Supporting Portland's Vegan, Vegetarian, and Veg-curious Community

Northwest VEG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Portland, OR that works to educate and encourage people to make vegan choices for a healthy, sustainable, and compassionate world.
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An Interview with Vegan Chef to the Stars, Tal Ronnen

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August 30, 2010

Marsha Rakestraw, NW VEG Vice President

NWVEG: What led you to your passion for cooking healthy, tasty vegan food?

TR: I was frustrated with vegan options when eating out. I grew up in and around NY and had two parents that were foodies. We were exposed to amazing food growing up. After I became veg, I missed the dishes I ate growing up and wanted to create food that was just as good as the non-veg food I had enjoyed.

NWVEG: After cooking for celebrities like Oprah and Ellen and finding The Conscious Cook on the New York Times best-seller list and as a top 10 cookbook for last fall, you've become famous. What are you most excited that your celeb status has allowed you to do?

TR: Cutting to the front of lines with my friend Chef Art Smith at Disneyland. :) All joking aside, there were definitely some fun things that have come out of the last few years. I'm so honored to have been picked as cookbook of the year by VegNews magazine; it's a magazine I love to read and turn other people on to. I had an amazing 16 city tour leading vegan cooking demos at Le Cordon Bleu schools nationwide, also working with Garden Protein, maker of gardein™, and Chipotle Mexican Grill on a new vegan burrito option called Garden Blend. But really I'm just thankful for being able to show people that vegan food can be tasty.

NWVEG: What do you find to be the biggest misconception about vegan cooking?

TR: That it's not flavorful or that it's difficult.

NWVEG: What makes your cooking different from other vegan chefs?

TR: The basis of my cooking is rooted in traditional French culinary techniques.

NWVEG: What advice would you give to vegans who want to cook something that will "win over" their meat-eating friends?

TR: Start with dishes that are familiar to you. That's what I love about gardein™; it's easy to do that with gardein™. I believe in eating as close as possible to a whole foods diet, but having some transitional pre-made foods at the beginning can really help.

NWVEG: What's your forecast for vegan cooking in the future?

TR: I think more and more people will be attracted to eating and cooking vegan for all the great benefits that bring them there: health, our planet and animal welfare. I hope this will encourage more chefs and restaurants to offer more interesting vegan food.


Hometown: Jerusalem, Israel
Current abode: Los Angeles, California
Vegan since: Vegetarian for 19 years, vegan for 11 years
Favorite ingredient to cook with: Depends on the season. I love porcini mushrooms especially when I can get them fresh.
Favorite kitchen tools: My hands, sharp knife and a Vita-Mix.
Favorite food: Japanese
Guilty food pleasure: Peanut butter bombs from Vegan Treats in Bethlehem, PA.
Food-unrelated hobbies/interests: Soccer, riding my motorcycle and my new passion for growing my own food.

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