Tess Challis

Author, wellness expert, and vegan chef.

"Tess Challis is an amazing vegan chef, cookbook author, wellness coach, and culinary instructor. Check out her work here: www.RadiantHealth-InnerWealth.com as well as her Facebook page (http://tinyurl.com/yczqmzr). She is incredible at what she does and from the moment I met her I could tell she has a very special quality about her that makes her a natural at helping people. I can't wait to start reading her books! Tess's 'Radiant Health' and 'Inner Wealth' shine though in her vGirls photo shoot - she looks stunning!" -Melissa Schwartz

SS: What made you go vegan and why?

TC: The year was 1991. I was already vegetarian and was the vice president of our animal rights organization in college. I had originally gone vegetarian mainly due to a philosophy class I’d taken called “The Philosophy of Animal Rights and the Environment.” Being in this class forced me to thoroughly think through the food choices I was making, and I found it impossible to rationalize the consumption of meat. So, I became an ovo-lacto vegetarian (in 1990).

However, as time went by, I began to feel like a bit of a hypocrite for continuing to eat other animal products. I was learning more and more about what went into the dairy products and eggs I was still consuming. I had also watched “The Animals Film” which was like the “Earthlings” of the early 90’s. At this time, I had also moved into an apartment with a new friend named Anne. I didn’t know her very well, but found her intriguing—she was a vegan and was strikingly beautiful and vibrant looking. There was also an all-vegan family I knew at the time that was just the most beautiful family I’d ever seen—they all just seemed to glow. So, I began to ask my new friends questions about the vegan lifestyle, and also picked up a copy of Dr. John McDougall’s book, “The McDougall Plan.” I remember being floored—all the myths I’d grown up with about animal products being necessary and healthy were just propaganda and advertisement. Feeling empowered with this information, I decided to give veganism a try.

SS: Has it been difficult for you? If yes what was difficult and did it get easier?

TC: The first month or so, it was a challenge. I craved some of the tastes I’d grown up with (at that time, there was no Daiya cheese, Tofutti sour supreme, or Earth Balance!). Also, the cookbooks I had at that point rarely delivered the delicious tastes I’d come to love (I’m a total foodie). However, this was actually a blessing in disguise. Being 1991 (and smack-dab in the middle of Michigan), there were also no vegan-friendly restaurants I could rely on, so I was basically forced to learn how to cook! It took a while for me to get really good at it, but it was coincidentally the beginning of my career as a vegan chef and cookbook author. And as soon as I’d developed recipes that fulfilled my desire for delicious foods, it became a breeze to be vegan. And it has fortunately been as easy as vegan pie ever since!

SS: What are some animal rights related things that you participate in?

TC: Food has always been my stealth method. Nothing creates a natural, committed vegan like eating mind-blowing meals! People are always amazed at how much vegan food can awaken their senses, leave them satisfied, and also give them energy. It’s just a win-win all around! So, on that end, I’m constantly working on new cookbook projects, my blog, and speaking engagements. I also teach vegan cooking classes—mostly to omnivores—across the country and always find that people are shocked by how delicious and satisfying healthy vegan food can be.

SS: What are your favorite animal rights organizations?

TC: I’m a huge fan of The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine. They have done such great work on so many levels. I love that they’re such a credible source for debunking popular vegan myths. And the president, Dr. Neal Barnard, has taken the time to endorse my books, which of course endears me to them even more! I also admire Farm Sanctuary and all of the other wonderful shelters that give love and care to abused farm animals. And of course, I love and admire people like Melissa Schwartz who promote veganism using their amazing talents in unique ways!

SS: What would you say to somebody who is considering going vegan?

TC: I would tell them a little bit about my own experience, namely that it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. It’s given me a life of health, vitality, peace of mind, and also freedom from all of the needless health problems that plague our society (and my family). I would also tell them that the food is beyond amazing! Who could possibly feel deprived when being fed “Key Lime Pie with Coconut Ginger Crust” or “Crunchy Tempeh with Mango Avocado Salsa?” Vegan food is just the most flavorful, satisfying stuff on the planet, so there’s no need to feel deprived in any way.

I would also tell them to take it one step at a time. Sure, it’s a snap for many of us—but if it sounds overwhelming to you, take it in stages. Set doable goals. Progress is more important than perfection, so keep focusing on making that progress and eliminating the foods that don’t benefit your body, the planet, or animals. Continue to find delicious replacements for animal foods. Eat at vegan-friendly restaurants. Find amazing vegan recipes that your whole family will flip for. Enlist the support of other vegans. Watch “Earthlings” and “Forks Over Knives.” And finally, make a list of all of the benefits of going vegan. If your list has under 1000 reasons on it, you’ve missed a few.