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Plant-based chef inspires beyond the vegan way

Plant-based author and chef Chad Sarno inspired--by word and taste--attendees of the Natural Products Expo West Specialty Diet Workshop.

Erica Dermer

April 5, 2014

3 Min Read
Plant-based chef inspires beyond the vegan way

Natural Products Expo West Specialty Diets Workshop featured keynote speaker chef Chad Sarno, the vice president of Culinary Wellness at Rouxbe Cooking School. He is the co-author of Crazy Sexy Kitchen with Kris Carr (luckily got to take home a signed copy from Chad).

He opened with one of my favorite quotes, “The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison,” from Ann Wigmore.

What we feed our bodies is really so powerful. If you’ve read my book, you have heard me say that celiac was one of the best things that ever happened to me because it forced me to examine everything that came into my body.

While I admit that I’m eating a gluten-free doughnut while I’m writing this, I do go to great lengths to try to deviate away from the SAD (standard American diet) as much as I can. While I expected a plant-based diet lecture to focus on how vegan is the only way to live—Sarno's talk wasn’t about that. It was about adding as much plant-based food into your diet and escaping the SAD way of life.

In fact, much of this plant-based diet talk resonated with us special diet folks. Take an excerpt from’s founder Cheryl’s post.

“…the moment that really got me thinking was an anecdote … ‘I was at a bar last night,’ he said, ‘having drinks with some old friends. And I told them that this morning I would be talking about plant-based diets. And suddenly everyone got all defensive, saying 'Oh, I could never live without my bacon' and all’… But that's not what his friends heard, in a way that sounds so very familiar to me. Doesn’t that speak to so many of our custom eater experiences? It’s not just our diets that set us apart, it’s our audiences’ tendency to politicize them—whether we look at it that way or not. Because, as Chad Sarno says, ‘people are so terrified to change their diets: diets are sacred.’”

Change is scary, but for many—it’s completely necessary to live a healthy life. People’s fears with cooking are confidence, change, time, accessibility and affordability. Chad hopes to help people shop appropriately (like sticking to the perimeter of the store) and stresses that guidance and support are key to helping people stick to a healthier way of eating.

With people like Chad Sarno in the world, we can only hope to make the changes we need to improve the health and wellness of our nation.

Now let’s eat some food

Let’s not forget about one of my favorite parts of the Expo West Specialty Diets Workshop—the food! After all of this talk about food geared specifically toward me, my stomach was rumbling! This menu was handcrafted by Chef Chad Sarno himself and was very allergen-friendly. These were my highlights:

  • Vegan Cheese Platter: Featuring Kite-Hill Creamery

  • Coconut and Red Lentil Soup (GF, GRF, SF, NF)

  • Kale Avocado Salad (GF, SF, GRF, NF)

  • Vegan Panini with Gluten Free Bread (GF, NF, GRF)

  • Raw Apple Spiced Rum Shortcake with Maple Vanilla Glaze (GF, GRF, SF)

Thanks again to Natural Products Expo West for considering specialty diets special enough to host this every year!

Erica Dermer, known across the worldwide web and beyond as Celiac and the Beast, covered Natural Products Expo West as part of the We.Blog editorial board team. And while she shared the excitement of packing her bags filled with signed books, she also signed her own book, aptly named Celiac and the Beast, during a special appearance.

About the Author(s)

Erica Dermer

Erica Dermer is founder and head celiac in charge of Celiac and the Beast. She started her website because she felt like she had a new and humorous voice to bring to the gluten-free table, and desperately needed some celiac catharsis through writing and blogging. With a background in marketing and market research and development (including the food and beverage industry), she’s always had a soft spot in her heart for packaged goods, marketing, and branding in the specialty diets industry. It also helps that she’s a self-proclaimed terrible cook, so she relies on many gluten-free products to help her get through her day without burning down the kitchen. She uses humor to get through her diagnosis and living gluten-free in a world full of wheat. As a celiac and gluten-free advocate, her aim is to educate the world about celiac disease and the importance of this wonderful "less than 20ppm" universe we live in. She has partnered with her non-celiac significant other, who not only designs gluten-free themed merchandise for Celiac and the Beast, but is a key taste-tester for the brand. Her first book, "Celiac and the Beast: A Love Story Between a Gluten-Free Girl, Her Genes, and a Broken Digestive Tract" was released in October 2013 and highlights her life with a celiac disease diagnosis and what she's learned along the way.  

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