Think eating raw means eating salads? Expert chef Ani Phyo will leave you second guessing with her growing collection of penned cookbooks boasting raw, vegan recipes like Mango Breakfast Cobbler, Raspberry Ganache Fudge Cake, Pad Thai and Pesto Pizzas. (Ani, you have an open invitation to stop by my kitchen anytime!)
When not developing menus for big brands like Carnival Cruise Lines, ADIDAS, and Whole Foods Markets, hosting her YouTube cooking show or teaching at-risk Los Angeles youth how to garden and make food in urban areas, Ani lives raw in LA with her Rhodesian Ridgeback, Kanga, whom she rescued in 2001.
Planet Green: How did you get into this line of work?
Ani Phyo: I was eating this way to fuel my optimal health, mental clarity, and performance. People always seemed to be interested in what I was eating. Soon, people began requesting I make them food. So, I started up weekly dinners, which blew up, and enabled me to leave my corporate 'day' job to pursue my raw food business full time.
PG: What was your "a-ha" moment?
AP: When my mother connected the dots to remind me that the I was raised on a raw food diet and that my father was a raw foodie.
PG: Who is your green hero?
AP: Hard to choose, but the Cradle to Cradle folks, McDonough and Braungart, who point out humans are the only species to create 'garbage.'
PG: What is your ultimate green goal?
AP: To connect all our children to the earth and our food supply by teaching every child how to grow food and how to make food from their own gardens.
PG: What is your motivation?
AP: To help save lives. Our children are obese, on their way to type 2 diabetes, and developing other illnesses.
PG: What is most important to you, ecologically speaking?
AP: Community, local and seasonal food, and our relationships with farmers who feed us.
PG: What is the most challenging part of your job?
AP: Travel. I know that it's not eco nor green every time I step onto an airplane. But sometimes it's important for me to travel to help share this information and to help people in person.
PG: What is the most rewarding?
AP: When I meet people who's lives have been transformed for the better.
PG: Of the people you have worked with, who impresses you most?
AP: Juliano (raw food chef), for his endless creativity, openness, and willingness to share and inspire without fear or guarding his 'secrets.' Alex Reznik (Top Chef) for his kindness and positivity in the kitchen, even under stress.
PG: What green thing do you do everyday?
AP: I try to avoid driving my Prius, and instead walk and ride my bike around town. Eat organic. Compost. Eat vegan. Avoid being a consumer as much as possible, and when I do shop, thrift shop. Empty out my closets and donate items to local charities.
PG: What do you wish you could do?
AP: Swim in bath temperature water, lay in the sun, and eat fruits on a tropical island everyday. It's a hard balance because I do love fashion, diversity, music, art, design, and things that come in urban areas.
PG: What is your biggest eco-sin?
AP: Airplane travel.
PG: If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
AP: I'd eliminate stress and suffering inflicted upon other humans and all living beings and replace it with love and compassion.
PG: What is your best green advice?
To make the biggest impact on our Mother Earth, decrease the amount of animal products in your diet. Maybe just start off by trying to eat vegan just one meal a day, then increase to two meals a day, then maybe one vegan day a week.
Change Makers is series of interviews with people famous and obscure who are creating a more sustainable world through their work. Meet more Change Makers here.