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Aug. 21, 2006
Chef turns vegan – sets out to teach others 8.21.06
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Al Chase and his partner Donna Benjamin. Together, they’re running the Institute of Culinary Awakening based in Portland, Oregon.

Chef Al is a classically trained chef who’s worked all over the country creating and preparing meals. He’s worked in just about every type of eating establishment you could think of from fancy hotels to corner delis to private homes. While working in San Jose, he began to change his own eating habits and made the decision to go vegan. This means that he would no longer eat meat or any animal products.

Chef Al decided to do this because he believed it was a healthier diet, better for the environment and better, of course, for animals.  Eventually, he left the traditional restaurant kitchen to help others see how delicious and nutritious a vegan diet could be.

Fifteen years later, he’s traveled the entire country teaching workshops. I had a chance to spend five days with him and Donna. We practiced proper knife techniques, learned about making delicious sauces (without meat or butter) and baked some yummy vegan desserts like triple chocolate brownies! Everyday, we cooked for 6 hours and then sat down to enjoy our meal.

Not only did I enjoy all of the food that we prepared, but I truly enjoyed the company of Al and Donna. They’re very dedicated to their cause and work very hard to spread the “good vegan word.” The Portland area is a mecca for home-grown organic produce and Al and Donna make every effort to support the local growers. 

The picture above shows one of the meals we made—a curried vegetable medley stuffed inside of a phyllo dough shell, with a roasted corn and shitake sauce. There's a Moroccan chick pea salad as an accompaniment. 

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