Hi! I’m Lauren Kretzer. I’m a vegan chef and wellness professional and I want to show you that eating delicious food and being vegan don’t have to be mutually exclusive. A plant based lifestyle isn’t an exercise in discipline and deprivation – it’s about having fun in the kitchen, trying new foods and exotic flavors, and sitting down to nourishing, super satisfying meals (and feeling great afterwards!).
My love affair with food started at a young age; I grew up learning to cook the foods of my Argentinian and Sicilian heritage in the bustling kitchens of my mother and grandmothers. I was mesmerized by the tradition, rituals and love that went into each meal – dinnertime was a cherished time of day for me.
Before long, I felt a dissonance between the food on my plate and my love for animals, so I decided to go vegetarian. I happily lived a meat-free life (while still eating eggs and dairy) throughout high school, my undergrad years at Boston College, and eventually, a career in recruiting on Wall Street.
In 2011, I made the decision to pursue my passion for food and cooking, so I quit my job and enrolled in culinary school at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City. During my time at the Natural Gourmet, my interest in vegan cuisine was stoked. I started devouring information about food, health, and animal welfare (and, eventually, the effects of our diet on the environment), and decided to experiment with cutting dairy from my diet. Through a very slow and gradual process, I decided to go “full vegan” a few years later.
I initially felt in constant conflict about my new diet. On one hand, I felt better than ever – I loved my new healthy lifestyle, enjoyed experimenting with new flavors and ingredients, and felt a sense of relief that I was minimizing both my carbon footprint and my role in animal suffering. On the other hand, I was just getting started in an industry that traditionally glorifies meat, butter, and cheese. I wanted to be taken seriously as a chef, but was told – time and time again by respected pros in the industry – that I would have to cook and taste meat and dairy if I wanted to be successful.
I decided to take my chances and become a vegan chef; I realized that I could redefine success on my own terms. If I could use my career as a means of helping others improve their health, reduce animal suffering, and lessen the damage done to the environment by mankind, then I couldn’t ask for much more from a “job” (and 99% of the time, it doesn’t feel like a job).
In my kitchen, there’s a time and a place for everything, whether it be a garlicky kale salad, quinoa pilaf, a bowl of creamy pasta, or a big glass of wine at the end of a long day. My recipes are created with nourishment and satisfaction in mind, and I strive to use whole, organic, and seasonal ingredients whenever possible.
In addition to my training at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City, I also hold a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from Cornell. I’ve trained in Michelin starred kitchens, the James Beard House, at the James Beard Awards, and under celebrity chefs Anita Lo and Alex Guarnaschelli. I’ve cooked privately for celebrities and families throughout the tri-state area, and provide recipe development for corporations, small businesses, and various media outlets and publications. I currently live in my home state of New Jersey with my husband, daughter, and rescue dog. You can find me reading, spending time outdoors, traveling, and flipping through cookbooks in bed when I’m not in the kitchen.