MVP Fridays #3 – Meet Tess Challis, Vegan Author, Chef & Wellness Coach

Happy Earth Day! Did you miss MVP Fridays last week? Yeah, we did too. So, we think today’s a great day to share another Mighty Vegan Person in our interview series. Why have we selected to introduce this wonderful person on Earth Day? Well, she’s been vegan for over 25 years, and is spreading a powerful message of compassion and love to all beings!

Let’s get into it, shall we?

Meet Tess Challis, vegan chef, wellness coach and author of the recently published book, Food Love: Nourishing Yourself, Your Family, and the Planet

tess challis
Photo Credit: Melissa Schwartz

Name: Tess Challis

Age: 44

Location: Pagosa Springs, CO

Family: My daughter Alethea, aka Vegan Kid Chef, who’s been vegan since birth

How long have you been vegan? 25 years!!! (WOW)

Hobbies: Eating. Drinking too much kombucha. Travel. Yoga. Meditation. Nia. Singing and playing guitar.

We met Tess in May 2015 and the final Vida Vegan Con conference in Austin, TX. Thanks to our dear friend Dan Hanley of The Gay Vegans, we had the opportunity to share meals, kombucha and great conversation with Tess. Fast-forward to March 2016, we finally got to see Tess again while staying with Dan and Mike for our trip to LA and Anaheim for Natural Products Expo West. It was great to really get to know her and to see how she’s inspiring people through her business, books, webinars and more!

Her approach to health and wellness really begins from within ourselves and taking care of ourselves. You can see that immediately when you meet her. What we also love is that she’s passing that love of self and life to her daughter Alethea, aka Vegan Kid Chef!

Time to learn more about Tess and why she’s a MVP!

The Food Duo (TFD): What made you go vegan?

Tess Challis (TC): In 1991, I took a college course called “The Philosophy of Animal Rights and the Environment.” It got me thinking. Not long after, I became a vegetarian. About a year later, I learned about the way dairy animals were being treated as well, and also met my first vegan friends. The more I learned, the more I felt like a hypocrite eating my nachos. So, initially I became vegan for the animals – although I was pleasantly surprised that my health problems cleared up as a result as well!
 
TFD: Why are you committed to following a vegan lifestyle?
 
TC: Oh my goodness – just about every reason! I could never go back. Being vegan means my health is optimal (vs. poor before going vegan in my case) – it also means that I feel at peace with my food choices. No animals are suffering to please my palate. And honestly, it’s just easy and natural. I love the taste of vegan food and haven’t felt remotely deprived in over 24 years!
 
TFD: What’s been the easiest part of being vegan? What’s been the hardest?
 
TC: Easiest part? At this point, it’s all easy. I love the food, and there is just so much to choose from. Plus, my body loves me for choosing vegan food, so my health isn’t suffering like it did in my pre-vegan days. 
 
The hardest part? The first several months I went vegan were quite a challenge. I had several slip-ups. Back in 1991, there wasn’t any proper vegan cheese, vegan butter, or cookbooks I trusted. It was hard because I love food way too much, and I had to learn how to cook yummy meals before I was truly happy sticking with a vegan diet. It took me almost a year (and lots of cooking failures!) before I no longer felt deprived. Incidentally, this is partly why I became so dedicated to creating recipes people could count on.
 
TFD: What are your top 3 favorite vegan businesses (including food & non-food)?
 
TC: Wow, just three? That is SO hard! There are so, so many vegan businesses I adore, including yours! Hehe, see what I did there? Freebie. 
 
OK OK, here are a few – I’m a big fan of Miyoko’s Kitchen. Her vegan cheeses are ruling the world. I also adore Victoria Moran and her biz, Main Street Vegan. Victoria is someone I resonate with in so many ways – which is why I asked her to write the foreword for my new book. That woman just gets it. Finally, I had the pleasure of meeting the folks at Living Intentions last month at Expo West. They create vegan superfood products that taste amazing. I love when nutritious meets delicious – totally my jam! I’m excited about the new products they’re launching this spring.
 
TFD: What’s the best vegan event you’ve attended to date and why?
 
TC: Another impossible question – so many good ones! But I guess I’d have to say Vida Vegan Con in Austin last spring. I learned so much and met the most amazing, lovely folks. I’m crossing my fingers that our community will find a way to keep this great event going.
 
TFD: Share a favorite go-to recipe with us!
 
TC: My recipe for Rawcho Cheese Dip is always a hit, even with omnivores. People can’t believe it’s vegan, let alone healthy! You can find it on my website/blog here.
 
rawcho-cheese-dip
Photo by Michelle Donner / TessChallis.com
TFD: What’s going on in your world right now that you’d want to share? Shameless self promotion is HIGHLY encouraged!
 
TC: Ha! You guys rule. My 5th cookbook baby has been born! It’s called FOOD LOVE, and like the title implies, celebrates my deep love for food – as both a way to please the senses and also nourish the body and soul. 
 
I’m also in love with my women’s holistic weight loss group, Be Radiant. I so appreciate our supportive community – the members are wonderful! My intention is to empower them to love themselves, create a healthy relationship with food, and to give them the tools to be healthy on all levels. To that end, I hold twice-weekly live calls, send out complete menus each week, and offer daily email inspiration and support.
 
We’re so happy to know Tess, and honored to call her a friend! You can see more of what Tess is doing at TessChallis.com! Also follow her on social media:
 
 
Catch up on our MVP Friday Interviews by clicking here!