Vegan Food and Wine weekend recap…

One bite...
Hand cut Ravioli with truffle juice, chervil butter,and shaved truffles

Truly one bite can transform you! I have been a vegan, really a plant-based eater for a few years. This weekend, I became a plant-based gourmet groupie!! I traveled to Brasselton Georgia and attended a 2 day class led by none other than the Plant Pusher himself Chef Chad Sarno  What a weekend! It was packed full with intense flavor, laughter, insights into kitchen skills, spice pairing, and fooooood!! Lot’s of wonderful 80% healthy 20% wicked food!

I only had my “good camera” on the evening of first day and all day the next, some pics are from the good ole phone, but hopefully you get the idea!

"our class" such an eclectic group of veg heads!
“our class” such an eclectic group of veg heads!

Chef Chad Sarno on the left, you know the one that looks all professional with his chef coat, well he is a professional, and more! He is passionate about food, great food, real food, plant foods! He is also gifted in sharing his knowledge and passion. I was like some teenage groupie getting to meet “the man” the one whose recipes I had attempted to duplicate in my own kitchen. Upon arrival I was greeted with a huge smile from Malissa who immediately made me feel welcome as Chef Chad himself strolled over and shook my hand too. Okay, I can do this, I even made it a little early Mom! yea, I have a bad habit of not being on time, but I didn’t want to miss anything at all on this weekend.

Our group was eclectic. I hope I get this all right group and if not, well forgive me! As we all took seats at the long cooking bar opposite the stove top and Chef Chad, I found myself between an MD and an Archivist. Amongst the group were also a chef, a business owner of vegan whole foods to go, a nursing student, a momma of soon to be 6, a psychiatrist, a husband, another business owner of a cafe, a Whole Foods worker and Myrna, oh Myrna who I think used to be a trader. Let’s just say Myrna kept us on our toes and laughing, yep she was the one with all the questions, a native New Yorker who now lives in Boca and she ended up being my cooking partner!

The cooking bar, Myrna and her hat!
The cooking bar during cooking time… Myrna in her hat!

Of course I ended up taking a front row seat, again like a teenager with a crush on the teacher! I don’t regret my seat as I was able to watch as beautiful veggies were made into dishes with taste that made you smile without even thinking of it! The smells filling me up and hopefully not making me drool to obvious as my mouth would begin to water and wonder at what all this would taste like! Also watching Chef Cad yield a knife, chopping and talking like it was the simplest thing in the world, was truly like watching an artist create beauty for the eye and flavor for the soul.

oh the colors...
oh the colors…

See what I mean by the colors! Chef Chad described cooking like art. That really you are building on a canvas with the base, the spices, the final touches. Today when I was running I thought more about the comparison and how true it is. Everyone can follow a recipe, but not everyone can take food to another level of beauty and taste delight, adding in the extra, the love. When Chef Chad was using the whole art comparison I thought of how in art class my teacher encouraged me to go beyond the moment and let go to create from my senses, so I could relate to what Chef Chad said. He made me realize that we all have a little inner culinary artist chef in us. That it is possible for me to take my everyday food and transform it into something worth savoring and delighting in.

chopping skills
chopping skills

Yep, like watching a sculptor take a lump of clay I can honestly say that I was in chopping envy as I watched Chef Chad make perfect slivers out of banana flower. Yes I said banana flower, no I had never had banana flower before, nor would I have thought of eating banana flower unless I had been in some place exotic that they were serving it up, yet this was another gift Chef Chad gave us. Opening our eyes, minds and palates to try ingredients never thought of before.

Sushi with root rice, learning to wrap
Sushi with root rice, learning to wrap

I had taken a sushi class, even made sushi at home, but there was a twist in this sushi. The sushi’s rice was made from parsnips. No there is nothing that says you can’t have brown rice in sushi, but when you can add another veggie I say why not!

Veg Sushi and sake! why not?
Veg Sushi and sake! why not?

This sushi did not disappoint. We all took turns doing a roll. In true impromptu style Chef Chad whips out a plate, cuts up the rolls and adds a little dipping sauce then little cups of sake come out of  nowhere 🙂 We were toasting up and continuing on in teaching and learning how to make Asian fresh Pad Thai, raw version, Teriyaki Tofu with Sake Sesame Reduction and Brown Rice!

At the risk of overdoing the pictures they are going to keep coming so that you can see this gorgeous food. The saying that a picture says a thousand words is an overstatement, however my pictures just might be better than my words, and this could only be topped if you could smell and taste what you from your computer~ get the book 😉

Yep, flipping the veggies in the pan...
Yep, flipping the veggies in the pan…
This was lunch our first day! After the sushi teaser.
This was lunch our second day! After the sushi teaser.

In the picture above you have the dishes I described. I have confidence now that I too can make tofu taste like something worthy of sharing with others. The dish on the upper right is the Banana Flower with Coconut, Ginger, and Chile oh my gosh that dish was so tasty and full of flavor, you forgot that the Banana flower looked like shoe strings when first cut, and soaked!

After lunch and a little break we were back in the kitchen and it was our turn to cook! Chef Chad cut us loose in the kitchen paired up with our partner, a recipe and that we would be eating what we made!! Freak time! Especially when Myrna and I looked at our recipe and saw that we would be making Truffled Edammae Dumplings with Sauternes Shallot Broth and wasabi (hmm, just realized we didn’t have wasabi, but can’t wait to make it with it!) You see, in true chef fashion although we had recipes they were also to be considered suggestions, that sometimes you made do with what you had. This kept Chef Chad very busy as we would look at our ingredients look at our recipe, realize we were feeding 18 people; you know the questions started flying… especially from Myrna! 🙂 Seriously it was fun cooking with her, although in my head I will hear her saying “now Debbie, first is we have to read the recipe!” for a long time.

Plating up the dumplings with Chef Chad
Plating up the dumplings with Chef Chad
our finished dumpling after plating
our finished dumpling plated!
Jon and Andrea getting ready to plate at dinner
Jon and Andrea getting ready to plate Jackfruit Carnita Tacos with Avocado And Escabeche
Jackfruit Carnita Taco’s ready to serve!
Portabella Kofte with Horseradish Creme, Micro Herb Salad
Portobello Kofte with Horseradish Creme, Micro Herb Salad

I only which that you could have seen the presentation of this dish. It came to us covered and as we lifted the covering a poof of smoke lingered out filling the senses with the tease of a smokey dish to be enjoyed. This was a RAW dish! but your senses told a different story, as if there had been some smoking going on! So enjoyable and this was one of the raw dishes.

Michael O'Conner our guest wine master and Sommelier
Michael O’Conner our guest wine master and Sommelier

Sommelier, Michael O’Connor was invited by Chef Chad (part of the 20% wicked) to offer us advice on paring wines with our meal. This was a little bit of a challenge for a non vegan/plant-based eater who had not tasted what we would be eating. He did not lead us wrongly with his choices. The knowledge he imparted was also one of the extra gifts that Chef Chad gave us. I think that Micheal was also surprised by how tasty the dishes were that he was enjoying with us!

Coconut Trtlet with Poached Pears, Meyer Lemon Cream and Lavender Broth
Coconut Tartlet with Poached Pears, Meyer Lemon Cream and Lavender Broth

Grand Finale to Saturday nights dinner. I really do wish at this point you could climb through the screen and sink your fork in. I am not a person who has to have dessert, but I will indulge in a small chunk of decadent dark chocolate almost daily. This dessert had sweetness, freshness and creaminess with a crunch from the tartlets that was just enough to “sing” in my mouth! It doesn’t hurt that they are so stinking pretty tempting you at first sight! I appreciated the portion size of this as it is all we needed after a great meal.
Obviously I could go on! I have over 100 pictures and I was busy cooking too! Thanks to Malissa for taking my camera and getting some great shots of this past weekend. This experience of learning how to transform wonderful veggies, whole grains, fruits and nuts into dishes with complex beautiful flavors and textures will truly rank high in my travels as one of the best trips.

I haven’t even shared that I got to make pasta from scratch with Chef Chad.

... and I helped! no shake and bake her baby pure wicked good Italian love pasta!
… and I helped! no shake and bake her baby pure wicked good Italian love pasta!

His culinary expertise started with learning from his Italian grandma, Nana, who obviously showed Chad how to put the love in the food he creates. Disclaimer, yes we made pasta with some, shall I confess, white flour? It’s part of the 20% wicked. Having said that it was a welcome treat as you can see from the ravioli we had.

Handcut Ravioli with truffle juice, chervil butter
Hand cut Ravioli with truffle juice, chervil butter

No worries, Chad also taught us how to make a raw version of ravioli with beets and cashew herb cheese as the center. The creamy cheese, herbs and brightness of the beets gave tasty nuances that can only come from eating food in the raw!

Beetroot Ravioli: cashew herb cheese, shaved asparagus, and pumpkin seed oil
Beetroot Ravioli: cashew herb cheese, shaved asparagus, and pumpkin seed oil

Really folks, I need to stop gushing about the weekend! I can’t wait to have time to get back in the kitchen and create more beauty. For now, even when I was throwing together a quick Kale, chickpea salad I could here Chef Chad saying “remember your base then go from there with the key 4!” I do have to admit I felt freedom in not searching for a recipe, but using what I had on hand to satisfy my taste-buds.

I think in honor of Mother’s day I am going to treat my Momma to the crab cakes we made, hopefully she won’t miss the crab too much 🙂 oh and maybe the tartlets too!

Hearts of Palm Cakes with Chipotle Relish and Shaved Kale
Hearts of Palm Cakes with Chipotle Relish and Shaved Kale

Time to call this blog a wrap! I have probably gone on way too long! I can only hope that I have shown you all that Vegan Plant Based food can be Wicked Healthy as Chef Chad the Plant Pusher says, sexy too. I also hope that I have peaked your interest enough to check him out and maybe, just maybe he will do another event that you too can attend!

Almost forgot to tell you! Most of the recipes I showed can be found in the book Crazy Sexy Kitchen, which Chef Chad co-authored with Kris Carr. So instead of waiting for me to give you the recipe, get the book yourself and get cooking!

In signing off I just want to say that I learned more than the 10% Chef Chad hoped we would. I learned that there are a lot of groovy people out there that like me just want to enjoy some great plant-based food and share the love with others! I learned that chef’s like Chef Chad just might be a gem that doesn’t get the credit they deserve and so happy I was blessed to work with him. I learned that we all have an inner culinary artist waiting to create that outstanding dish.

I learned that while I might put Chef Chad in celebrity status, he doesn’t put himself there… I still wonder if he saw the surprised look on my face when I asked him to taste the marinara I was making “if it was okay” his response, “what do you think, you are the chef making it?”” um, I think you are the expert, but I think it needs more salt and a dash of nutritional yeast~ and he just smiled…

Yea, I know he is cute and he can rawk a kitchen too!
Yea, I know he is cute and he can rawk a kitchen too!

So thanks again Chef Chad for bringing this motley crew together and teaching us how to be a 80% healthy and 20% wicked in the kitchen. If you ever need cheap crew help (like free) to roll out pasta I’m the girl! oh and I do dishes too! 🙂


check out Chef Chad Sarno at

and Malissa Schwartz at


7 Comments Add yours

  1. garrett jones says:


  2. garrett jones says:

    I’m aunt Debbie’s favorite nephew.

    1. zebveg says:

      Thanks Garrett for reminding me why I love you… now eat some veggies, and drink a smoothie!

  3. chad says:

    Thank you Debbie! What a treat to read your review, and to have your presence with us all weekend.
    Very inspiring words, thank you again for being such a great student 🙂 especially when you’re my pasta gal. Hope to play again in the kitchen soon.

    1. zebveg says:

      You are most welcome… and let me know when you plan a vegan travel food trip!

  4. Robin says:

    That looks like an amazing weekend! Makes me want to go get the jackfruit out of my freezer and experiment. Yum!

    1. zebveg says:

      I know! I want to get some jackfruit and start making some cool stuff!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s