, and some of my biggest fans would come to my plant-based classes over the meat.
I realized that cooking vegan was a challenge that was educating me on flavor and making me a better chef. I still wasn’t making any big changes personally, but really enjoyed cooking vegan food while still eating an omnivore life at home.
And then life events collided, and it seems all at once, life from all different directions was telling me something, even though I didn’t want to hear it.
My sister became vegan.
She was always on some new health thing and never really ate red meat. I was supportive of her choice. I was content and happy not to talk about it and make her vegan food every once in a while.
Then she started dropping bombs on me, like watching a video about a cow with her baby being taken a way from her for milk production. I watched it as I was nursing my youngest child. I would have bad dreams of hurting the cows and taking their babies away, but I tried to forget them.
After she dropped a few of these little truth bombs, I decided I was going to research and defend eating animals. I would study and build an argument to support my connection with eating meat. I was professionally trained and perfected how to cook every piece of meat out there. Likewise, I was the perfect advocate to prove my point.
During my research, I was trying to find humane animal products, defining what humane is, and coming to the understanding that humane is not killing animals.
I also raised my backyard chickens. We loved to have chickens. Then, my favorite chicken who had so much personality was injured. She had an issue many of my chickens got because they are forced to produce so many eggs in a short period of time. She had a prolapsed vent, it’s horrible and painful. Chickens naturally lay 12-20 eggs a year, and we have produced them to lay eggs every day for us to eat, and their bodies can’t manage it.
Around this time, my husband and I decided, after persistence from my sister, to watch Forks over Knives. Then we watched Cowspiracy and What the Health.
We were moved, but slowly. We decided to only eat meat on weekends. After trying this, I realized I had tons of energy! I was so satisfied and could eat a great meal and still get up and do things. We had gone about two weeks eating vegan, and then decided to have some ribs over the weekend. I ate two and couldn’t eat anymore. I immediately felt tired. Likewise, I remember really regretting eating the ribs because I wanted to have more energy to spend with my friends.
The next day, we had all these ribs leftover and gave them to the neighbors because my husband and I didn’t want to eat them. Thinking about what it does to our bodies and the horrible industry we were supporting.
And then it happened. My sick hen, who I loved, died in my arms with her last breath. After caring for her so long, I held her, and I was shocked by how hard it hit me. I spent so much energy keeping her alive, and yet was still paying other people to kill animals for me. It was like a waterfall of all the events leading up to this point, that I had to face it. After hiding from my compassion that, I spent 30 years building walls of not wanting to think about the animals dying, so I could eat them. I had to deal with it right in my arms.
The compassion rapidly grew inside me and I held my hen crying and saying sorry. I realized that I am a compassionate being and I had to start living in my truth and make actions that followed my values.
I felt that I have an even a greater responsibility, because I am a chef and I feed more than just my family, I teach many people how to cook, and I feed many people.
So now it was time to take my career and professional life and revamp it.
My parents, my sister my husband my kids we are all on this adventure around the same time together at different stages, and it felt beautiful.
How funny to feel, almost overnight, all your loved ones make a huge change around the same time. That is when you know something powerful is happening.
Now the challenge was how to change my professional life. I had a strong following of meat eaters and vegans alike. I felt like I had a calling to cook and educate people on vegan food.
One day, while driving with my sister, we were brainstorming my next career move, and she brought up the idea of a vegan meal delivery service.
We started bouncing ideas around and in November 2017, set up a formal brainstorming session.
At the end of those few hours, we had the name Planted Table, our overall business concept the desire to use eco-friendly packaging. There was no looking back.
Our company is always trying to change for the better and always trying to improve. I still can’t believe how far we have come.
I have learned so much, and I continue to learn every day. Furthermore, I have so many goals for our company and for myself and I can’t wait to produce more recipes, cookbooks, video education, food and wine pairings and of course amazing new menus each week for our growing Planted Table customers.
I am grateful and blessed, and I thank you!