The Conscious Chef


Meet my new friend Julie. We also met at PCRM‘s (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) Headquarter in Washington DC in November. Julie is a former pastry chef, chef and a mother of two. She is also the author of the blog, “The Conscious Kitchen”!

Julie S 1Julie

Please share  your background. Where did you grow up? I know you’re a mother. How old are your children?

I grew up in Los Angeles as did both of my parents. I am an only child and have 2 children. Max-8 and Simone-6. 

My relationship with food dates back to my childhood. When it came to the food on the family dinner table, my mother was far ahead of her time. While she taught cooking classes with the first food editor of Bon Appetit and prepared elaborate dinner parties, I was always nearby playing with pastry dough. Her interest in all things food, from trussing poultry to turning vegetables, led me to a career in the culinary arts. By 21, I had cooked in the home of a famed New York restaurateur, and by 26 I landed in the life of restaurant kitchens.

I cooked through my culinary boot camp working for Cindy Palwcyn at Mustard’s Grill in Yountville, California. At Mustards, I cultivated the baking skills that led me to lead pastry kitchens for Joachim Splichal at several of his Patina and Pinot restaurants and for Pino Luongo at Coco Pazzo.

The lifestyle of a professional chef leaves room for little else and only the immortal survive. I retired to take on the new challenge of cooking for my husband and two discerning young children. From the day I first picked up raw dough, I have never stopped thinking about what that next meal will be.

While I have always strived to be well informed about healthy eating, I met a new challenge with a diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis. My doctors encouraged me to follow an anti inflammatory diet with a focus on being gluten free as well as vegan. Many people ask me, “What’s left to eat?” Incorporating all of these restrictions into our family meals has actually reinvigorated my interest in cooking by compelling me to use only the most wholesome ingredients available.

With the Conscious Kitchen, I aim to help others cook healthy and delicious meals with an understanding of their nutritional benefits. I will be focusing primarily on the foods that fit within my own dietary restrictions while still being able to satisfy the needs of the non vegans in my life. I cannot expect everyone to give up dairy, wheat, and all animal proteins. However, I can help you make thoughtful and responsible choices for you and the environment, provide you with current information about nutrition, and share recipes that I have tested on my own family of critics.

What do you do for a living? How long have you been doing this?

I was a pastry chef.  I worked for many years for amazing chefs in restaurants. I have been retired for over 10 years, but still cook daily for my family and writing recipes for my blog.

Additionally, I scraped by over the years when I was not working in kitchens as a massage therapist. I practiced massage for over 12 years. It was an incredibly rewarding vocation as I have always been focused on natural healing. That’s interesting, that’s another thing we have in common. That’s about how long I practiced massage therapy!

What or who inspired you to do this? Were there health reasons?

I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis almost 2 years ago. Prior to that, I have dealt with fibromyalgia for over 6 years. I pretty much gave up dairy and eggs back then. When diagnosed with RA, I decided to take as much control over my health as possible with diet although I still give myself shots weekly to prevent the progression of the disease. I am sorry to hear this, but good thing you switched to a plant-based diet!

How long have you been on a plant-based vegan diet and what are your thoughts about it? Is anyone in your family? What has your friends said to this change?

I am healthier and in less pain. Yes, I still struggle with inflammation and flares, but I believe that my diet keeps it all under control. My cholesterol, which was never very high, has lowered too. My friends and fellow moms find me to be a bit radical as far as my diet is concerned. People seem interested, but say they could never do it themselves. Radical is the last word I would use to describe myself (you’ve met me), but to them its extreme and restricted. Its my job to show them how its really not. Right, you’re definitely not a radical! You’re one stylin’ chic woman, that’s how I’d describe you!

I think I recall that you mentioned that your husband is still a meat-eater, is that correct? What does he think of all of this?

He is very supportive, but its true that he is a real meat and potatoes kind of guy. He likes to make pancakes with tons of butter and I literally cringe. But his diet has improved since I have gone on this path. He is a very tough nut to crack and perhaps more picky than my kids. As supportive as he is, between you and me, I think he gets frustrated every now and then when we are out or traveling. That being said, he stands by me for why and what I am doing and is incredibly supportive of my work with PCRM. That’s fantastic!

What is your family’s favorite dish that you make? What is yours?

My kids love risotto with sweet green peas and what we call mommy pasta. Mommy pasta is a one pot meal of whole grain pasta and broccoli. But they also love taco night made with beans, rice, and seasonal veggies and penne puttanesca. I have so many things that I make that I enjoy including what I have mentioned above, but I also love making kale salads with peanut dressing. Not low in fat, but it’s just magical. (The links to most of these recipes are at the end.)

How has a whole food plant-based vegan diet changed your life?

Its given me a whole new goal in life. My cooking is more exciting as I am a natural vegetarian. I have never cared for meats. But mostly because I will be able to share what has been successful for me with others through the food for life classes. That is very exciting as you know yourself. Absolutely, this has been the most incredible and transformative year of my entire life!

Is there anything else you’d like my readers to know? Any recommendations for someone new to this diet? Books?

Mostly, I would say that going for the changes cold turkey so to speak is the best way to go. Eliminate the cravings by eliminating the triggers. It may seem radical, but it much simpler to transition this way. Once you have a bite of a cookie made with butter and eggs, its harder to break the patterns. When I went plant based, I gave up sugar, dairy, alcohol, eggs, gluten, and any processed foods (even those that are vegan) for 30 days. It worked well for me as I am an all in sort of person. It was also good for my body to let go of all toxins for a healthful cleanse of super clean foods. During that time, I read a lot. I reread books from earlier years including those like the China Study, Sugar Blues, and McDougall books and read newer publications like The Veganist and Anticancer A New Way of Life. I truly could go on and on on this topic. 

Julie, Thank you so much for sharing! You’re such an inspiration! I love the recipes that you have shared and it’s fun following you on FaceBook! Julie’s Facebook page called “The Conscious Kitchen” – please “like” and check out her incredible page! Also, here’s a link to her fantastic blog with the recipes she mentioned earlier:

About urbanveganchic

I'm an urban chic woman, who is passionate about educating others about the benefits of a whole foods, plant-based vegan diet, cancer prevention & survival, as well as art & life. I love adventures and travel. As an artist and a teacher, I care deeply about healthy living, being a conscious steward of our planet, and being kind & respectful towards animals. Learning about a vegan plant-based diet has been like discovering a new country and falling in love with it, so if I sound like I'm enamored you now know why! As a world traveler, I truly wish I had discovered this beautiful new country twenty years ago! Better late than never, as they say, cause there's no going back now! Born and raised in Scandinavia. Proud owner of a tripod cat & a foxy little pup. Speak four languages...some better than others. Working on the fifth one. We are all either part of the problem or the solution! Health & Happiness to you! ~UrbanVeganChic

3 responses »

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