Chad Sarno, Crazy Sexy Kitchen



Part I: Chad Sarno
Crazy Sexy Kitchen

Chad Sarno is a chef, consultant, speaker, and committed plant activist. He has brought his unique culinary style to projects spanning public education at some of the world’s premier wellness retreats, and culinary expos to the launch of an international boutique restaurant chain from Istanbul to London.

Chad has been contributing chef to numerous recipe books as well as featured in many national publications. He has been a guest on dozens of morning shows, and food focused programs on television and radio internationally over the years. Through the intersection of clean food and culinary education, Chad continues to share his passion for helping others achieve their health goals, starting in the kitchen.

In his most recent project, Chad has teamed up with New York Times Best Selling Author Kris Carr of Crazy Sexy Diet to write Crazy Sexy Kitchen: 150 Plant-Empowered Recipes to Ignite a Mouthwatering Revolution.

Chad is currently the senior culinary educator for Whole Foods Market’s healthy eating program, and resides with his beautiful daughter in Austin, TX.


Hello everybody! I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Hope you’re having a very happy 11th of December 2012. And we’re in that happy holiday season. It’s Hanukkah and I want to remind you to visit We have a great food show up for Hanukkah right now: it’s my baked potato pancakes/potato latkes. I’m so in love with this recipe. And if you haven’t had a chance to watch or try them, please do. I just made up a batch on Sunday and people were really surprised. They are not fried and they are really good with that good traditional flavor. And like I like to say, “Save the oil for the lamp.” Let’s conserve energy. We don’t need to be drowning our food in barrels of oil and we really shouldn’t be using as much oil and energy as we are doing today. So that’s just a little food for thought. And everything can be just as delicious without frying. And it is holiday time and that means stress. It’s supposed to be this happy, good-to-all-humans season where we’re kind and loving and giving and generous, and is anybody feeling that? All I feel right now is all this stress going around. People are running around to stores and concerned about what they’re going to be making for all of their big holiday parties and what they’re going to be eating and all of the weight they’re going to be gaining. Anyway, I just want to wish you a great holiday season. Keep breathing. And if you’re eating this healthy plant-based diet that we’re always talking about here every week then I think you’ve got a good free pass because you’re eating all the right foods and when holidays come around you don’t really have anything to worry about. All of our treats are really…they’re treats, and you can indulge from time to time. OK, now we’re going to get sexy, alright? My guest is Chad Sarno. He’s a chef, consultant, speaker, and committed plant activist. He has brought his unique culinary style to projects spanning public education at some of the world’s premiere wellness retreats and culinary expos to the launch of an international boutique restaurant chain from Istanbul to London. He’s been a contributing chef to numerous recipe books, as well as featured in many national publications. He’s been a guest on dozens of morning shows and food-focused programs on television and radio internationally over the years. Through the intersection of clean food and culinary education, Chad continues to share his passion for helping others achieve their health goals, starting in the kitchen. In his most recent project, Chad has teamed up with New York Times bestselling author Kris Carr of Crazy, Sexy Diet to write Crazy, Sexy Kitchen: 150 Plant-Empowered Recipes to Ignite a Mouth-Watering Revolution. And he is currently the senior culinary educator for Whole Foods Markets’ Healthy Eating program and resides with his beautiful daughter in Austin, Texas. I am really excited to welcome Chad Sarno to It’s All About Food.

Caryn Hartglass: Hi Chad.

Chad Sarno: Hi Caryn. How are you? Can you hear me?

Caryn Hartglass: Yes, I can, and thank you for joining me.

Chad Sarno: Thank you very much for that warm introduction. I would go a little bit more crazy than sexy. How about that? Let’s get crazy on the holiday.

Caryn Hartglass: OK, both is good for me. It’s a good mix in the kitchen: crazy and sexy. You know, we really should let it all hang out and get, I don’t know, loose and crazy, and we can do that with plant foods.

Chad Sarno: I completely agree. You know, with our new book, Crazy, Sexy Kitchen, it actually made the New York Times bestseller list the first couple of weeks it was on the market which we’re really excited for. Having a plant-based, vegan book up there on the list is pretty amazing.

Caryn Hartglass: Woohoo! We’ve had some good presence there as vegans on the New York Times bestseller list I’m happy to say. There always seems to be one there the last year of so.

Chad Sarno: I love it.

Caryn Hartglass: Let’s get a few more up there.

Chad Sarno: I love it. So exciting. So thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

Caryn Hartglass: OK, let’s talk a little bit about this book and then we’ll talk about some other things that you’ve been involved with. What does crazy and sexy mean in the kitchen?

Chad Sarno: Well, I wrote this with Kris Carr. It’s her brand, the Crazy, Sexy Diet, and she started this many years ago and I’ve been friends with her for a number of years through a mutual friend and kind of circle so we decided to write a book together, which is great. She chose me to be the chef of her program and we put together some of our all-time favorite recipes everywhere from real basic recipes to a little bit more complex, ranging from the raw foods and very simple raw salads and dishes to a little bit more of the comforter, heavier gourmet dishes. So whether you’re a novice or a beginner or a chef in the kitchen, I think anybody can get a little bit of inspiration from the book. So we started working on it last year and it just materialized very quickly and we’ve just gotten a wonderful response. So it’s a great balance of, like I said, of a number of raw dishes, and all of them—you had mentioned oil in the beginning of the program—all of them can be completely altered to your personal diet, whether you want to minimize salt or oil in the recipes. We just tried to create a recipe book that was very simple and approachable and reached a larger audience and I think we did that with this book.

Caryn Hartglass: Now, the first time I discovered you as a chef was during my raw foods phase. I was all raw for about two years and I’m now just a regular old vegan. What do you tend to eat and what got you into the raw scene actually?

Chad Sarno: I actually just like clean foods. I stick to plant-based, personally, and whether it’s raw or cooked, and depending on the day, depending on the weather, it will depend on really what I have to eat and seasonality and all that. My whole thing is when I was into raw foods, I was into raw foods for a number of years and opening restaurants around that scene for a while. And I just joined Whole Foods Market in 2009 to head up the Health Eating education program. And one thing that I didn’t get an opportunity to do over the years is work with a number of great doctors and I started working with a number of them, being here at Whole Foods as our medical board of advisors, and I got my blood read. Part of one of our programs is offering team members some health and wellness education and you have the opportunity to look at your biometrics and further your discount, further your education. And so I got my blood read for the first time and my basic biometrics and cholesterol and all that. And I had been eating a plant-based diet for 12 years at that time and my cholesterol was high, which really blew me away. My cholesterol was high, my blood pressure was high, and I’m sure that a lot of that contributed from stress in terms of blood pressure and being over in Europe opening restaurants and running like that. But it kind of opened my eyes up a little bit and I was talking to Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Fuhrman and Dr. McDougall and a number of doctors on our board and they just said to limit the sugars and cut back on the oils and sodium and I did that and within four months my cholesterol plummeted. And I started eating more cooked foods: beans, greens, and grains, and going a little bit more Macro with my diet—Macrobiotic—and just cleaner, whole foods, and my cholesterol plummeted, my blood pressure plummeted. I witnessed it firsthand. I was just eating so many fats, so many sugars following a 100% raw diet. And a lot of that, I think, was based on the cuisine that I was showcasing in the restaurants. It was a little bit more gourmet, a little bit more comforting and concentrated and stuff like that. So, at the end of the day, my diet is greens, beans, and grains and that really sums it up. The occasional vegan comfort food I love as well but the basis of my diet focuses on those few categories now.

Caryn Hartglass: There are so many things I want to talk about, picking out little things that you just mentioned, but let’s talk about health first. It’s a funny thing. Many of us think that we get this free pass when we go vegan, that all of a sudden we’re going to be invulnerable to everything and it’s not true. There are healthy diets that are vegan and there are unhealthy diets and there are some that are in the middle of the road. You could be eating raw or vegetarian or even eating some animal products and it can be healthy or not healthy. So we’re all learning that. That cholesterol thing is a mystery because I’m somebody that does have higher than desired cholesterol and some of those vegan doctors have kind of just shrugged and said, “Don’t worry about it.” There are a lot of different things that are connected to it. I’m definitely somebody who limits oil and sugar and salts and eats tons of greens and minimally processed whole foods. OK, let’s get back to the book. One of the…I was at the Whole Foods book signing at Tribeca a few weeks ago when you and Kris Carr were there and we got to sample a few of the items in the book and they were all fabulous and I just wanted to bring up my favorite, which is the kale salad. I always like to say, “There is nothing that kale can’t do.”

Chad Sarno: That’s one of my all time favorite recipes and it’s been a favorite in that book. You know, we all have those recipes that kind of follow you around over the years that just kind of are timeless and stick with you and tend to be your staples in the kitchen and that recipe, hands down, I eat at least once a week and I have for many, many years. It’s my all time favorite. A lot of people think you that can only cook it or throw it in soups and stews and are a little bit afraid of raw kale being a little bitter and astringent and all that so it’s nice to showcase a simple salad as such with just four or five ingredients that can taste as delicious and nourishing for your body as that.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, it was funny because after that event and having…I think I grabbed maybe two or three sample cups of the kale salad and it wasn’t enough for me and I went right home and made my own giant bowl of kale salad with avocado. I threw in a little onion and I was very happy.

Chad Sarno: That’s great. So simple, so delicious, right? The nice thing about the book coming out around the holidays is we have just a ton of holiday recipes. We have some great holiday menus in the back. And don’t get me wrong, our book does have oil and salt and some fruit sugars…

Caryn Hartglass: That’s OK.

Chad Sarno: It’s a nice variation to really focus on plants being the center of the plate. We have some comforting dishes, some simple light dishes and some great sample menus in the back. And right around the holidays we have at least a dozen good holiday sides in there that can really be translated to any table at home. So I think a lot of people will find what they’re looking for.

Caryn Hartglass: It’s funny. In this food scene where we’re promoting plant foods, I find more and more we’re all so careful because people are saying, “Oh, you can’t have salt, you can’t have sugar, you can’t have oil.” And I don’t use oil often but it’s not that I don’t ever have it. I believe in treats for special occasions. And when you want to make it a little bit more elegant, it’s perfectly fine. It’s just being aware of what we’re using in our food. People very often are not. And as I mentioned, the potato pancake recipe that I’m so excited about at the beginning of the program, that is typically fried in tons of oil. I really want to get away from that. I don’t enjoy eating them and it doesn’t feel good afterwards so I was really glad when I came up with this recipe. I actually put in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. It’s not without oil but it’s just something to pay attention to. You know, we’ve read all this press about the Mediterranean diet and about how olive oil is so healthy and people really get the wrong information from that. That doesn’t mean we can drown ourselves in oil.

Chad Sarno: Exactly. Propaganda at its finest. I mean, look, 95% of the Mediterranean diet is based on whole foods, you know? Whole fruits, vegetables, grains and all that, and a teeny percentage is olive oil and red wine, and what do we run with in terms of the marketing? Olive oil and red wine are good for you. They don’t look at the whole foods that make up the diet. I think…I’m very aligned with that and I really do think it’s all about just bringing awareness to the food scene and to everyone I think. I’m just like choosing what you eat carefully and eating real food, you know? Avoiding boxed food and eating as clean as possible and as many plants being the focus of your dish. No matter what diet you follow, plants should be superior in everybody’s diet.

Caryn Hartglass: You gave us another sample at the Whole Foods event that was made with artichokes that was really amazing and I love the flavor that artichokes have and yet there’s nothing bad in an artichoke.

Chad Sarno: I think…that was one of my favorite crostinis. You spread some crostinis with artichoke pesto and garlicy mushrooms and lots of fresh horseradish on that. That was absolutely delicious. That’s one of my holiday favorite appetizers.

Caryn Hartglass: That was really good. The microplaned horseradish. Yep, it was good.

Chad Sarno: One thing that I wanted to also mention, Caryn, is I started this community with my brother called Wicked Healthy. It’s on facebook. It’s really bringing awareness to folks about how simple eating healthy is. A lot of people are so intimidated by…as soon as you start talking about eating healthy, people immediately think what they can’t have. They don’t think of the simplicity and the abundance that they can have out there. I mean, look at avocados, there are 40 varieties. Durian, there’s 20 varieties. All the beans out there. It’s just so abundant and so simple, and it’s just about taking out the mystery of healthy eating I think is the main focus of all of us. And showing people how simple and delicious it can actually be, you know?

Caryn Hartglass: We just need better marketing representation because the food is fabulous. Everybody who’s on this diet loves it. I love my food and I love it when it’s simple and clean. And I like when I give myself a treat from time to time but I love all of it and I never feel guilty about what I’m eating. We just need some better press. We’re getting some so a book like yours, Crazy, Sexy Kitchen and Wicked Healthy, we need to be marketing like this and give it some really hip images to the diet because, hello, it is hip. We look good, we feel good, and as we get older our performance in many arenas…you know, dare I say sex again when we’re talking about Crazy, Sexy Kitchen, but many men…we hear these advertisements all the time for Viagra and Cialis because men can’t perform. All they need to do is eat plants and things will be back up to normal.

Chad Sarno: Yup. You’re funny, Caryn.

Caryn Hartglass: But, you know, we have to talk about these things and make it crazy, make it sexy, make it wicked, but it’s all good.

Chad Sarno: Yes, I agree. I agree. Just make it approachable and making it easy. Showing people how absolutely simple it is to highlight veggies in a meal and highlight plants as the focus of your meal. So we try to do that with all my work that I’m doing across the board: with Wicked Healthy, with the book, with my website, with all of the culinary classes and education that we teach. And, yeah, I think we’re all doing amazing work and there are so many pioneers out there and there are so many amazing chefs.

Caryn Hartglass: What’s going on with you and Whole Foods? What have you been doing for them?

Chad Sarno: Well, I’ve been working for Whole Foods Market for a little over three years almost, four years now. And my role has evolved a lot over the years. And I’ve fit really well into my role of culinary education so now I’m developing a lot of the plant-based culinary education around our Healthy Eating program, whether they’re educational tools for in stores, for healthy eating specialists and demo specialists, or whether they’re recipes being developed for foods and perishables, or a website or what. And it’s just getting out there and helping educate, you know? Making it so simple and telling people really the versatility of plants is what it’s all about. I mean, we have such an amazing, robust program here at Whole Foods Market called Health Starts Here. People can follow our facebook site and look at Health Starts Here and at the Whole Foods Market website as well. There’s just an immense amount of information up there. Our whole goal, as well, is the same thing as what we’ve been talking about: making it simple, approachable, and delicious. And if it’s affordable, if it’s simple, and if it’s delicious, what else do you need? I mean, those are the three hangups and excuses that you hear from people all the time, “Oh, it doesn’t taste good, it’s too expensive, and it’s too difficult.” All three of those are the biggest hangups that you hear and excuses that people give for why they can’t eat a plant-based diet. We’re trying to demystify that and just take the mystery out of it and just make it simple so everybody can embrace it. And even if it’s small little techniques. I have all of these technique videos up on the website, on, of how to do a simple no-oil sauté, or how do you braise, or how do you grill, or how do you marinade, what’s the basis of making a smoothie or a veggie burger. Just the simple techniques that I think are long-lasting, that’s what’s going to help people sustain a healthier diet. A healthier lifestyle.

Caryn Hartglass: And it’s all free? Those videos that you can watch and you can learn everything you need to know? Now that is really awesome.

Chad Sarno: Yeah. I have a huge video section on my website that I’ve been adding to. I just launched that as well at All of my videos are up there (from) over the years whether they’re recipes or events or anything like that so folks can check those out. There are some great resources out there. I think the community’s growing more and more over the years and there are some stellar chefs out there and amazing advocates and experts in this field so that there’s no excuse anymore. There’s so much free information out there for people to grasp onto to and make it accessible and fit within their lifestyle.

Caryn Hartglass: You know, the nice thing, or the thing that I notice, is the chefs that are making all of this wonderful vegan food—look at them. They are slim, they look good. You are an excellent, stunning example. But when we look at most of the chefs today on the Food Network and chefs all around, they don’t look healthy and they’re on the plus side. And I think that’s important. I really would like to see one of the important factors of delicious food being that it’s good for you because you can make delicious food and not have to pay the price for it.

Chad Sarno: Yeah, I completely agree with that. And it’s just investing that little bit of time. And it’s even cheaper than eating a processed food diet. A lot of people think eating a healthy diet is so expensive. Well, if you’re shopping, and you’re eating all processed food…If you look at the Standard American Diet, Caryn, I mean, it’s over 70% processed food. So if somebody’s converting and thinking that if they just eat organic they’re eating healthy and if you’re just buying organic 70% processed foods of your diet, it’s going to be more expensive. But if you shift that 70% to fresh whole food, shopping the perimeter of the store whether it’s in the produce or the bulk department, I mean, you’re paying pennies for every meal. It’s remarkable how cheap beans and grains and greens are. And if that’s the staple of your diet with the occasional treat or what not, the affordability of it is amazing.

Caryn Hartglass: It’s true. You know, Whole Foods gets a bad rap from time to time. People joke and call it Whole Paycheck but if you go to Whole Foods and you’re buying those simple whole foods, you can really do very well. There are some of those foods that are priced very, very reasonably.

Chad Sarno: Yeah. The company is really focused on value with the 365 brand, whether it’s canned beans or any kind of canned product or packaged product or frozen product. There are frozen greens and whole grains. All of that. It’s just learning how to shop and I think that’s a big challenge for most people. It’s really just taking the steps to educate themselves. The first step is when they’re going to shop. How to fill a basket? How do you stretch meals? How do you make something in the beginning of the week that you can utilize in three to four different applications during your busy workweek? It’s just thinking ahead. It’s a little bit more planning. It’s some self-motivation and going out there and learning the basics: how to shop and what to buy and the basics of cooking, you know? Some grains and beans and you’ll be blown away with how many people out there really don’t know how to cook whole grains or just beans, just dried beans. We’re seeing this in a lot of our classes and also with the viewing of the videos online. One of the most-watched videos on the website is “How to Steam,” which is amazing. That just shows you. A lot of us may be on the coast or in a little bit more progressive cities and it’s kind of shocking but when you start doing some education and teaching in some of inner America and all that, the diet is very different and the resources aren’t out there as much as they are in more of the progressive cities.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. We joke from time to time about how people don’t know how to boil water but right next to that is steaming and that’s all it is.

Chad Sarno: Yeah, exactly. That was the most painful video I’ve ever made in my life was “How to Steam.” But anyways, those are up on all of the sites. Just some really exciting things happening in the plant-based world. And, again, tons of pioneers and hats off to the pioneers out there and the experts and people pushing their businesses and just following their heart and knowing they’re doing the right thing.

Caryn Hartglass: I think people are just afraid sometimes to get back into the kitchen. They’re so distanced from it. If you just thought about how to do things from just a logical point of view, you could figure most things out but I think there’s this distanced fear that maybe we’ve even been marketed and manipulated to feel so that we go out and buy things from fast-food restaurants and who knows how subliminal it’s been. I don’t know.

Chad Sarno: I think what people fear the most is urban spice combining and the basic cooking methods and how to cook grains and beans, just the simple items like that. On my website also, I have…if people sign up for the newsletter they get an extensive urban spice combining chart and a quick glance guide. It kind of shows everything in each column what blends flavor-wise together. It’s just simple tools like that. Simple little quick glance charts. There are just so many resources out there that are available at our fingertips.

Caryn Hartglass: One of the first things that I learned from you was making cheese with probiotics.

Chad Sarno: We have a couple of those in the book. They’re not using probiotics in the book but you obviously can if you’re going to culture. And there are some great raw cheese companies out there. Like Dr. Cow is one of them out of Brooklyn and there’s some great examples out there. We have some that are a little quicker-setting after that doesn’t take exactly how it would taste if you were to culture it because that tends to intimidate some people with culturing. But it’s not…they do the trick and utilizing cashews and almonds and some of those concentrated fats to make the base of your cheese. They’re great little alternatives.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, I really think this is the beginning of something that we’re going to see really bloom because people love cheese.

Chad Sarno: There’s a very close friend of mine who is…I won’t reveal it now because it’s not full public but there’s a cheese that’s going to be coming out on the market that’s going to be a game changer. And it’s not the blended cashew itself, it’s basically the high-fat milk, which is nut-based, and cultures and enzymes and cultured and pressed and aged and it’s exactly the same process as cheese-making. It’s going to be hitting the shelves in the next few months.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, why not?

Chad Sarno: It will definitely be a game changer so it’s very exciting what’s in the works.

Caryn Hartglass: People won’t be able to say, “But I need to have my cheese.” They can give up dairy and they’ll have it all. Very exciting. Just one more question. You have a daughter. How old is she?

Chad Sarno: I have a daughter. She’s 7. My little joy in my life. She’s seven years old and she resides with me here in Austin, Texas.

Caryn Hartglass: What does she like to eat?

Chad Sarno: She loves her green smoothies. I am so grateful that she loves her green smoothies. She loves her starches and the vegan mac-and-cheese I made her the other night and things like that of course she loves. One good thing is she absolutely loves her green smoothies and she asks for them. Over the years I’ve been doing green smoothie demos at all the little schools she’s been going to with her classes and it’s a lot of fun. I think it’s really important for folks who have kids to get them involved. Get them in the kitchen. Let them pick veggies out of a garden or pick veggies out at a farmers’ market, what looked beautiful. Get them involved in the kitchen. It just makes it so simple and so much easier to have them try and to experience more plant-based foods if their hands are in there and they choose themselves.

Caryn Hartglass: I just wanted to wrap up and get back to Crazy, Sexy Kitchen. I know that in addition to all of your recipes, there were a number of guest chefs in the book and I have here in the studio with me for the next part of the show Chef Fran Costigan and she’s in that book too.

Chad Sarno: She is. Fran and I go way back. She is an absolute powerhouse pastry chef.

Fran Costigan: Hi Chad.

Chad Sarno: Hi Fran.

Fran Costigan: Hi Chad. It’s so nice to see you sweetie.

Chad Sarno: Look at that. I’m singing your praises and you’re right there. Awesome. Good to be on here with you, Fran. Yeah, she’s one of the chefs in the book and we just have an amazing lineup. It’s just always a pleasure to work with Fran on any projects.

Caryn Hartglass: Chad, thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food. All the best with Crazy, Sexy Kitchen and all of your wonderful projects and thanks for doing what you’re doing for all of us.

Chad Sarno: Thank you so much, Caryn, for having me. I appreciate it.

Caryn Hartglass: Happy Holidays.

Chad Sarno: OK, you too. Goodbye.

Caryn Hartglass: That was Chad Sarno and you can go to his website for all of those wonderful videos he was talking about and a whole lot more. OK, we’re going to take a quick break and then we’ll be back with Chef Fran Costigan to talk about irresistible chocolate vegan desserts. We’ll be right back.

Transcribed by Jennie Steinhagen, 2/24/2013

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