Last night one of my very good friends celebrated her birthday at ThornCreek Winery in Aurora, Oh. We ate, drank, and were merry. Once things started slowing down, my husband and I ordered our last glass of wine and were preparing to say our goodbyes.
Enter Chef Zan, a small stature woman, rocking a fun, bedazzled bandanna, chef coat and multicolored pants. At first glance it didn’t register that she was the chef. She started doing what I assume was her nightly rounds to see how everyone enjoyed their food. As she approached our table, my husband and I were a bottle of Merlot in and feeling good!
The conversation started out routine, “How was the food? Are you enjoying yourself?” etc… Somehow we got on dairy free and vegan food and after a few minutes Chef Zan pulled up a chair and started chatting with us.
She told us that she’s a hands on chef that likes to mix it up. She has guest that are vegan or have other dietary restrictions that call ahead and she makes something “off menu” especially for them. I thought that was so awesome. She also told us that she usually has one vegan protein on stand by nightly for people who may stop in that are vegan.
I try to listen to my body. Typically I eat vegan protein but recently my body’s been wanting salmon. I thought to myself hmmm, that’s different. But if that’s what my body wants…..~Chef Zan
The above statement from Chef Zan about how she listens to her body was so great. It really stuck out to me. A lot of us get so wrapped up in labels ,”I’m vegan” “I’m vegetarian” “I don’t eat this” “I don’t eat that” that it takes the fun out of food. I personally don’t like labels. When you start saying your this or that sometimes that opens up the judgement door and some people are only too happy to walk on through.
Chef Zan just lights up when she talks about food. You can tell that she loves what she does. She didn’t come off arrogant or condescending or dismissive in any way during our conversation. In fact she seemed really open. My husband asked if he could design a dish for her and they collaborate to bring it to fruition. She was down! Also, my husband’s brother in law is a chef who trained down in New Orleans. When she heard this her face lit up as she talked about different spices and flavors.
As we talked more about dairy free and different vegan proteins Chef Zan asked if she could make us some chick pea meatballs topped with Thai peanut sauce. In my head my brain said yes, yes please! I played it cool though and responded with a simple sure, lol.
A few minutes later she re-emerged from the kitchen with 2 chickpea meatballs topped with Thai peanut sauce on a bed of rice. When I tell you those meatballs were some of the best and most flavorful vegan protein that I’ve ever had. Those things were amazing!!!!!!
She gave us a moment to eat and came back to get our thoughts. We told her how amazing they were and that we would surely be back to get a full dish of whatever vegan/dairy free magic that’s in her spirit to whip up that day. We took a selfie and exchanged info so that we could contact her directly.