Vegan chef stirs up interest in raw diet

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Local vegan chef Anna Levien was on a mission to get the latest and greatest machine for her growing culinary business. In her world of raw vegan cuisine, Vitamix is the Cadillac of blenders, and its $600 Vita-Prep3 is the piece de resistance.

“I just started searching around on the Internet to see if I can get any deals. I even attended the opening of a new raw restaurant in Pennsylvania that was raffling one off, but I didn’t win,” said Levien.

A lifestyle change towards better health turned trained chef Levien into a no meat, no dairy and no processed chef and consumer. Although vegan and gluten-free are becoming household words, raw cuisine is uncommon and not familiar to even the most accomplished chefs. To this end, Levien brings something very different to the table among her peers. She sees her role as “shattering misconceptions about the vegan culinary lifestyle.”

In June, through her association with Star, an on-line magazine for culinary

professionals, she learned about the Third Annual Vitamix Challenge to be held at the International Chefs Congress in October. To be considered for the contest, she submitted her Anna’s Super Green Smoothie recipe. In August, a marketing director from contacted her requesting more recipes that incorporated more usage of the Vita-Prep 3.

“I explained that a blender is essential to raw chefs. She loved my recipes and was fascinated by something new like raw cuisine. So I then sent her my cacao mousse, creamy cucumber soup and lasagna with marinara salsa recipes.”

The lasagna recipe sealed the deal. Vitamix calls the contest a “blend-off” where six top chefs compete making their individual recipes using their high-end blender. In the spotlight on stage, the chefs are timed and in front of hundreds of people watching. Levien compared it to the Food Network’s television show “Chopped.”

Levien was intimidated, yet confident, “I had no clue what I got myself into. The judges who are very well-known in the industry, like Matt and Ted Lee, are used to tasting cooked food. But I figured I made it his far and was part of this group of six, so I was already a winner.”

With the cameras rolling and an assistant helping, Levien met the challenge and finished before everyone due to her lasagna dish not requiring heat. She was particularly flattered when the president of Vitamix approached her and asked about her decision to become a vegan.

“I had some health issues which caused me to re-evaluate what I was eating and choose a plant-based lifestyle,” said Levien. “Your blender is my lifeline, I told her.”

Levien received great feedback from her fellow chefs and judges specifically about her pine nut cheese which is made using a blender and is layered in her zucchini lasagna.

“They loved the texture and crunch of it and compared it to ricotta. They never had raw food in a contest. In some ways, I was a pioneer as well as a messenger for raw/vegan food,” she said. “Some of the ingredients that I use like nutritional yeast is new to them. I felt like I was opening up their minds.”

Although she did not win the grand prize of three Vitamix products, her mission was accomplished by purchasing her beloved Vita-Prep 3 using her $500 travel voucher certificate.

Next steps for Levien is developing her e-cookbook showcasing more of her raw and vegan dishes. This winter, she will continue with teaching more classes at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. And presently, she is being interviewed by a Los Angeles cable television show “The Doctor’s Lounge” that focuses on health and wellness.

She is also in the process of marketing her pine nut cheese, a versatile option that Levien suggests using it as a spread or dip, in a wrap, or to a salad.

Levien can be contacted at and through Facebook.

Pine Nut Cheese

1/2 cup zucchini, peeled and chopped

3/4 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup macadamia nuts

1-2 garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 tsp dried Italian seasonings or fresh herbs

1-2 T nutritional yeast

1 T hemp seeds

1/4- 1/2 tsp dried garlic flakes

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Process all ingredients in a blender. Do not over process it. Leave chunky and do not puree. Taste and correct seasonings. Set aside to chill.

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