My veggies for breakfast this morning, in honor of The Esslesyn's love affair with kale.
I cried as I drove away from the airport.
I had just dropped Chef AJ and Darshana Thacker (Forks over Knives chef/author) off to fly home to LA. As I was on my way home the tears started to flow.
What the heck had I just experienced that was so moving?
I had been anticipating it for at least six months in advance: my FIRST plant based, weekend long conference. The chance to see and even meet so many of the people who have influenced my journey is such a dramatic way. An opportunity to say thank you in person. A way to be surrounded by your tribe, if only for a fleeting two days.
It was all too overwhelming to think it was over, and now here I am, alone at my computer and all I have to show for it are my memories and few pictures. Plus the total love that I feel for every person that I met and hugged and connected with on a deep level this weekend.
Plus the desire that seems to never end to connect with you and share my story, in the hopes that it can help you avoid some, if not all, of the pitfalls that I have experienced along my plant based journey.
This is the shit that matters.
And I need to do as much as I can of the stuff that matters. It's how I'm wired.
The Cleveland 2Forks Food Conference was a sold out show with 300 attendees from all over the world. While I was expecting that most folks would be from the Midwest, I was shocked that they weren"t. People flew in from everywhere! (The next 2Forks conference is in Pasadena, California on November 21-22, 2015, You can find information here.)
Because I have been around the plant based block for a while and heard a lot of the phenomenal lectures that are presented at a conference like this, I took extra time to really just connect with the people who were at the event. From people like Chef Del Sroufe of The Wellness Forum in Columbus, OH to all of the people who approached Chef AJ and I to share their story of how they got to a plant based diet. I enjoyed getting to know many of the other volunteers at the event, all people who are very active in the local Vegan outreach going on in Cleveland.
Best of all was finally meeting Char Nolan. For those of you who don't know her, she is one of the very hard working support staff at The Engine 2 Diet. Sometimes in life you just meet those people that you connect with on such a deep level because you know that you share the same interests, passions and even struggles. Char is one of those people and my only regret is that I didn't spend more time just loving on her. She is as sweet in person as she is in her Instagram and Facebook photos.
Rip Esselstyn was a gracious and warm host of the entire production. I call it a production because that's what it was. I was in awe of the execution of the event.
When I first heard about the 2Forks Food Conference in Cleveland, my home town, I immediately clicked on over to the website to see about signing up. When I saw the price of $400 for the two days, I was thinking, "Okay . . . that's a decent chunk of change! I'd better see about volunteering opportunities since I'm local." I ended up being Chef AJ's "handler" for the weekend, transporting her and providing her with what she needed to have a great experience presenting at the event.
After the conference was over, I simply cannot imagine how they provide such an incredible two day experience for ONLY $400 per person.
It's hard to get into words the sheer magnitude of what a person gets out of attending a conference like this.
It starts with lecture after lecture from the best doctors in the plant based world.
And then there's the food. You cannot imagine the beautiful Engine 2 food that is served at the conference (almost all of it would pass Chef AJ's low calorie density muster!). From the lunches both days to the incredible number of samples that were passed out during the cooking demonstrations, I was definitely STUFFED when I left on Sunday night.
And speaking of the food . . .
I have an observation that I want to share with you.
Do you know how you own all of those plant based/Vegan cookbooks but a lot of the time you feel like you just don't know what to make?
That's the beauty of attending a conference like 2Forks. All of the chefs who present are picking their best recipes to demo, and you are getting to sample many of them as a participant. You leave the conference with a complete recipe guide to everything they have demo'd.
So do you know what I will be cooking for the next month? All of the best recipes that I now have in my possession, that I've already tasted and know are amazing. How freakin' cool is that? No flipping through cookbooks wondering what to prepare. I know exactly what I'm excited about making. That's worth the $400 admission price alone!
Lunch on Sunday was Engine 2's Summer Farm Burgers (gonna make these for sure, recipe is in The Engine 2 Diet book) with ALL of the fixings , Jen's Potato Salad (amazing! loved it!), and a "Super" Salad of kale, cabbage, red onion and carrots.
The highlight of the weekend for me, as well as the entire crowd for sure, was watching Chef AJ on stage. She is a world class entertainer and we are lucky as heck to have her in our plant based movement. She is clever, hilarious and brilliant in the kitchen. There simply is NO ONE like her.
We were lucky to see Chef AJ on stage for two full cooking demos as well as a really entertaining Chopped competition between Chef Del, Chef Darshana Thacker, Chef AJ and the team of Ann and Jane Esselstyn. The basket ingredients were tofu, an Engine 2 pizza crust (available at Whole Foods), pineapple and kale. A surprise ingredient, applesauce, was thrown in after about ten minutes. There was also a small pantry of ingredients provided to supplement the chefs.
I'm proud to say that my new friend Darshana was the winner! If you don't know Darshana, she definitely comes off as the underdog in this group of loud and outspoken personalities. She blew everyone away by making two different delicate appetizers with the ingredients and I was almost salivating wishing that I could taste what she had cooked up in those thirty minutes. The whole contest was just a joy to watch.
And then, just like that, the conference was over. I was rushing AJ and Darshana to the airport as they had booked a return flight home that left us absolutely no time to relax after Rip's the closing remarks. But I'm happy to report that we made it to the airport and they got on their flight (they easily could have missed it!).
And now I'm here, kind of sad, and missing everyone. And really grateful to have had the experience.
Thank you to Jillian, the event coordinator, who busted her ass nonstop like no one I have ever seen before and gave me the opportunity to attend.
Thank you to Rip and Adam for having the drive, the energy and the dedication to mastermind these conferences.
Thank you to Jane, Ann and Rip for just being my buddies on this journey. And for all of your easy and yummy food.
Thank you to Dr. Doug Lisle, for letting me hug you (twice!) even though my guess is you're not a hugger, and for being on my personal board of directors during the biggest challenge of my life.
Thank you to all of the doctors who spend their life figuring out that what we were were eating was not working for us and then opening themselves up to go against the system and vocalize the truth.
Thank you to the Chefs who spend their days dreaming up ways to make vegetables, fruit, beans, potatoes and whole grains as tasty as any dead, decaying flesh and processed poison and therefore make living this way a pleasure each and every day.
Thank you to Chef AJ for your never ending coaching and support and for staying with me in Cleveland each time you come, and most of all for pushing me to do the right thing, even when it's very uncomfortable.
Thank you to all of the 2Forks Food Conference attendees who care enough to take the time, spend their disposable income and learn a new way to live so that we can continue to grow this thing--for our own health, for the animals and for the planet.
And lastly, thank you to Char and Laurie and Sandie and Lisa and Victoria and Dave and Wanda and Mark and each and every volunteer who busted their butts as well to make this one very special weekend for 300 beautiful souls.
Okay, now I'm crying again . . .
Until we meet again.