About

Welcome! I’m Michele Wolfson and I am a vegetarian chef. As a specialist in plant-based cuisine, I am trained in planning nutritionally balanced menus and developing menus for specific dietary needs. Basically, my motto is that you don’t have to sacrifice flavor for health. I had my last cheeseburger before the second grade. Moral and ethical dimensions have been my main drive to cook cuisine that is designed to be both healthy and delicious without hurting so much as a fly. The Natural Gourmet Institute trained me to prepare cuisine that is vegetarian and vegan and I have a passion for developing new recipes. I also hold a Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition through Cornell University, based on the groundbreaking nutrition research of Dr. T. Colin Campbell, best-selling author of The China Study. I will be completing my Masters in Human Nutrition Degree from the University of Bridgeport in 2018.

I have worked as a personal chef, an advisor to food startups, a social media marketing consultant, a recipe developer, and a food writer. I work in the Big Apple and have been a resident of downtown Manhattan for nearly 11 years.

When I tell people I am a vegetarian chef, some skeptically ask, “What do you really make with vegetables?” I reply, “There are so many amazing, fulfilling dishes that can be made with vegetables. You won’t even miss meat.”

My recipes are influenced by a variety of cultures because I love cuisine from many different regions. My mission has been to translate vegetarian cuisine to a broader audience- for omnivores, vegetarians, vegans, and carnivores alike. I’m passionate about encouraging my clients and readers to think about what they put into their bodies, and how to find a well-balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Below are the answers to clients’ and readers’ most frequently asked questions. If you have more questions, feel free to visit my contact page and leave me a message!

 

What makes you passionate about food? I was raised by an Italian mother who cooked fresh, delicious meals for my family most nights and by a father who loves to garden. Every summer he grows around two-dozen different types of fruits and vegetables in his garden! These influences got the ball rolling. Also, as a child I would often wake up in the morning to the smell of garlic and olive oil on the frying pan because my mother was preparing amazing lunches for me and my brother to take to school—to this day that is my favorite smell in the world. That alone got me passionate about food. I became a vegetarian at the age of seven and have been interested in where my food comes from since that pivotal moment when I said bye-bye to eating meat. My love for animals has driven me to cook cuisine that is designed to be both healthy and delicious without adding meat into the equation, and that desire has motivated me to make recipes that don’t sacrifice nutrition or flavor. We have a major obesity crisis on our hands in this country, and I want to help motivate others to turn their eating habits around, one healthy forkful at a time.

 

What food preparation skills that you possess do you think are the most important? Where did you learn them? My knife skills have come a long way since my early days in culinary school. I learned them at The Natural Gourmet Institute when I attended full time for my culinary degree. Cooking was always a hobby of mine before I made it my profession, but I couldn’t have made that transition without proper training. The school not only taught me my knife skills, but they also taught me about how to work out the timing of a meal, and I pride myself on getting everything together promptly. The Natural Gourmet Institute taught me so many things—it was a program that specialized in vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free cuisine with an emphasis on making nutritious food that was also delicious. The program helped me immeasurably.

 

What makes cooking a worthwhile career? I get to do what I love every single day. How many people can say that? Also, I work with families who have children with food allergies, often to gluten, soy, eggs, nuts, and/or dairy. Parents come to me discouraged because they are making multiple dinners for their family each night, and in the end no one ends up satisfied. All that work is frustrating and exhausting. That’s where I come in, preparing meals that work for the whole family. It is a challenge, but I love my job. I love to see the progression of my clients from start to finish. There are kids that start out hating most vegetables and end up loving things like bok choy, kale and arugula. It is rewarding to have such an impact on the way people eat.

 

Why cooking? Cooking is love and food is a universal language. Cooking is family and friends around a table laughing together and bonding over scrumptiousness. It is all things yummy. Cooking is always a learning experience. I love that I will still be learning about cooking for as long as I live. You can never know everything when it comes to cooking.

What foods do you love to work with and why? Fresh produce. Summer is my favorite time of year to cook because there is an abundance of delicious produce and so much of what I work with comes from my father’s gardens. My favorite ingredients are olive oil, garlic and tomatoes. Fruits and vegetables are the main stars of my meals and they are incredibly versatile.

 

Why did you create The Dirt on Vegetables website? One of the reason I started this website at first was because people often call me to ask for various recipes of mine that they have tried and I thought, why not make a blog where I can post regularly? I learned so much through my education at The Natural Gourmet Institute, as well as working as a private chef, and I wanted to be able to share delicious and healthy food. I want this to be a place where we can all work together on taking better care of ourselves through diet and lifestyle.  It’s also a great way to list all of my services as a chef.

What are your dreams and aspirations as a chef? I would love to let the world know that maintaining a health supportive lifestyle by maintaining a plant-based whole foods diet can taste great. Also, it is integral that people start eating this way in order to reverse the effect that the Standard American Diet, or SAD (how fitting), has had on us as a nation. This upcoming generation is the first that is not expected to have a longer lifespan than the one before them. That is incredibly alarming. Still, it is uplifting to know that changing one’s diet to become plant-based has been proven to reverse cardiovascular disease. It is my dream to not only cook healthy meals, but also write cookbooks and inspire others to make healthy choices.
Who is your cooking role model? Growing up, my role models were my mother, my mother’s mother, my grandmother’s mother, and my aunts. I come from a long line of women who love to cook and created delicious dishes decades ago that I still talk about today. Now I would say that I love reading Mark Bittman recipes. He is smart and has a great grasp on how food should taste. Also, Ina Garten creates spot-on recipes that I pretty much never have to recipe test first. She is a goddess in my world.

 

What inspires you? Making a difference in the world inspires me. My dad inspires me. He wakes up every morning loving what he does for a living. As a physician, he is happy to see patients from early in the morning until late at night. That joy is something that I always wanted in a career. I think that is a major reason why I feel it is my duty to heal people through food. Nutrition and health go hand in hand and I want to spread that message. Other people in my field inspire me with their amazing dreams coming to fruition. My husband inspires me with his love and support as well as his appetite. He is always ready to be my food taster! Most of all, my faith in God inspires me to believe that with Him, all things are possible.