Part II: Alan Roettinger
Alan Roettinger has been a private chef for over 28 years, serving a broad spectrum of high-profile clients, from entertainers to presidents. A world traveler, he absorbed elements from many cuisines to synthesize a unique, creative, personal style. Alan’s first cookbook, Omega-3 Cuisine, showcases his ability to bring health and flavor together, offering a wide range of dishes that are simultaneously exotic and accessible to the home cook. In Speed Vegan, Alan has kept flavor and health, but expanded these parameters to include quick, easy, and strictly plant-based.
Alan can be heard on other REAL programs.
LISTEN to the interview on 7/28/2010 about his cookbook Speed Vegan.
ASK A VEGAN: 12/3/2011
ASK A VEGAN: 7/24/2011
ASK A VEGAN: 6/19/2011
ASK A VEGAN: 5/8/2010
ASK A VEGAN: 4/17/2010
Hello I am Caryn Hartglass and you are listening to It’s all about food. Thank you for joining me and our second part of the show today. One of the things that I am always talking about is encouraging people to find their kitchen. In New York City, I know, it is especially hard. There are many people that have incredibly gorgeous kitchens. I have been in so many of them, all of the greatest house ware pots and pans that have never been used. It’s true. Why is that? I am going to bring on my friend chef Alan Roettinger. We are going to talk a little about that and what his plans are to help.
He has been a private chef for over 28 years, serving a broad spectrum of high profile clients from entertainers to presidents. A world traveler, he absorbed elements from many cuisines to synthesize a unique creative personal style. Alan’s first cook book Omega 3 Cuisine showcases his ability to bring health and flavor together offering a wide range of dishes that are simultaneously exotic and accessible to the home cook. In Speed Vegan Alan has kept flavor and health, but expanded these parameters to include quick, easy and strictly plant based.
Welcome Alan Roettinger to Its all about food. How are you doing my friend?
Alan Roettinger: I am super fine Caryn. How are you?
Caryn Hartglass: Very good.
Alan Roettinger: It’s been a long time.
Caryn Hartglass: I know.
Alan Roettinger: Happy New Year.
Caryn Hartglass: Life just goes on.
Alan Roettinger: Thank God.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, and you just keep coming up with new ways to eat my favorite foods.
Alan Roettinger: Well, plants, right?
Caryn Hartglass: Plants
Alan Roettinger: Yeah, well not only that, but since we last spoke I have been teaching cooking classes and you would be surprised how many people sign up that are not vegan, not interested in being vegan, but they still want to know. It’s in the news.
Caryn Hartglass: They want to know about vegan cooking? Or they just want to know about cooking?
Alan Roettinger: They want to know how do you do vegan. Maybe they have a family member they have to deal with every time there is a party at their house. They want to make something that is for them and don’t know how. Or maybe, just at the core, people are curious because it is growing. Now that Clinton is a vegan. He used to be a junk food addict. So what is up with that? It is cunning.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re in Colorado?
Alan Roettinger: Yup
Caryn Hartglass: If people wanted to take a class with you, how would they know about it?
Alan Roettinger: That’s a good question because the way we have done it so far is: I find someone who is a candidate for using their kitchen, someone who has a big kitchen that would accommodate a lot of people. Then send out an email to everyone they know and that I know in the area and we get a fantastic response. We had 45 people in one kitchen this one time.
Caryn Hartglass: Whoa
Alan Roettinger: Yah and it went on for two hours and people were just like, whoa. It was exciting. It was fun. I put pictures on my blog about it. If people are interested in having a cooking class at their house and they live in the area. I am in the Colorado Springs area, but Denver is good for me, Boulder. If it works I will even go to Fort Collins, it’s a bit of a cliff, but I would be happy to go. What they can do is go to my web site www.AlanRoettinger.com or write to me at email@example.com and just give me their contact information and I will call them. That would be exciting.
Caryn Hartglass: What are some of the things that you make during these cooking classes?
Alan Roettinger: Well, usually something out of Speed Vegan because they can actually buy the book and have all the recipes. If they had a subject matter, we really want to learn to do blank. I would be happy to design the class around that so that they get what they want. I am sure they would be happy with it.
Caryn Hartglass: Do people get to do things hands on or are they just watching?
Alan Roettinger: It’s a watching thing. If they have access to some kind of teaching facility where they can, I would be happy to do that too. In fact I am working on plans for that. Basically when you have someone’s kitchen, they sit and watch and take notes and buy my books.
Caryn Hartglass: Have you gotten feedback from people that have come to the classes? The reason why I am asking is we know people love to watch food shows. They love to watch food being prepared.
Alan Roettinger: Yah
Caryn Hartglass: But, then so they actually go and do it themselves?
Alan Roettinger: Well, funny you should ask because I am working on a webinar now that will elicit that from people and it will give people confidence to do just that. So many people, you would be surprised, how many of my clients, the very, very wealthy people have kitchens just like you described everything there and they are eating out.
Caryn Hartglass: Yup.
Alan Roettinger: Or they have a chef. People not in the one percent maybe in the upper 99 percent, they have a beautiful kitchen , brand new, all the best and never use it. Literally, never use it.
Caryn Hartglass: Yah.
Alan Roettinger: My target audience is not just those people, but everyone. The best food and the healthiest food is always going to be the food you make at home. Whether it is your home or someone else’s home; it is where you know what is going into it and what is not going into it. You know that it is clean because you are seeing it and you know whose hands are in it. I don’t want to put down restaurants.
Caryn Hartglass: There is a tremendous leap of faith that so many people do, just blindly. We have some pretty strict laws here in New York City; I don’t know how they compare with the rest of the United States. I recently took the food handling certificate test. It’s a 15 chapter course you can take online and then there is a test. You need to have it if you want to supervise any food establishment like a restaurant or manufacture food. I am actually thinking on manufacturing food so I took the course. What I learned is all the regulations that restaurants have to comply to in order to meet the health department’s standards and I find it so hard to believe that they meet all of these regulations. It’s scary to think.
Alan Roettinger: You wonder how many football game tickets are given out to the [Sultan Peckers?] Caryn Hartglass: The first thing that they say in this course it that the health inspectors are not allowed to accept any bribes. Laughs.
Alan Roettinger: Well Duh, and either are congressmen.
Caryn Hartglass: We really put a lot of trust into the handling of the food we eat in restaurants.
Alan Roettinger: Now that is why I like to eat at home.
Caryn Hartglass: In conclusion.
Alan Roettinger: One, I get better food at home.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely
Alan Roettinger: It’s cheaper and it’s more fun, for me anyway, I enjoy cooking. That is what I hope I can convey to people, instill in people, really by example and by encouragement. You too could do this, it’s not that hard. You are not going to be a celebrity chef creating these very impressive dishes that stop people in their tracks. You could make very tasty, very good plant based food in your house very easily. That is the thrust of my webinars, getting a few basic skills, giving people a good idea. Busting the protein myth that people are just are just starting or transitioning. It would also be something for those listening to the show who are vegan and have friends or family who are not, but just starting to soften up to the idea. There is a sixth segment cooking series that I am doing, they could offer as a gift. Let them go on their own and see where they end up and I think at the very least, like the meatless Monday thing, if you just eat one meal a week that doesn’t have a big slab of beef. Just try it. That is what I did, just tried it and after 3 days I felt so much better, I haven’t gone back. There are people who can’t just jump in, they just don’t have it in them to just go okay I’m just going to leave it all and just do it. Maybe one day a week or more plant based dishes in their meal and perhaps greater quantities than the meat. Try that and see how that feels.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s all about moving the bar.
Alan Roettinger: Exactly, and in a non-judgmental way. I lack the gene for converting people. I am not out to hammer on someone. I like the forks and knives approach. They don’t get into the animal cruelty I leave that for PETA and people that are really good at that. To me it’s about, how about cruelty to yourself. Fix that first.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely
Alan Roettinger: Then you take it from there.
Caryn Hartglass: I like to concept of the occasional vegan. It’s all about moving the bar like I just said. I am talking about the food continuum. There is one end where people are eating only animal foods, flesh and bodily fluids, meat and cheese and fish. The other end of the spectrum is like breatharian.
Alan Roettinger: I have not tried that one.
Caryn Hartglass: Or all fruit or something. In the middle there are the omnivores and vegetarians and [pescatarians], vegans, healthier vegans, etc… We definitely need to change the focus and get people more interested in fruits and vegetables. We need to change the way we think about food. It’s happening, it’s slow, but it’s happening. People definitely need to get some new skills because we have lost the food preparing skills that were in our DNA
Alan Roettinger: Yeah, yeah. Also mentioning the word omnivore, human beings by nature are omnivorous. That means we can eat any number of things that are edible. We have a choice. Which, for example, lions do not have. They can only eat meat and they have to actually chase it down and then eat it in order to be healthy. The ones you see in the zoo look just so miserable. They get fed and they eat it, but they just are not happy with it. A lion needs to chase it down and kill it and eat it on the spot. We have, actually, a choice. So what the implications of that are, we can go whichever way we want. Instead of thinking I have to eat this. Think what my choices are. If you can get away from isolating protein to animal flesh then you can say I am getting my protein from this plant. I am also getting vital nutrients and micro nutrients and antioxidants and all this other stuff that I need, that I will not get form that steak.
Caryn Hartglass: And things we have not even discovered yet.
Alan Roettinger: Exactly
Caryn Hartglass: All in plants. Semantics sometimes plays a roll. Someone recently said to me to, we were going to meet somewhere, and this person said, since you have dietary restrictions, why don’t you choose where we are going to eat. I don’t have dietary restrictions. I am not restricted at all. I have variety and abundance and it is a choice. I am not restricted. It was interesting.
Alan Roettinger: It is a nice offer on their part because not too long ago my wife took me to her office Christmas party and there was not one single item on the menu that I could eat. Not one. Finally, I am going to have the onion rings. I got them and started to eat them and realized this is probably fried in really ugly stuff. It kind of ruined it for me. That is what you get when you go out. A lot of these places, especially the kind of places that office parties happen at are sports bars and they don’t have anything for someone who wants to eat, let’s not even call it vegan, let’s call it clean.
Caryn Hartglass: Yah, sometimes you have to call in advance to where you are going to find out what they are going to have or what they might have or just if you know it is helpless, eat in advance and don’t plan on eating.
Alan Roettinger: That’s what I do. I ate before I went actually.
Caryn Hartglass: Yah.
Alan Roettinger: That is my mantra actually, learn to cook and eat at home. I am passionate about that because I think the more I can spread that message that in itself is there is your health care plan. Health care is my responsibility. If other people can do this just think how much it’s going to save them, not just in money, but in suffering.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. My major motivation behind this diet is to reduce pain and suffering. Not just pain and suffering of the animals that I am not eating and killing, but human pain and suffering and planetary pain and suffering.
Alan Roettinger: It doesn’t really take that much. This is the other point I try and make and I am going to make this point in my webinar, it’s not like you have to go to school. It really is quite simple. If you want to go and learn more skills and learn more fancy stuff fine, but in order to feed yourself and your family it is not that hard. It’s very simple and it’s so enjoyable. You just gain a few basic skills and I am going to teach those in the very first webinar. You could really just take off. Then every day you are going to discover new things. I’ve been cooking professionally for over 30 years now and I am still coming across a vegetable, a fruit, something that I have never seen before.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely
Alan Roettinger: How cool is that. If you just stick to ice burg lettuce and mayonnaise, ham and white bread. Okay, fine.
Caryn Hartglass: There is a lot more out there.
Alan Roettinger: There are studies that show how you end up.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Alan Roettinger: There is no reason for it because if you can really enjoy learning to cook, cooking things and treating people. Inviting your family to come and sit down at the meal that you prepared.
Caryn Hartglass: That is my favorite thing to do.
Alan Roettinger: Yah. It’s a thrill for me.
Caryn Hartglass: We frequently host events at home and cook for days. Laughs
Alan Roettinger: Oh, can I tell you something? I did a Christmas dinner. My family is not on the vegan diet and neither is my extended family. Not last Christmas, but the one before, I did the whole turkey and the whole thing. I made myself a big Thai- sort of salad. People were looking longingly at me I guess like; what are you having and why are you having that? This year I said you know what, the hell with it. I am going to make something that I can eat every bite of.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes
Alan Roettinger: I made a four course meal. My extended family came; both my mother and mother-in-law were there.
Caryn Hartglass: Where’s the turkey?
Alan Roettinger: They didn’t. The “v” word didn’t come up. The “turkey” word didn’t come up. It’s like once you serve something and the conversations stops because people are slurping it.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah
Alan Roettinger: That’s what I love.
Caryn Hartglass: Yah, well good for you.
Alan Roettinger: There were no complaints. In fact everyone was thrilled with it. So I thought ok, here you go. I’m done.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I support that. I am at a point where I could not prepare flesh for anyone and I believe if you make a beautiful meal and it looks appealing to you and you know it’s delicious and you want to offer it to people, that’s the way to go.
Alan Roettinger: Yeah, well it works in a situation like that. My son, he’s still stuck on the meat pyridine.
Caryn Hartglass: If it’s just one meal that you are inviting people over.
Alan Roettinger: Exactly, that is my point.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re not telling them to go vegetarian. You’re just opening the door a little bit.
Alan Roettinger: It’s a treat.
Caryn Hartglass: Who knows, you plant seeds, but you’re not into prophesying, I know.
Alan Roettinger: No, I’m not prophesying, but I am very much in favor of demonstrating how good it can be.
Caryn Hartglass: How good it can be.
Alan Roettinger: Yeah. I mean how sweet it is. Where is the prophesying in that? It’s just; hey try this, you’re going to love it. If they only try it once and never come back, well hey, it’s not my health, it’s theirs. I’ve seen it happen where people just kind of go wow. In fact there is a client that I worked for last year. He was an ambassador to China, this really elegant gentleman. They were meat eaters, but would always make the meat portion really small and the vegetables really big because they wanted to eat healthy. This is how I respond. They were really cool with it and then about the 4th or 5th day that I was there, in the kitchen he was standing there with his fiancé, they were going to get married, he said “you know darling, I could be vegetarian”.
Caryn Hartglass: ooh
Alan Roettinger: She said “What?” He said “yah, well the food we have been having is perfectly delicious. There is no reason why, I don’t care, it’s good why do I care?” And he meant it. He was not saying it for my benefit, he was just commenting. So there you go.
Caryn Hartglass: Ah.
Alan Roettinger: If it is good they will come.
Caryn Hartglass: Exactly
Alan Roettinger: If you hammer their heads they might go; oh the poor animals and then maybe one of them their heart will soften. I don’t know.
Caryn Hartglass: Here is the thing, if I could, I would cook for the entire planet.
Alan Roettinger: Laughs. There’s a challenge. I hadn’t thought of that.
Caryn Hartglass: I can’t do that though. Because I know that a lot more people would eat vegetarian and vegan if people were cooking for them.
Alan Roettinger: I bet you 30 percent of the people on this planet would eat it if it was free.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh there you go.
Alan Roettinger: If someone made them any food. I mean this is serious. There are a lot of people out there that are really hungry and they really don’t care what it is. No.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, well there you go. I would like to cook for the entire, (sings) “I would like to teach the world… something like that.
Alan Roettinger: I was already going there.
Caryn Hartglass: But we can’t do that so we do what we do and we talk about food and get excited about it and put recipes on our websites and do a webinar.
Alan Roettinger: We can teach the people who have access to food, a way to cook and eat that is delicious and produces health and doesn’t ruin it, doesn’t make you tired and fat and slow and sick.
Caryn Hartglass: I want to just talk a little bit about this webinar a little bit more. So there are about 15 to 20 minutes you are going to be…
Alan Roettinger: People should go to occasionalvegan.com right away and register. It is a free introductory webinar that kind of, there is going to be a free gift in there I’m going to give and I think they will be happy with it and I am going to talk about this 6 part series that I hope people are going to sign up for because I think they will really enjoy it and it will benefit them. Register anytime, now. Get on it. I think they will really enjoy it.
Caryn Hartglass: Where are you going to be doing this? Is this going to be a live thing where people are watching while you’re doing it?
Alan Roettinger: Yeah, we’ll be live. We’ve actually got, there is going to be still shots. The video is going to be for that 6 part series where I am actually going to be demonstrating knife skills, the basic cooking methods; the ones that actually preserve the health benefits of food rather than destroying it. I am going to go into thee good fats vs. bad fats. I am going to have a whole segment on salads and raw food and the importance of that and the very different kinds of salads and salad dressings. I am going to do one about the animal protein myth and getting that protein that are so much more interesting to eat. You know what it means to eat meat, you put a chunk of it in your mouth and you chew it for 5 seconds and you get all these juices, whatever you think is good in there and then for 25- 30 seconds you just chew it so you can swallow it because the flavor is now gone. You never get that with a fruit or vegetable. You get flavor gushing out of it until you decide it is chewed up enough to swallow.
Caryn Hartglass: Gosh, I have not had meat in so long I didn’t even realize that.
Alan Roettinger: You remember what it was like (making gnawing noises). The thrill is gone, but you can’t spit it out and you can’t swallow it until it is chewed up enough, unless you want to choke.
Caryn Hartglass: Laughs. Okay.
Alan Roettinger: I am actually going to do a whole segment on shopping. A lot of people don’t realize, they go to Safeway or they go to whatever the supermarket is and that’s where they go. Some people may go to a health food store. There are so many other options. Indian stores, Middle Eastern stores, there is an Asian store. I have all of these in Colorado Springs.
Caryn Hartglass: Are you going to go to the stores in the webinar?
Alan Roettinger: I am going to go there. I am going to have someone follow me with a video camera and get some good shots and explain a few things; just open up the world that is out there of variety. Each segment, at the end, I will demonstrate a recipe that basically incorporates all the skills or all the facts that we have covered at the beginning so they can see how that ends up. The one I am going to do for the shopping segment, I don’t even know what it is going to be because that is the way I like to do it. I like to go into the store first and see what looks good and then decide what I am going to make.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, Absolutely. It’s kind of a little of both for me. I have an idea, but if I don’t find what supports my idea there is flexibility.
Alan Roettinger: Yah and that is why my favorite clients are the ones that just trust me. They don’t even care. They just want to come in at meal time and sit down and “oh, what’s this”. There are some that want to know in advance what the menu is going to be, they want to know in advance or they want to ask you, I want Stroganoff or something they have in their head. Then you have to find out, what are the ingredients, got to go find them. Sometimes you get to the store and the stuff to make what they want is all dead and limp but right next to it is something that is just bursting with life that just came in but you can’t do it because they want the other thing. It ruins it for them and it ruins it for you. I much prefer those clients that just say “you know what make it healthy, make it good and they trust you and then you can wow them with something that is actually good. So that is my approach to shopping and I am hoping it is well received. I hope people will enjoy it.
Caryn Hartglass: The shopping thing is really an interesting thing. It really depends on where you live but imagine more and more in the United States there are more ethnicities in communities and bringing in more ethnic stores. It just blows my mind. In New York City, the greatest city in the world, we have everything. China town is just crazy and we have two. One in Queens and one in Manhattan and they are huge and they are busting with things that, Americans that aren’t Chinese, don’t know anything about. There is a whole world of plants and mushrooms and herbs and its … I always feel like I am on a vacation when I go there, like I’ve traveled somewhere because it is so amazing. And then these Indian stores that have beans and spices and foods, produce that I don’t know what to do with.
Alan Roettinger: All different kinds of lentils.
Caryn Hartglass: Yup
Alan Roettinger: And Middle Eastern stores and Mexican.
Caryn Hartglass: There is just so many.
Alan Roettinger: It’s amazing. I used to think in L.A. they have it and New York they have it, but Colorado Springs. They have Korean markets. We are talking 100,000 people. We are not talking about a major metropolis. This is what I am going to suggest in that segment is, get to know your community. Look up ethnic food. Just try and figure out what is available to you and go there.
Caryn Hartglass: Go to the store and look around to start with. You don’t even have to buy anything. It’s just so amazing to go and like, what is this stuff.
Alan Roettinger: For me it’s like going back to my childhood in Mexico when you go to the open air market and you can smell all the produce. It’s not like sanitized. You can smell the herbs and it’s fantastic.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, when I go to some of these Chinese markets the smell is not always very pleasant because there is a lot of fish.
Alan Roettinger: They are into the pigs.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, it’s the fish that really stinks. A lot of stinky, stinky fish. You can go into some of their other herbal markets that sell herbal remedies and the smell in there is incredible.
Alan Roettinger: Licorice and ginseng
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, just fresh. Mind clearing smells. Laughs. We just have a few minutes left so; I imagine there is a cost for some of these webminars.
Alan Roettinger: Well the one I am inviting to today, occasionalvegan.com is free.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay
Alan Roettinger: They will come away with some recipes and they are going to watch something being prepared. They are going to get some information.
Caryn Hartglass: Will there be some interaction? Will they be able to ask questions during the program?
Alan Roettinger: Well we will see if that works that way.
Caryn Hartglass: Is it watch when they want to?
Alan Roettinger: I have people helping me with this so I am not sure the answer to that question. I hope so.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Yeah that would be fun.
Alan Roettinger: That would be good. The other ones I am actually going to, because it is the first time I am going to film them and prepare them, I am going to take the feedback I get from people who watch that for the first time
Caryn Hartglass: And make it better.
Alan Roettinger: For future webinars. They are going to get a really good deal. I figure in a class people would pay $50 a person and I get like 30-40 people in there. If you break it down it is basically a class would be $50. If you were to add up 6 of these it would be $300, right? I am giving the whole thing for $97.
Caryn Hartglass: Whoa
Alan Roettinger: So that really brings the cost down and it makes it possible for somebody to maybe give it as a gift to their niece or nephew or something.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, very nice.
Alan Roettinger: So that is the idea. My goal is to make it accessible. I want people to stop poisoning themselves at fast food restaurants and cook and eat at home. It is so much more enjoyable, so much better.
Caryn Hartglass: I agree. Let’s give people. First they have to find out where they are and then what to do in them. So stay tuned and check out, is it occasionalvegan.com?
Alan Roettinger: occasionalvegan.com
Caryn Hartglass: Very good Alan, a pleasure and one day my friend we will actually meet.
Alan Roettinger: Yeah. That would be great.
Caryn Hartglass: And we will eat.
Alan Roettinger: Meet and eat. Meeting without eating is cheating.
Caryn Hartglass: Until then, all the best to you.
Alan Roettinger: Likewise.
Caryn Hartglass: I look forward to this webinar and I will definitely check it out.
Alan Roettinger: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you Alan Roettinger and I am Caryn Hartglass and you have been listening to It’s All About Food. Thank you so much for joining me today and have a very, very delicious week. Find that kitchen. Bye bye.
Transcribed by Mary Schings, 2/21/2013