I sat down with world-renowned vegan chef and author Jason Wyrick who has co-authored a NY Times Bestseller “21 Day Weight Loss Kickstart” as well as the book “Powerfoods for the Brain” with Dr. Neal Barnard, MD.
Other books he has written are “Vegan Tacos” and “Vegan Mexico“. He was the food editor for “Living the Farm Sanctuary Life” with Gene Baur and Gene Stone. He’s a coauthor of “Clean Protein” with Kathy Freston and Bruce Friedrich.
Jason has published the world’s first vegan food magazine, The Vegan Culinary Experience which is now defunct and has been featured in the NY Times, the LA Times, VegNews, and Vegetarian Times.
He has traveled the world teaching cooking classes and is the first vegan instructor to teach in the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu program.
Jason gives us such a great insight of his progression of eating like most of the population to becoming a vegetarian and finally a full out vegan.
It was such an honor for me, to have such a celebrated chef and author on my show. Because I’ve eaten his food, this conversation had so much more of a meaning due to my various attempts of being vegan myself.
I hope you enjoy this conversation and the knowledge Jason shares with us all from his heart.
Vegan Food Delivery Service: The Vegan Taste
Vegan Restaurant: Casa Terra
Other books he has written are “Vegan Tacos” and “Vegan Mexico“He was the food editor for “Living the Farm Sanctuary Life” with Gene Baur and Gene Stone. He’s a coauthor of “Clean Protein” with Kathy Freston and Bruce Friedrich.
Connect with Jason:
Podcast Music By: Andy Galore, Album: “Out and About“, Song: “Chicken & Scotch” 2014
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Joe: All right, welcome, Chef Jason Wyrick, this has been a long time coming for me. I have looked forward to interviewing you the moment I tasted the food that was delivered to my house. So here we are and I’m so excited to have you on the podcast and I really appreciate the time and you actually saying yes to me, so thank you so much and welcome!
Jason: Well, you’re welcome, I appreciate you having me on here.
Joe: Yeah man this is a, the way this came about for me was I got a flyer in the mail and it was one of those things like come to this free, healthy dinner to hear some, I don’t know, some sort of talk about healthy eating and nutrition. And it happened to be from a nutritionist, a company in town, like an office in town. And I went and then I, I got pulled into it, you know. The food we had was great, but it wasn’t necessarily vegan, it was just healthy. But then when I got into the program, which was not cheap by the way, but I felt I was worth it. They started to say, you know, do all this blood work and then we found out my, I knew my cholesterol is always a little high. So their program is doing vegan for 30 days on their menu. And then from there, you, you know, you the hope is you stay with it or you alter it a little bit or whatever, so that’s how I got into this. And the problem for me was I literally was so busy I did not have the time to prep my food. It was taking me like half days on Saturdays, half days on Sundays. And I was like, my weekend is shot and I’ve prepped all this food and, and I, you know, any small amount of time I had was gone. So then I really went on the hunt for trying to find healthy vegan food that I could just literally eat and not do anything with. I had already done, I think I did Sun Basket a while back. You know, all the food prep things that you know
Joe: of and we talk about. So that’s how you and I got connected. I, I don’t even know how I ended up finding you. I say it was just purely, I was so desperate doing a Google search and I found you and I was like, SOLD! You mean I can just heat it and eat it, right? That’s that’s your thing, it’s just heart and eat. So here we are. So I want to start from wherever you want to start. I know that this was a health thing for you in combination of other things. But knowing the stories that I’ve read and interviews I’ve seen of you, that this came about more for a health reason initially for you. And then it just blew up from there and and it became your passion, which is really cool to me, because this is what I preach on this show and on my videos, is that I want people to live or fulfilled lives doing what they love. And it’s cool that you went into that direction knowing some of your past, which you can talk about om how this all started for you. So take
Joe: It away!
Jason: Sure it was a kind of a winding journey, I think I mean, it, it seems kind of straightforward when you look at it. I was unhealthy, I went vegan, I got my health back. Hurray! But that’s, that’s really not how it started, I mean. It’s starts when I’m a little kid because, I think I didn’t eat great, but I didn’t eat bad for the kind of regular American diet. Which meant, you know, my mom cooked some of the meals and occasionally ordered out and I played sports all the time, I was always active. So I was a super healthy rail thin kid. And then as I got older, towards the end of high school and in college, I kept eating the same way I had been eating the last few years and last few years had changed because my mom went to work, she got busier and so our food choices changed to, “What, which one of these seven different chicken dishes do you want tonight that I know how to make? or would you like Taco Bell or Burger King or Pizza Hut or something like that?” So when I stopped playing sports all the time and was super active, the calorie and taken and honestly, like the terrible food I was eating, started to catch up with me. And so I, I probably put on 30 pounds from when I was 16 to probably 19 and just kept going up about 10 pounds a year from there.
Jason: So I was already getting overweight. And then right at the end to college, I started learning how to cook. So I went to, I went to this really great Egyptian restaurant in Fort Worth where I went to college, had the ah this amazing meal with the first amazing meal I’d ever had. And I was like, “I want to learn how to eat like this!” And I’m broke because I’m in college. So I started to learn how to cook for myself. And then right after that, it was like two months after that, I went vegetarian and that was solely for ethical reasons. No real idea of the health impact or anything like that, that it has. I didn’t care at the time, I was just going to keep eating food that was super tasty and not worry about the health part. So, of course, even going vegetarian, a couple gaining weight. In fact, I was kind of a stupid vegetarian, I’ll just be blunt about it. I took the meat I was eating and I replaced it with blocks of cheese. So instead of these instead of like these super fatty steak fajitas loaded with sour cream and cheese that I was eating before. Now I was eating cheese lover’s pizza from Pizza Hut and the additional topping was extra cheese. Exactly! [laughter]
Jason: And that was that was my dinner. I was with someone at the time, she had her own pizza. It was it was terrible. And so I became incredibly overweight. I weighed about 330 pounds and I got type two diabetes by the time I was in my mid 20s. And I was, I was faced with having to take insulin for the rest of my life and in basically starting to deteriorate even more. Like I was already deteriorating, my eyesight sucked, sleeping 10 to 12 hours a day. Everything you can think of with Type two diabetes was going wrong with me. So I was facing having to take medication and deteriorate for the rest of my life, which was probably not going to be that long at this point or changed my diet. And so it’s, it’s funny because I was, I’ve been vegetarian for five years and I had, I had heard of vegans, but I didn’t really know what they were. And I even made fun of it a little bit.[laughter]
Joe: Right. Right.
Jason: This was back in the late 90s. And then all of a sudden it’s 2001 and I’m faced with having to make this choice, do I do I give up this food that I love, which is cheese, and live a better life or just keep going with the cheese and and it’s funny because even though it it sounds like a no brainer, like eat cheese and die or give up cheese and regain your health. I mean, it sounds like an obvious choice, but there is so much there’s so much pain involved in a lifestyle change, that the stress of that was really bad in itself and, and going vegan in 2001 when really no one else around me was, was vegan. It meant I had to learn how to cook, I had to learn how to fend for myself, I had to completely change all these foods that I knew how to make and eat when I was growing up. And so it was super stressful at first. And so I relaxed a little bit and decided I was going to give myself a cheat day. So I was going to be a cheating vegan once a week. So every Wednesday night I’d go out and I get all you can eat enchiladas at my favorite Mexican restaurant and they bring them out in pairs they’ll bring you two enchiladas at a time. And the first time I went in there, the waiter was like, “OK, yeah, whatever, it cool! He brings out enchiladas, except I eat 14 of them.
Joe: Oh, my gosh.
Jason: And then they come back the next week and all of a sudden the waiter’s like, “Hmmmmm” because I need another 14 enchiladas. So by the third week, the waiters like “I hate you but I have to serve you anyway.”
Joe: You’re like the, you’re like that all you can eat buffet, crab,
Jason: Right. [laughter]
Joe: Leg guy. [laughter]
Jason: It’s it’s probably familial in some way because I know my, my little brother would go to a Mongolian stir fry places and he take the bowl and see how much he could pack in the bowl because it was one pass through. And so he’d, he’d have the regular bowl and it only come up like three inches and then there was like the six inch pile of stuff on top
Jason: Of the. [laughter]
Joe: My gosh. It’s.
Jason: So there must be something familial about that, that buffet all you can eat thing. I, so I, but anyway, the point is, I, I did that for a few months and even then I managed to start losing weight and my symptoms went away. So I’d be vegan for the entire week, except for this one, one rather egregious cheat meal but it was still just one meal. And then it went to once every other week when I would go to this place. And then once a month. And then I remember the last time I purposely had went to this place in order cheese that I order in the enchiladas and I, it was a weird experience because I looked at them and I realized they didn’t taste good to me anymore. They didn’t have that, that feeling you get when you cheese that Homer Simpson like, “dooonnuuttt” like when you eat dairy, so I didn’t have that anymore. They didn’t taste good and I realized I was ordering them out of habit and not because I actually wanted them. So I didn’t even eat the enchiladas, I pushed them away, paid the waiter, who probably sighed relief
Jason: that I was getting had their there and that was the last time I ever stepped foot in that place. And at that point, I was a full on vegan, which took me about eight months. And it also coincided with me completely getting rid of diabetes.
Jason: After the first year, I dropped about 60 pounds and then when I added in some real exercise, I dropped another 60, so I dropped about 120 pounds over two years.
Joe: That’s incredible. And I think
Joe: What people need to understand about you, you’re a big guy. Like I know
Joe: from the interviews and stuff, 6′ 3″, right? Yeah, I mean, that’s you know, and and I think at one point you said you, you went to school and lived in San Antonio…Fort Worth, sorry. So you’re like in steak town.
Jason: Yeah, I mean,
Jason: The nickname of Fort Worth is Cowtown.
Joe: Yeah, ok, so there you go! Yeah, so that must, the be, that must be hard. It’s just the stigmatism with, you know, vegan and yoga and all of those kind
Joe: Of things. Right. It’s tough.
Jason: It depends. OK, it was weird because Texas is really interesting. I mean, I grew up here in Arizona but my dad is Texan. And so I was already pretty familiar with Texas before I actually moved there for school and stayed there afterwards. And Texas has this reputation of being big and boisterous and rednecky and it is. But it also has has this huge liberal side and has this huge health side, has this huge vegan side to it. I mean, I remember when I was in college, I went to the Texas Vegetarian Chili Cookoff. And this was in the mid 90s and it was like this huge gathering of people from all over Texas doing this Chili Cookoff. Like Texas had one of the biggest vegetarian societies in the 90s, at least when I was there participating in that stuff. And so Texas is just this really cool mix of all these different things, religion and Atheism and big hair money and rebel activists and steak eaters and vegans and no one is quiet about it. Maybe that’s the one thing about Texans is, you know, everybody kind of gets by in the big city but they’re, they’re friendly but boisterous about that stuff, which makes it really cool. Anyway, that’s my tangent on Texas.
Joe: No, but that’s great, because it’s exactly you, you saying that is exactly how it educates people to know that it’s not just big hats and boisterous voices and steak and whatever, it’s, I had no idea that you would think that long ago people were vegan in the state of Texas.
Jason: I mean, I think, I think Fort Worth had one of the first vegan restaurants in the country, which was Spiral Diner that opened up in 2001.
Joe: Yes, I don’t think anybody would ever know that. So that’s, that’s cool. So the tangent was great. OK, so you are, this is what year now that you go full vegan?
Jason: So that was the, I started the beginning in 2001 and then I was full vegan by the end of 2001.
Joe: Got it.
Jason: And I think, I think I might be more like a lot of other people with this, like I’ve, you know, I’ve written books with a lot of the vegan doctors and usually their message is that’s all or nothing proposition. You go from zero to 60. And from a physiological standpoint, you’re going to regain your health really fast that way. But if you’re miserable doing it, chances are you’re going to quit out. And so I think for a lot of people transitioning, as long as they have it in their mind that it is a transition, it makes it easier for people. So that’s that’s what I did. It took me it took me about eight months to fully transition over. And I tried to zero to 60 approach for
Jason: three weeks, and it, I was miserable.
Joe: Yeah, and for me, the 30 day thing I did not find hard, the part I found hard about it was the meal prep and that’s literally what was difficult for me. And I even heard you in some other interviews, the good thing that we have going for us these days is that it’s, it’s much more accepted in the world. And when you go out to a restaurant, there are options that would have never been there 10 years ago.
Jason: Yeah, there are plenty of options,
Jason: Which has made it an interesting landscape for vegan businesses. Because I think in the past, vegan’s gravitated towards vegan businesses because that was their only choice. And now at least in the Phoenix area, vegan businesses are just one amongst a bunch of other vegan options.
Joe: Right, but I think the key and the reason I was so excited to have you on is what helped me get through the, the, the next 30 days that they asked me to do because they could see that my cholesterol was dropping. So
Joe: They were like, will you, “Are you willing to buy into doing it another 30 days? And towards the middle or end of the first, as I think when I came across your website and then it was easier for me to say yes, because I literally just could not afford the time to prep.
Jason: Right. Right.
Joe: But but besides that, the biggest thing for me was the taste. And I don’t know, like this could be a trademark or something that I’m saying, but I didn’t know vegan food could taste so good, and you can still
Jason: No it’s true,
Joe: if you want. If it’s not taken by somebody, it’s all yours. But, yeah, that’s what it was for me, man. When I first dug into it and the way I worked with you was that I wanted it spicy, which you were all down for. I think even when I, I got from my doctor what I needed to do, he said, OK, well, if you’re gonna get this food from The Vegan Taste, just make sure, ask them if it’s low and oil, right?. And it so…
Joe: It everything was a yes. Like all, you know, that was when I wrote to you, Yes, you know, it’s either low or minimal oil or no oil. And I can get it the way I like it, so you made it spicy, which is the way you said you liked it in email.
Joe: So it was like the perfect marriage. I was like sold!
Jason: Yeah, I think that’s, that’s the key to getting people to make a change. It’s about honestly, I think it’s like about the in the environment that you put people in. So I know Dan Buettner, who wrote the Blue Zones by it. And one of the things that he told me that really impacted the way I thought about food and getting food to people and the way we treat people, is that the the biggest determinant for someone making choices that let them live a long time was not their willpower, was not a doctor’s prescription or anything like that, it was the environment in which they lived. And so if the choices were easy to make, to go out and exercise, statistically speaking, more people would go out and exercise…that way. And so to me, food is part of the environment that you’re in. And so the easier I can make it on someone to make a better choice for themselves, the bigger chance they are they’re going to have to actually make that choice. And so for me, that’s putting ready to eat meals in front of someone that’s going to make them happy.
Jason: The less you have to worry about it, the easier it is for you to be healthy.
Joe: Yeah, it’s it was so nice to find the website. It was that, I could hear that sound when the heavens open, I was like “Thank you!”. It’s the only thing that’s gonna keep me on track. Now, you know, before, before we get too deep into this, I’m not full vegan. Since doing nutrition program, I’ve cut out a lot of, like I would use, I would snack before dinner. I’d be so hungry I’d come home at four o’clock, whatever, and I’d pull out the the block of cheddar cheese and some Triscuits and, you know, just take the edge off. I, I stopped doing that a lot more than I use, you know, it’s, it’s cut way back to almost minimal, you know, to none. I don’t drink, I used to drink half and half of my coffee and now all I use is either oat milk or almond milk. So I’ve completely switched over to that type of stuff. So while we’re on the subject of, of, you know, how this has helped you, why do you think dairy is so bad? Is it just that it’s like, was it not meant to be eaten or drank? Is it just like we’ve created this product that should not have existed?
Jason: I think so. I mean, dairy’s primary uses to grow a baby. And so you’re you’re consuming something that’s meant to grow another being and as, as adults, we’re not, I don’t think we’re supposed to be consuming foods that are continue endlessly making us grow to that scale. Like I have a five year old daughter, I watch how much she eats and sometimes as much as I do, because she, she’s always out there running around and she’s, like I look at her in a week later, she’s taller and I’m like, oh, my God! And so calorically dense foods are good for her, I mean, that’s why human mothers breastfeed and you know, all this other stuff. But then when you stop growing and you keep eating those foods, you’re consuming growth hormone and all this other stuff that I don’t think we’re meant to be consuming. And then, you know, there are a couple other issues that go with it, which it turns out casein, which is the protein in milk seems to be carcinogenic, even, even in that milks appropriate species after their weaning, it seems it seems like the incidence of cancer goes up in that species if they continue to consume milk even from their own species after they’re supposed to stop drinking it. And then, I mean, look at us where we’re drinking stuff that’s meant to grow a baby cow into this big monster cow compared to humans I mean a cow is pretty heavy.
Jason: So, you know, there’s, there’s that it’s, it’s loaded with fat and it’s all if you have cheese, it’s all condensed down into this calorically dense product with all these other, all these other ingredients into it that are probably not meant for us to just get fuel. And it’s all like if you take milk, milk is this big volume, take cheese and it comes down to this little thing, all that condensed down. It’s like a black hole of food. And then you’re you’re eating that, so, of course, no wonder you’re you’re getting fat, you’re having arteriosclerosis as you age and all these other problems. So that’s why I think the health problem is with dairy. From, from an evolutionary standpoint, it’s was a good thing because you could have this nutrient dense food even in times of famine. That’s, that was one of the benefits of cheese because cheese was basically shelf stable in a long period of human history when we didn’t really have very many shelf stable foods, the same way that after a fashion beer, a shelf stable, just one of the reasons that beer was traded there and there are all these ways to preserve foods during times of famine and we just don’t live in that anymore.
Joe: Right. So on the dairy part of this, what I guess people have a hard time thinking of how they would substitute a cheese for these recipes, and I know that in you know, you have this enchilada recipe and you, there’s I mean, you have a ton of different recipes. What are just some off the top of your head, some substitutes that you do use for cheese? Like, how would someone make a pizza? What would they put on it as their cheese?
Jason: You know, it depends. There are a lot of nondairy commercial cheeses out there. I think from a health standpoint, they’re good insofar as you’re not getting casein and all these hormones that go with it, but I can’t pretend that they are health food.
Jason: I mean, it’s base, it’s like cheese is solidified fat when it’s dairy and the non vegan cheeses are still a solidified fat. They just have all the other junk that goes with them. So, you know, if you if you limit that look, if you’re going to have a pizza and you have it once a week and you put some vegan cheese that’s made out of almonds or cashews or something like that on it, you’re going to be OK. If you do that every single day, you’re not going to be so OK anymore. You can still be a junk food vegan. In fact, it’s easier now to be a junk food vegan than it is to be a healthy vegan, because you can run over to Carl’s Jr. and get a Beyond burger, that’s, you know, still loaded up with all this fat and it’s still a burger where as when I went vegan almost 20 years ago, if I was craving a burger, I had to make it myself.
Joe: All right. Yeah, I mean, the creativity
Jason: So that’s.
Joe: That, that you have to come up with for these recipes must be daunting.
Jason: I sometimes, but only because when I do a lot of recipes,
Jason: I mean most, most chefs at a restaurant might do 30 recipes throughout the year. If they’re really pushing themselves. I think with the delivery service, we’re doing 300.
Jason: Every, every year, at each year, it’s different too.
Joe: Ok. So you’re rotating 300 recipes a year from The Vegan Taste.
Jason: And we’re just making about as we cook every week.
Joe: It’s amazing!
Jason: Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s daunting, but it’s cool.
Joe: Yeah, it’s.
Jason: Yeah, I mean, and like back to the cheese thing, sometimes it’s replacing that, that fatty mouthful, mouthfeel that cheese gives you so you can even use something like an avocado or you can use, what are my favorites is this thing called pipián verde, which is just this ah pepitas and tomatillo puree. It’s it’s a classic Mexican dip and I’ll just use that on enchiladas or we’ll make our own cheese at the restaurant, sometimes we’ll make it just out of almonds and some other ingredients and we’ll make our own queso fresco like that and we make our own mozzarellas and stuff. That’s a little laborious, I think, for the for the home cook, it’s just getting that, that creamy texture which you can get from nuts and seeds.
Joe: Right. Yeah. Because even on the recipes at Casa Terra, your restaurant, I saw that there was I think you have is it brick oven pizzas or just…
Jason: We have worked fire
Jason: Fire pizzas
Joe: Right. Sorry. Wood fire. Yeah. And so and I did see one of the recipes are one of the descriptions of the you know, the pizza said mozzarella. So I was like, OK, how does he doing that?
Jason: Right. It’s just a, when you get to that type of cheese, that’s it’s a little time consuming and it’s a mix of art and chemistry.
Joe: Yup. It’s just it’s incredible. So I know we just kind of skipped over it a little bit but we talked about your daughter and, and I and I know we talked about, we didn’t quite say that she’s vegan, but I know that she is from based on my research about you. And I know it’s tough with kids these days with all of the gluten allergies and, and everything that’s going on that or used to be a lot tougher. Now, its parents are more aware there are more options and I would think that it’s almost the same thing with your daughter as it is with a child that has a gluten allergy. When they go to a house for a birthday party and let’s just go back to using pizza as a example, because that’s how I grew up, right? That your parents would buy a bunch of pizzas, and… What does she do in that case? Or how how do you let the parents know that she’s vegan and that, you know, that isn’t something she would (A.) like to eat or (B.) she shouldn’t eat or (C.) it might make her sick of she eats because she’s not used to eating cheese.
Jason: We just we tell them and ask them not to make a big deal out of it. And then we make sure our daughter has food that totally owns everybody else’s.
Joe: That’s awesome!
Jason: When she was in school before COVID hit, the teachers were asking if we could bring stuff for them.
Joe: That is so funny. I can imagine, no I, listen, I know what it smells and tastes like. Every kid we sit there with, their pizza from Dominos going, WWO!, what are you eating? I’ll trade you, I’ll trade you two slices for that, that’s perfect. Well good, she’s totally vegan incorrect? That’s amazing. So you, what is the Vcology project? Is that how you say it? Vcology Project?
Joe: Vcology. So.
Jason: It’s pretty much the umbrella for all the stuff that I do.
Joe: That’s what I thought, I just wanted to make sure. And I, because I know that you spoke about The Vegan Taste, which is the home delivery food service, Casa Terra, which is the restaurant out in Glendale, Arizona. And then I heard you speak about other things potentially coming down down the road, so I assumed that that was the umbrella where all of these things would fall under.
Jason: Yeah, I mean, we’re working on commercializing our cheeses on a large scale. We’ve already had one big vegan restaurant chain express some interest in it, which was really cool, it came out of the blue. But that was, that was a nice surprise. And
Jason: And we just want to roll out really high quality vegan cheeses onto the, onto the food service market and then retail, if we can.
Joe: That’s great.
Jason: But if I can. I mean, if I can get, like some of the best restaurants in Phoenix using high quality of vegan cheeses, all of a sudden it opens up really great menu options for vegans around the entire town.
Joe: Right. And I
Jason: Go ahead.
Joe: While I was sitting
Jason: I think.
Joe: On the dairy part of it, and I didn’t even know that this underlying thing about the cheese had a broader scope or what was happening. I just I kind of chose the one thing that I know, like you, you know, it’s like, how do you have ravioli? How do you have a pizza? How do you, if you you’re so used to having half and half in your coffee, how do you make the move away from dairy? And I think that’s, I think that’s harder almost than the meat part of this or that
Jason: It’s way
Joe: Or the
Joe: Protein part of it. Right.
Jason: I didn’t know why until Dr. Barnard told me a few years ago that the casein in cheese is called the casomorphin and that basically means that acts like morphine. It acts like an opiate in your system. And I was like, “That makes sense!!”, because one day I just gave up meat and it was like, whatever but when I gave up cheese, I had withdrawal symptoms. I was jonesing, I mean, like the hands were shaking and I had headaches and I was irritable and everything else that I had heard from people that were trying to give up cigarettes or drugs or something like that, I was going through and I’m like, “What the hell is going on?” That was, that was one way where I knew, like, I’ve really gotta get off this stuff, because
Joe: All right.
Jason: If I’m having that reaction, this is probably pretty bad for me. But it was a few years later when he told me why. And so
Jason: I think that’s why cheese is so hard.
Joe: That’s incredible. How did the two of you get connected for that book? Your book? I wrote it down. I’m going to have it in the show
Jason: The “21-day Weight Loss kickstart”. So he was coming through town to do a talk and they wanted someone to do a cooking demo and I was the only one in Phoenix, doing this kind of stuff, so I just volunteered to do it. They were gonna pay me and I was like, don’t worry about it, I’ll just I’ll just do it. And so we became friends through that and then I started teaching the cancer project classes here in Phoenix for a few years, which later became their Food for Life program. And, and during that, I just developed tons of recipes every single week. Because I think back then they were kind of in the same boat that a lot of healthy, healthy doctors are in, we’re like, they’re like, you have to change your diet. Here’s how you do it. But they’re not really experts at the here’s how you do part.
Jason: And so, you know, their recipes were easy to do, but they weren’t necessarily great. They were just like, “Ahhh”. And so during that class, I just continuously develop stuff that was usually easy to make, but also really spectacular. And then because of that, we just wrote the book together.
Joe: And that’s really cool. It’s just amazing how things, you know, you can make these connections and they just turn into something amazing like that, so, yeah. I’m trying not to skip around, there’s so many things I have to ask you, I have so many notes, it’s like this is, like I said, I, I was doing the meals for when I was doing the 30 day thing, basically for lunch and dinner. And then I started to do them just for lunch because my partner, Jo Ellen, we were like we were eating separate times, separate things at dinner, it felt like it wasn’t this
Jason: You loose the social part.
Joe: Yeah, and so it’s this balance for me. But so I thought at least at a bare minimum, and I think this is one thing that we talk about stepping stones and doing this in stages, is that it’s worth at least trying to say to yourself, OK, “I’m going to eat vegan for lunch”, just take a meal of the
Joe: day and say, this is what I’m going to do. And literally, breakfast is super easy because for me, it’s, it’s like a vegan smoothie, right? There’s nothing and so I don’t have to worry about that. It’s not sausage, an egg and bacon and all this other stuff. So then you handle the vegan lunch part and you’re already better than probably seventy five percent of the world in regards to how healthy you’re eating.
Jason: I think.
Joe: Right and then you just. So and that’s kind of the approach I took. I don’t know yet, just being honest with you, if I can completely eliminate that occasional steak or burger or
Joe: And I’m sure I can at some point, like for me, like you, I, I refuse to go on medication. So I’m 58 years old and I’m like, I’m not going on cholesterol medication. I don’t take anything for high blood pressure. I’m not going to do any of that stuff. So if it’s a, if it’s food, it’s going to make the difference, then that’s the difference that I’ll make. Go into the gym five days a week is already easy for me. But if I have to do that and get rid of the burgers and the steaks and whatever, and that’s the mood that I would make.
Jason: And if you could make that, did you make it fun and pleasurable, then why not?
Joe: Right. That’s
Jason: It’s this chore, you know, like most people are gonna be like, ahhh screw it. I don’t want to do it,
Joe: For me, it’s it’s talking my girlfriend into seeing if we can do it together, so that’ll be the that’ll be the piece we’ll see. Yeah. So tell me a little bit about, oh, I also heard an interview where you said that your daughter growing up with two chefs. So is your wife also working with you at either at The Vegan Taste or Casa Terra?
Jason: She she was
Jason: Doing The Vegan Taste for a while.
Jason: I mean, for, for years, she was with me in the kitchen. And sometimes when I was off doing other stuff, she was running at it for months at a time.
Joe: Got it.
Jason: But I now we’re in a situation where it’s hard for us to split our time like that. And so she takes care of the household and raises our daughter while I take care of the business. We tried where we were splitting it both ways and it was like, I think it’s hard to multitask. Right? It’s hard to be great at a bunch of different stuff at the same time. And so we just finally decided, well, I’ll have to go off and kind of slug it out and be the champion for the business, while she’s the champion for keeping the rest of the family sane.
Joe: Which is the admirable thing for sure. So The Vegan Taste, let’s talk about that really quickly. So The Vegan Taste as home delivery, vegan meals that come in these great packages that are, like you said, are the goal is to heat and eat. And
Joe: They I don’t know. I’ll let you just talk about it because I don’t want to, I know I had a certain schedule and the whole thing with the coolers, but I’d like you to describe it so that the audience will know what it’s all about and then they can make their decision from there.
Jason: Yeah, it’s it’s super easy. So the menu changes every single week. It’s a fixed menu. You put your order in by Friday night. My crew comes into the kitchen on the weekends, makes everything. We plate it up over the weekend. Pack it up for delivery on Monday and then my team of drivers go out every Monday and they deliver all the meals at once for your entire week, that Monday. They leave it in a cooler loaded up with ice packs so even in the middle of July, the meals will stay chilled until you can pick them up and then you put them in your fridge. I know, some of our clients will reheat them on the stovetop. They’ll take the ingredients out and reheat them on the stove, top it honestly, talking to people, most of them stuff it in the microwave and they have a lunch in two minutes.
Joe: Yup and those containers are microwaveable.
Joe: Is that correct?
Joe: Yes. I know I’ve done both. I’ve depending on what the food was, sometimes I would heat it on the stove and sometimes I would heat it in the microwave. And I think that’s all, also another thing in my brain about microwaves, they know make me a little nervous thinking that maybe something’s there that eventually
Joe: someone’s going to admit to, so if I if I have enough time, I’ll go to the stove. If I don’t, I just use the
Jason: Am exactly the same way. I mean, I don’t even have time to cook for myself very much anymore, so so I use our delivery service for me and most of the time I just slide the contents out of the container and right to a pan.
Joe: So in regards to the meals that are available, is it, are they just lunches and dinners? Are they breakfast, lunch and dinners or…
Jason: It’s basically lunches and dinners right now, but will add in a breakfast option and the juicing option and some desserts pretty soon.
Joe: And and like me, at one point, I was getting doubles of things so that I could have something for lunch and then something completely different for dinner. So I assume you have clients across the board that are only lunch, only dinner or a combination of enough meals for, is that how many, how many
Joe: can they get? Is it
Jason: Yeah, basically we do six different dishes every week and you can get a single portion of each one or you can get a double portion of each one. And the people that want to have our meals for lunch and dinner, get the double portion.
Joe: Right and that’s what I was doing for a time, that’s, that’s right. And then in my case, I said that I wanted it spicy but so you actually keep tabs of certain things that people request on a small, I assume a small level because you can’t be doing personalized, you know, things across the board for everybody.
Jason: Yeah, we have spice is one of the standard options we have for people. And then we have a gluten free option, soy free option, although we use pretty limited soy already anyway. And then no oil option in the meals, again, are are pretty much pretty low oil already. So we just talked to people like, do you really, really want no oil? Or is that that’s that you’re trying to minimize your your oil? Are you trying to minimize your soy? Are you trying to minimize gluten? Because we don’t we don’t use those types of ingredients heavily in the meal service. And then if there’s something that we can, leave off as a garnish for someone like if someone’s like, “I hate right onions.” I’ll tell them, you know, if it’s mixed into the dish, we can’t change it but if it’s a garnish, we can make a note to leave it off for you.
Jason: I mean, most people are good about it, but then sometimes I get someone that sends me a list of like 10 different things, I can’t, sorry, I can’t do that.
Joe: Thank God I do that I don’t want to sit here and look at you in the camera and go, oh, I was one of those people. And
Jason: No, not
Joe: The only thing that I said, I everything was great for me. The only thing I request that I think was less tofu in some of my stuff only because I’m I, it’s just me getting used to it, it’s it, and, and it’s not, I would, I wouldn’t even say it’s a texture thing for me because I eat oysters, right? That’s about as weird of a texture as you can
Jason: That’s sure.
Joe: get. So I don’t know why I definitely have had tofu from your food service, that was amazing. And it’s almost like it’s firm and some of it sometimes is even like crispy, like it’s it’s hasn’t where I’ve had it other times where it just, just, it’s just weird.
Jason: Yeah, I mean.
Joe: I don’t know if there’s good or bad tofu, maybe there’s just the quality of it, I don’t know.
Jason: It’s the way, it’s the way it’s prepared. And I think it’s also what you’re used to growing up with. I mean, if you’re used to growing up with, say, diced up firm tofu in a miso soup, you’re not going to bat an eye at it. But if you’re not used to that, the texture might be weird for you. And I think, when dealing with American culture where we’re not used to that stuff, too many people just take tofu and throw it in a soup or a stew and they’re like, “Okay, that’s good enough.” But it’s not I mean, it’s like to me that’s like throwing in a raw hunk of meat and is something and being like whatever. So,
Jason: You know, it’s just it’s
Jason: All in the preparation.
Joe: Ok, good to know because I started to get to like it. And thanks to you once again, because I was definitely I grew up with, in an Italian restaurant family and my father was a chef and so all of this stuff is new to me.
Joe: I was eating pizza and pasta and bread and, and you name it. So I wanted to ask you about Cassa Terra. I noticed that on the website, like a lot of places, especially during this time we’re living in right now with COVID-19, that the kitchen is closed for the summer, right? That’s what it says on the website.
Joe: Is that true? OK.
Jason: A lot of the high end restaurants, it seems, around town actually close up for the summer. Unless there are these big corporate things that can afford to take the loss that restaurants just suffer with the summer here.
Joe: Is Casa Terra where you do actually all the food prep and making them? So that that kitchen is still being used for the food delivery service?
Jason: Yeah, it’s our
Jason: R&D kitchen and our delivery service kitchen. We do catering and stuff out of there, too.
Joe: When does the restaurant open or when do you expect it to open back up in the fall or ?
Jason: I’m not sure yet
Jason: Because honest answer is for a, for the type of food that we do, our location is not that great. And so if we can find a location that’s more central or on the east side, that makes more sense for us right now than trying to just reopen in Glendale. And Phoenix is a weird city, so, we have these really accessible freeways and it’s actually pretty easy to get around here but I don’t know if our food culture is is there yet, because if someone else to drive more than 20 minutes here for food, it’s painful. And the chances are they won’t do it.
Joe: You know.
Jason: Or if they do it, they’ll come once a year. And
Jason: So it’s, it’s difficult that way we’re compared to like Los Angeles and New York or Chicago, people will spend an hour getting to, getting to a place to have dinner. And if it’s a good meal, that’s just part of the it’s part of the experience. That might not be a great part of the experience, but it’s something you’re willing to do. So.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely,
Joe: Yeah. It’s
Jason: Have to be, yeah, we have to be in a more central location.
Joe: Yeah, because I know we’re in, and I live in Arcadia and the boundary for me is pretty much like the 51. If it’s on the other side of the 51, I have a hard time going that far west but I understand that. You, one of the things that I did read was that about the Le Cordon Bleu the school and it was something about you being, was it the first graduate of vegan
Joe: First instructor of vegan?
Jason: Remember when it was theater, 2007 or 2008 that I was teaching at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute
Jason: And right when I, right when I started teaching there, they became part of the Le Cordon Bleu program. And so I, because I became the first official vegan instructor in that program.
Joe: That’s really cool!
Jason: There was there was cool.
Joe: Yeah. There’s so many things, the other thing was I remember either hearing or reading that philosophy was your major? And I think what, what struck me about it, when I when I read it and then who you are and, and I even, there was an interview about making the argument of why to go vegan, like how when someone find something like this and this is why this has been like I’ve wanted to talk about, even though I haven’t gone full vegan, I think that the health benefits are so important and just the, the eliminating of dairy alone. I mean, I’ve told people when they said, oh, yeah, you know, it sucks getting old. I’m like, well, I’m 58, I agree with you, but I don’t, I’m, I don’t wake up feeling achy. And, and, and I never did a lot of dairy, but even cutting out what I’ve already done, I think the inflammation piece of this is what other, you know, is another part that people are missing.
Joe: And so,
Jason: Yeah, it’s.
Joe: You know, so getting back to the philosophy part about how you’re able to convey this in a not like beating someone over the head with a club, you’ve got to do this, it’s, it’s the only way. Your approach to it is your first of all, your demeanor of how your, you know, your a 6′ 3″ guy who you would never think if I met you in the street, would say you’re vegan. And then the way you intelligently talk about the food and then the bonus of all of it is how it tastes. And so there’s just so many amazing things about this, it’s why I was so excited to finally do this.
Jason: Well, cool! Thank you.
Joe: So the
Joe: Go ahead with the phil…, with the philosophy part of this, I think it’s helped a lot.
Jason: That that’s actually what got me to go vegetarian, but also it it taught me a few things about the way people make decisions because I socially and just because of the way I was raised, I didn’t want to go vegetarian because it meant changing my lifestyle. And intellectually, I’ve been kind of bandying it about for a couple months before I pulled the trigger on it. And I didn’t do it, it was just something I had thought about it. And then I had an epiphany because I was watching, I was playing with my cat. And I, intellectually, I knew my cat is this other being with its own thoughts and her own emotions. But then there was something where I was just playing with her and I had that emotional epiphany and that’s where it went off and I was like, I understood that my cat was this separate creature that was valuable and she had her own rich emotional life and because she was sitting there problem solving and she was getting excited about bringing this little bottle cap back to me and playing fetch with me. It wasn’t like this, this robotic, emotionless, thinking-less, piece of matter that, that’s how Descartes used to view animals and that’s how he justified doing all these horrible experiments he did on them because he, you know, even though they would, they would scream and all this other stuff, he passed it off as they didn’t have a soul and they weren’t really conscious and all this other BS. And so you can intellectually know that, but then you have the understanding there is that connection. And within a second I was like, wait a minute, it’s not ok for me to just, like, take a hammer and smash my cat apart right now, that’s really jacked up, that’s something serial killers do. Why? Why can’t I do that to my cat but why am I paying someone to do it to a cow? And I was like, “I have to stop!” So I stopped, went vegetarian and then spent a month arguing against vegetarianism to see if any of the arguments hold up. And none of the arguments were self-consistent. And so I was like, I’m going to stay vegetarian. And that was the the rational part of that. But what I learned was I had to have that emotional epiphany to fully make that leap in my decision making. And then when I went vegan, it was even more so because I was doing it for health reasons. But then I found out about factory farming. So it’s ironic because being vegetarian for a few years, I had no idea about factory farming and then all of a sudden I’m looking at it for health reasons and learning about factory farming and I know that it’s what happens in a factory farming is horrible and I don’t want to partake in it. But yet I’m going out and having all you can eat enchiladas once a week. Because I emotionally had that tie to the enchiladas and, and so I think for most people, decision making is ah, pain pleasure balance. And it’s, it’s a very immediate and very immediate decision. And it’s funny because people that can make that decision for the long term, we call them wise, because in the short term, going out and jogging or lifting weights sucks for most people. But the wise people go out and do that because, you know, it’s going to pay off in the long term. And so I think going through that myself, even though I was trying to be rational about it and I knew what the right decision was and not being able to make it because I had this emotional thing is what got me into food in the first place. Because I knew if I could if I could take the pain part of that calculus away for people and just give them an environment where they could make a good decision for themselves and for the planet and for the animals, then, then I had to do it.
Joe: Yeah, it’s, it’s really cool. I mean, I learned so much more about you just doing the research that I wanted to do up front and, and I think it’s important how the philosophy part of your, what your brain has done through, you know, getting that degree in school and then then I heard about the soul sucking marketing job that, you
Jason: It was horrible.
Joe: Right. Yeah. And it’s and this is it all plays, this is why this
Joe: is such a cool interview for me. And I don’t want to keep you any longer because I know that, you know, you work really hard and but I, I would love to do more at some point,
Jason: Yeah, that’ll be
Joe: Know, it’s just cool that you, you are doing your passion. It really means a lot to you. You’re you know, you eat, sleep and breathe what you preach, but you preach it in a way that it’s not preaching. The food tastes amazing! It was just a godsend for me to find it. We find out tonight as you’re setting up here and give it a talk, you play the drums. It’s like, what, what more of a kinship could we possibly have? And all I do is try to preach on my podcast and on my, you know, social media and all that is just people following their dream. And it’s really cool to see you do this. It’s, it’s, it’s great. And and I’m glad you’re healthy. Glad you made the choice when you did. You’re here
Joe: To help keep us all healthy and feed us.
Jason: Well it’s funny, so it’s funny you brought that up, because I feel like I’m in another transition point in what I’m doing because, ah you know, I had this amazing journey where I lost all this weight, I cured my diabetes, became a chef and went and helped out other people. And in the last couple years my, my health started to decline and I was like, what’s going on because I’m eating right. But there’s, there’s all this other stuff. So, I mean, you know, in the last couple of years, I almost got divorced. I was working 100 hours a week. I was doing all this other, other stuff. I was, you know, we went to set up to open up this restaurant, we had some guys steal about 50K from us and steal, ah… He probably cost us about 200 grand in the long term, which was almost all my family’s money and almost all of my best friend’s money that she had. And then we opened up this, opened up this restaurant, which you were in the restaurant business, so, you know, like it is a lot of work. And on top of that, we’re doing these other businesses.
Jason: And so there are all these other stressors and I realize it actually happened right wing COVID hit. Because we were thinking about like, we were really looking forward to the summer when we could shut the restaurant down for a while and get a breather. And then COVID hit and all of a sudden, oddly, my life got better. Because I was spending time with my family and I was killing myself anymore and my health started to improve. That was it, I had this very narrow focus in my life, which I was really good at but it also carried all the stress that I think, I think you have when you get a little bit older in your career and you’re kind of at the, you’re operating at a higher level, it’s also a more stressful level. And there’s a lot more at stake about point. And so when COVID hit, I had more time for my family. And then I started going on bike rides again and hiking and I started spending time playing the drums, I hadn’t touched my drum set in three years.
Jason: And I started playing again, which was actually cool. I have this thing where I get my, stop something for a while when I pick it up and better at it. So now I can actually play some of the Rush songs that I couldn’t get through
Jason: For three years. Like, where did this come from?
Joe: It’s awesome!
Jason: You know, so that was cool. And so, so I realized, like, I’d been talking about environment with food choices. But I’ve been ignoring everything else that goes into being a healthy person and taking care of your mental state, taking care of your family, making sure you have time to not be insane with all this other other stuff and so I think my crew is shifting into a point where I’m going to start talking about more about holistic health and creating good environments for your, for your well-being as an adult. It’s, I’m sure it’s true for for kid or whatever part you’re in but since I’m in my 40s and kind of went through the midlife crisis part, that’s how I solved it, was figuring out that I had to create a good environment to make good choices throughout my whole life and not just with the food, because I’d just been concentrated on the food, which is one key.
Joe: You. Yeah, it’s amazing how many people I know, it’s it’s hurt a lot of people. But I personally, it’s been the best three months and so long because I was running so hard. And like I said, I’ve gotten to do things that I want to do. I it’s just it’s been a good thing. And I’m glad to hear that everything is turning back around for you, too, as well. I worried about you when it happened, to be honest, because, you know, I, I know it devastated the event world for me, I mean everything just stopped. And so I was worried just purely whether or not you know how how well you would do during that time. And it’s funny, speaking of, you know, COVID-19. Was there any concerns about, you know, your clients with
Joe: The food delivery and any, any things that you had to do differently in order to to be, you know, follow the CDC guidelines or anything like that?
Jason: We just did extra sanitation, but we were already doing that stuff anyway.
Jason: We were just more hardcore about it than normal. But that was it. Because I think with the food delivery, it’s contactless, so our drivers just show up and
Joe: Drop the
Jason: At their doorstep
Jason: In and head out.
Jason: So, so in a way, it didn’t really affect the delivery service at all.
Jason: It was
Jason: horrible for the restaurant, but that ended up being a boom for us personally.
Joe: Yep, yep. Well, awesome! Man. I cannot tell you how grateful I am that you’re here. Like I said, I was disappointed when I had a sort of postpone it last time, I just took on too much. It was one of those deals where I thought I could I forget how much time postproduction takes after I get off this thing to get it,
Joe: You know, ready for prime time. But I am super, super grateful that you said yes and you came on, I love your food and you’re an amazing human being. The more I’ve done the research and get to know you now. And it sounds like your daughter is definitely waiting for you to put her to bed. So I’m glad, I could go on, I swear to God for another hour, there’s so many questions about food and just things that you’ve done, but we’ll do it another time for sure.
Jason: Yeah, that’ll be fun. I’d love to come back.
Joe: I again, I can’t thank you enough. It’s an honor to have you on here. And I’d love to have you back again. Just for the audience sake and things like that, where’s the best place to get in touch with you? And I’ll put I’ll do in the show notes, I’ll list every, you know, your social media things but like in regards to, let’s say, The Vegan Taste, what’s the best way for people to reach out?
Jason: Just go right to thevegantaste.com
Joe: Okay, perfect.
Jason: I mean, we have all the social media platforms, but it seems like, you know, Facebook changes what they want to show to people every few months and Instagram is the same way. You know, all these other ones. So just just go straight to thevegantaste.com
Joe: Perfect. I’ll put in all the other links, I’ll take care of all of that. Again, thank you so much, I appreciate it, it’s so, I look forward to actually meeting you live in person. Maybe we can sit around and jam one night.
Jason: That would be awesome!
Joe: I would love it. So.
Joe: All right. Thank you so much, man. I appreciate it.
Jason: Hey, thank you. Have a good night.
Joe: You too!