A bit about me
Thank you for your interest in my story! Here is my background, in brief, to show you what led to my dramatic, overnight change.
My first career was a chef, graduating from a new culinary school in Portland, Oregon called The Horst Mager Culinary Institute (later it became The Western Culinary Institute). Upon graduation, I landed the job as the Executive Chef at Mt. Bachelor in Bend, Oregon where I had spent most of my life skiing with my family. I stayed one season and decided management was not for me; I wanted to cook. So, for the next several years I worked at many different restaurants as a line cook, sous chef and then finally back as head chef.
The restaurant hours eventually burned me out — I had no social life! So, I started looking in different directions for things to do. This led me to – what seemed at the time – a completely unrelated business of buying and selling antiques, particularly arts and crafts furniture and vintage prints and posters. That eventually turned into a self-published book on buying and selling my favorite art prints of Maxfield Parrish. Publishing was exciting and different so I began to pursue that as my next career, all the while keeping my hand in the kitchen at home for my main customer: the family.
I called my boutique publishing company Collectors Press. After about 10 years I added cookbooks to the line-up and penned four of them myself. My “opus” was The Good Home Cookbook: More Than 1000 Classic American Recipes that became the first nationwide public recipe tested cookbook. Three thousand recipes testers in all! We received a lot of publicity and Food and Wine Magazine named my book one of the year’s best cookbooks. I made several appearances on our popular morning TV show AM Northwest where I became known as the “Retro Chef.”
Just to see what would happen, I sent The Good Home Cookbook to an agent in New York City – ironically, the same agent as Paula Deen who was then hot on the comfort food scene. The agent loved my cookbook and landed me a contract with Abrams Publishing who re-launched The Good Home Cookbook with a new red cover.
Soon thereafter I witnessed the emergence of ebooks and the scare that the physical book would vanish from the face of the earth. That, along with my distributor literally vanishing from the face of the earth, ended my publishing days. I became a gypsy of sorts experimenting with different entrepreneurial ideas, some in publishing and some not, until one day I fell off my bicycle and knocked myself out cold.
Everything happens for a reason
After leaving the hospital with a near-fatal concussion, my body was hurting. I was never fond of taking pills because they make me feel weird. Even so-called “non-drowsy” antihistamines put me to sleep. So, I tried juicing fruits and vegetables after watching the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. I remember very clearly the first time I drank a glass of fresh juiced beets, carrots, and greens; it felt like empty parts of me had been filled for the first time.
I was so excited that I wanted to start a business selling fresh juice. But there were complications with that kind of business like refrigeration, transportation, nutrient loss and shelf life that I did not want to deal with. That led me to start my next great adventure, Nutrigardens (www.nutrigardens.com). Nutrigardens was the result of exploring the why I felt so good. That in turn led me to learn about plant eating in general. Curiosity mounted and I started watching documentaries. It was after watching the Forks Over Knives that a tipping point occurred. I looked over at my wife sitting next to me on the sofa and said: “let’s go vegan, right now!”
It was not easy at first. The Good Home Cookbook was a source of inspiration for rice and beans, soups and salads that were, for the most part, inherently vegan, but I had not yet heard of nut milks, aquafaba, the flax egg or cooking without butter. The Oregonian newspaper interviewed me many years ago and asked: “What is the one ingredient you could not live without?” Answer: “eggs.” Boy, was I ever wrong.
In the beginning, tofu was intimidating and not very appealing sounding. I had eaten little pieces of it in miso soup but that was it. I was compelled to try it because nothing else made from plants said protein in my mind more than tofu.
I also had no clue you could sauté in a pan without oil. No restaurant I had ever worked in sautéed anything in a pan without some kind of fat or made anything intentionally healthy, for that matter. My own deceased grandmother, an immigrant from Germany who worked as a diner short order cook, would be shocked at these “new-fangled” concepts.
So, I began to relearn how to be a chef. It has been humbling, exciting, frustrating and joyous all rolled into one successful journey that has enhanced my life in previously unimaginable ways. I decided to share my journey and recipes, many of which I transformed from The Good Home Cookbook and many recreated from travels around the world. I figured that with my background heavily rooted in classic cooking, maybe you can see what is possible.
Either way, I support you on your journey. There are many good resources out there offering creative plant-based recipe options. Hopefully, you will find enough recipes and learn enough methods to not require purchasing prepared foods because it takes no more time to prepare a plant-based meal than it does to prepare one that is not.
As a closing note, if you think your kids or friends will not eat your vegan food, you will be pleasantly surprised. I have seen many people shocked to learn that what they were eating was made from plants.
The last thing I want to suggest is to not be hard on yourself if you break “the rules.” There are no rules. I had to adapt to this way of thinking or I would have driven myself right off the vegan cliff. You know what is healthy and right for you. Never hold guilt—ever. You do not need anyone thumping you on the head about your eating habits. Ignore everyone and everything except your own good instincts.
I promise you this: If you stick with it and keep trying, eventually you will succeed. Never give up trying! If you ever get stuck, send me a note. I will try to help!
Cheers to your success!