As a young man Chef Alan Roettinger once heard the term “gourmet” defined simply as “someone who’d rather starve than eat bad food.” He was just starting out in the culinary world, but the words sparked a deep sense of recognition. “It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy,” he says. “It just has to be good food. Otherwise, what’s the point of going through the hassle of chewing?”
We’re so excited to introduce Alan as our new vegan chef. Author of such popular cookbooks as Speed Vegan, Paleo Vegan, and Extraordinary Vegan; Alan has spent 30 years creating vibrant meals for high-rolling clients all over the world. He approaches food with an infectious playfulness and a passion for bringing the best flavor out of beautiful, fresh ingredients. Below, Alan talks about his journey as a vegan, food as art, and the purpose of life.
What inspired you to become a vegan?
In the process of [writing Speed Vegan] I had to find out what vegans ate and what they didn’t eat. I started reading. I read this incredible book called Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. His book was beautifully written, and he didn’t do any moralizing or finger-pointing. He just basically laid out research he did when trying to figure out what he should feed his newborn son. And it actually touched me.
Also, my cholesterol was zooming upwards. My doctor told me we’ve gotta do something. I’ll have a heart attack. So I said, “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to go on a strict vegan diet. And I’m going to train and run the Pike’s Peak Ascent.” My doctor was like, “Oh, sure you are, yeah.” He hears “I’m going on a diet” all the time. He didn’t know me very well. I had eggs and bacon for breakfast, and that was it. In three days, I felt twenty years younger just like that. I was not prepared for feeling that much better that quickly, that dramatically.
For those who might be intimidated by veganism, are there any common misconceptions you can help clear up?
You know what the purpose of life is, right? It’s joy. The condition where peace, love, happiness, comfort, consciousness, fulfillment, contentment are all happening at the same time. THAT’s what every living creature is driven to find and feel. It’s why we’re drawn to pleasure, why we want our food to taste good, and why we want to enjoy our life. That’s what drives every one of our instincts. From eating to finding shelter to finding a mate, the whole thing is about ultimately finding pure joy. So what people fear is, “Oh, if I stop eating these things that I really love, I won’t have any fun. I won’t enjoy my food. It’ll be a drag.” My job has always been to take whatever is good for you and make it taste good. So for me, it was never an issue changing my diet, because I knew there’s always a way to make whatever you’re going to eat taste good. You don’t have to slather it in butter and cream.
For having such a well-traveled background, do you find vegan cuisine translates well into most cultures and cuisines?
Most of the ethnic foods that I love are, by nature, fairly close to vegan: Indian, Thai, East Asian food. Their food is so rich in flavor. What they use to flavor the food is also extremely valuable health-wise. They’re anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, microbial, things like turmeric and ginger and garlic and clove. They’re really, really good for your system. So it’s every bit as much for health and healing as it is for flavor.
What can our Green Chef customers expect from your menus?
The main thing they can expect is a lot of flavor. Green Chef is all about making really interesting and exciting food to eat. As far as vegan goes, people can expect what people like to call a balanced meal. They’re going to get a good supply of nutrients. They can expect a good meal every time they get a box in the mail. It’s not going to be repeaters. That’s what I loved to do as a private chef. When you work in a restaurant you’ve got to slog out the same thing every day. It’s just so boring. But when I worked for individuals I actually had to create new dishes every day or they’d get bored.
They can also expect ease. We go to great lengths to make it easy to make these meals at home, prepping some of the vegetables (slicing, dicing, mincing), making some of the sauces, dressings and marinades; and planning all the steps to take the “hard work” aspect of cooking out of the equation as much as possible. Even trying to minimize the number of pots, pans, bowls, and other kitchen equipment, so there’s as little clean up as possible required.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Well, I’m an artist by nature, and I love food. When you go to the store, you see things that are in season, and you go, “Oh that looks really good. That looks delicious. And I’ll mix this with that, and put this with this.” You’re already looking at it, and you’re already thinking about it. That’s just the way people who cook are. Where does the painter get his inspiration? The color palette, what he’s looking at, what he’s seeing, and what he’s feeling. Food is my medium.
We can’t wait to see what Chef Alan has in store for our vegan menus. Want to see for yourself? Sign up today.