Leigh-Chantelle, Viva La Vegan!


viva_la_vegan_10th_anniversary_20160111_1012870420Leigh-Chantelle is a published author, international speaker & consultant, singer/songwriter and blogger who lives mostly in Brisbane, Australia. She has run the online vegan community Viva la Vegan! since 2005, bringing positive education, information and vegan outreach to a worldwide audience. Leigh-Chantelle gives lectures, workshops, consultations, and coaching for Understanding Social Media, Staging Effective Events, and Vegan Health & Lifestyle.


Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody, hello everybody. How are you today? I’m good, thanks. Thanks for asking.

So we just got through this crazy few hours of a storm. Weather is so much fun, isn’t it? We’ve had really cold weather here in New York City. One degree, two degrees; that’s Fahrenheit. Today was up in the fifties but like blowing. I felt like I was in the Wizard of Oz in that twister. [whirling sounds] But now it’s all calm. It’s quiet outside; it’s quiet inside. I’m ready to talk food with you.

Now, first thing that I wanted to bring up, I just found out about this, really excited about it. There is a documentary –actually, it’s the fifth episode of a new docu-series. Maybe you’ve seen some of it already; I have to admit that I have not. But it’s part of Truth and Power. The fifth episode is a new docu-series narrated by –wait a minute, I’m going to get this right. It’s the fifth episode that I want to talk about; all of the series has been narrated by Maggie Gyllenhaal. I love her; she’s a really great actor.

This particular episode is on a group of animal rights activists who became the targets of government and local law enforcement intimidation for their efforts to expose and protest corporations’ controversial treatment of animals. It’s called Activists or Terrorists? And investigative journalist Will Potter and punk-rock academic Ryan Shapiro show how they are using freedom of information laws to uncover how the United States government uses harsh policies and the label of terrorists to silence animal rights activists.

Now we’ve heard from Will Potter; we’ve heard quite a bit from him and other people on these –not the freedom of information laws; thank goodness we have them– these laws that are labeling animal activists terrorists.

It can be seen on Pivot. Not a big television person but I Googled Pivot and Truth and Power, and I discovered that I can actually watch it. This Friday, February 19th at 10 PM, Eastern Time. So you’ll have to Google Pivot and see if you can see it in your area. But I would really recommend it; I think it’s going to be awesome and I’m so glad that it’s screening on television. So that’s the Animal or –okay, I got to slow down here. It’s called Activists or Terrorists? It’s part of the Truth and Power ten-part documentary series on Pivot this Friday.

Phew! Okay, let’s move on and let’s get to the meat of the program. I want to bring on my guest, Leigh-Chantelle. It’s early in the morning for her so I’m glad that she woke up to talk to us all the way from Australia. She’s a published author, international speaker, consultant, singer-songwriter and blogger who lives mostly in Brisbane. She has run the online vegan community Viva La Vegan since 2005, bringing positive action information and vegan outreach to the worldwide audience. She gives lectures, workshops, consultations and coaching for understanding social media, staging effective events and vegan health and lifestyle. Welcome to It’s All About Food.

Leigh-Chantelle: Thank you, Caryn. How are you?

Caryn Hartglass: I’m good. I always get chills when I talk to people so far away.

Leigh-Chantelle: Hello.

Caryn Hartglass: It just makes the world so small.

Leigh-Chantelle: It’s wonderful really, isn’t it?

Caryn Hartglass: It is wonderful, and I also love feeling that there’s a small and ever-growing community out there with other people who are passionate about doing what I’m passionate about. And that’s this: vegan activism, online vegan activism. And doing it for quite awhile. So you’re celebrating the tenth anniversary of Viva La Vegan.

Leigh-Chantelle: Yes, yes. Pretty full on really when you think about it.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.

Leigh-Chantelle: We just had a party actually on Saturday night. It’s Wednesday morning here now. And we had a party for the anniversary and my new vegan athletes’ book. So it was really fun. Made a lot of food and had some good music, some good people –just a really good vibe. It was really nice actually.

Caryn Hartglass: It is, and this is the future. I want to believe this is the wave of the future. We’re building the community of the future.

Leigh-Chantelle: I hope so.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, and I think we should just continue to celebrate. There’s a lot out things there to be sad and frustrated about, but I just like moving forward, celebrating the things that we have to celebrate. So congratulations to you.

Leigh-Chantelle: Thank you. Yeah, I think it was really important just to be in the moment and take the time to celebrate and to go, “Hey, I did this. This is a really cool goal. I’m going to celebrate this.” Because we’re so busy in our lives and –I don’t know if you’re like me– but I’m always onto the next thing before actually appreciating what I’ve done and what I’ve achieved. So it was really important for me just to take stock and take the time to acknowledge this success. I’m really glad I did that actually.

Caryn Hartglass: And I’m glad you just brought that up because I can’t tell you how many times my partner Gary and I have sat down for a moment and said, “Hey, wait a minute. We just did something amazing! We’re now working on the next thing and we never took a moment to celebrate or pat ourselves on the back. Or breathe or anything.” It’s just this continual –I don’t know what it is– to do more. It’s never enough.

Leigh-Chantelle: I know. Exactly. I know I’m guilty of that. Most of us are. And in particular with the area we’re in –veganism and animal rights in particular– it’s so hard to get some really good achievements sometimes or to actually appreciate them. I’ve been vegan; I’ll be vegan twenty years next year.

Caryn Hartglass: Whoo-hoo!

Leigh-Chantelle: And when you see how many things have changed and that people know the word at least –or some version of the word. That’s massive in comparison to twenty years ago when you’d say vegan and [chuckling] people would be blank. They’d have no idea what you’re talking about.

Caryn Hartglass: Exactly. I don’t know about down in Australia, but we’re at a point now where in commercials on television, they make fun of vegans. I think this is really positive because they know we’re out there and they’re getting scared of us actually.

Leigh-Chantelle: Yeah. I hope so.

Caryn Hartglass: [laughs] Great. Tell me what we can find at Viva La Vegan and how you’ve grown over the last ten years with this online community.

Leigh-Chantelle: Well, it started originally I finished a natural cooking and nutrition in Western herbalism medicine course at college here. I wanted to release a recipe calendar, a recipe book. I’d always wanted to do that. And I thought I would just do a recipe calendar first. Any twelve recipes; it should be easy. A friend from school came out with the title Viva La Vegan. I released that at the end of 2005.

I had a website, my Leigh-Chantelle.com website for my music and I just thought, “Oh, I’ll have another website.” And then people would ask me, “Oh, you should put more recipes up or some articles. You should do some videos or talk to this person.” It honestly grew so organically over that time, and when I think back to some of those things, it’s really bizarre how it’s grown.

And we just relaunched –maybe a month ago, I think it was? And it’s a lot more condensed. Because a few months back, there was so much on the website and it was a bit overwhelming. So now I’ve just broken it down to information, articles and blogs. It’s in a more easy-to-use format so you can look in under sort of search terms and keywords. LIke weddings, animals or environment. We’ve got a load of recipes and demonstrations. Doing a little video on YouTube. There are some books that I sell on my store, and just some information about my speaking training consulting. Yeah, just so much information.

Caryn Hartglass: It’s amazing how much information can arrive on a website. And then you have to figure out, “Well, what do I do with all this stuff?”

Leigh-Chantelle: Well, that was one December actually. It was going through ten years of stuff from my website. And going, “Okay, where do I put these? What section does it go into? Do I need it still? Do I need to update it?” So that was a lot more work than I sort of thought it would be. ]

Caryn Hartglass: Oh yeah. It’s almost like moving.

Leigh-Chantelle: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: And going through drawers and deciding what to take with you and what not to. I mean, I imagine it wasn’t fun, but at the same time you probably got to see, “Wow. I did all of this!” Wow!

Leigh-Chantelle: Yes. I had a load of writers over the years too. It was really good to say, “Oh, so-and-so write this five years ago. I really liked this one. I really remember how popular this was.” Yeah, it was just really nice to go through.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. So you started –it says here on your little website logo here– “since 2005.”

Leigh-Chantelle: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: And there wasn’t a lot going on the Internet back then. We didn’t really have Facebook. I know Facebook started in 2004, but it really wasn’t available for all of us, the public, I don’t think until 2006 or so.

Leigh-Chantelle: Hmm.

Caryn Hartglass: That was an amazing way for people to connect and get information out for no cost really. And things started to grow from there. So you were right there from the beginning of that big explosion.

Leigh-Chantelle: Yeah, definitely. We had MySpace back then actually. I was all about MySpace.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, it was MySpace. That’s right. That’s right.

Leigh-Chantelle: I loved MySpace. I had one for my music and one for vegan stuff. So I was on there quite a bit.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, yeah. I never could remember that. I could never quite figure that out. MySpace.

Leigh-Chantelle: Yeah, I don’t like it when you didn’t. That’s when I learned basic coding as well. I thought it was very spammy to be honest. Took forever to load pages because people would just spam your wall all the time. But I really liked it. It was a really good beginning of how the web would sort of go forward in regards to small sort of communities connecting online. But yeah.

It was ten years ago, in Australia in particular; we had a load of the animal rights and those sorts of groups. Animal liberation in particular in Australia. And a lot of the vegan, vegetarian societies. But we didn’t really have anyone who did similar to what I do now, and I find that really interesting to tell people because everyone’s like, “There’s so many vegan bloggers or lifestyle blogs and stuff.”

But ten years ago, there wasn’t. And mine was the first website that was not aligned with any group that had not only recipes but lifestyle based stuff. So it was telling people, “You know, you could get makeup. You could get toiletries. You could travel here.” And it was how –I guess– things are now. But it was quite new at the time.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m looking at your recipe and demos. And there are some icons here that say gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, sugar-free, Paleo. Does these apply to all you recipes or certain recipes?

Leigh-Chantelle: Most of them have those icons on them.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay.

Leigh-Chantelle: So if you click on a different icon –like say, the Paleo one, they’ll come up with all of the Paleo options. But Paleo vegan obviously. ]

Caryn Hartglass: Yes, obviously. The way they really ate back in the Paleolithic era was like Paleo vegan.

Leigh-Chantelle: Yeah. Sorry to butt in. I read this article recently about –I can’t remember who did it actually– but they found tools for grinding grains back in that Paleolithic era. And you know how the Paleo people don’t eat grains supposedly. I just had quite a laugh about that.

Caryn Hartglass: Oops. Yeah. Oops, oops, oops.

Leigh-Chantelle: That was a scientific finding.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. It’s crazy. I live in 2012 and I’m moving forward. And taking the best from what I know now.

Leigh-Chantelle: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. The Paleolithic era was another time. Yeah.

Leigh-Chantelle: Yeah, yeah. It’s a hard one because it’s just like any fad to be honest, I think. And people get caught up in it. I don’t think it helps that it’s linked to that Crossfit thing either and people that are really into working out. There’s massive movement over here. Like we’ve got a lot of 24-hour gyms, and a lot more people seem to care about the way they look or exercising more and things like that.

But I don’t think many people understand the right foods to be eating or even just what clean eating is. So many people use the term clean eating and you’re like, “Mm.” I don’t think I’d call that clean.”

Caryn Hartglass: I know what you mean. Yeah. Okay, so I want to know. You’ve been doing this for ten years. What are the most popular recipes on your site? What are people looking for?

Leigh-Chantelle: I think the most popular things is –like say, my cheese-

Caryn Hartglass: Exactly.

Leigh-Chantelle: I’ve got a cheese sauce that you can make out of just four ingredients. Nutritional yeast, some sort of oil, some sort of rice or some sort of flour, and some sort of milk. So I make a gluten-free healthier version but that’s just how I prefer.

That’s probably one of the most popular actually because so many people really –I know it’s a lot easier the last five years particularly to get cheeses. But a lot of them are quite expensive in particular over here, if we ship your sort of food to Australia. So you can easily pay ten to twenty dollars for a packaged cheese over here. In Australian dollars.

I’ve been to the states quite a few times and I know how much the food costs over there, in your sort of supermarkets or vegan stores. And it just I cannot buy those sort of foods here because I know that normally costs five dollars in America. I’m not going to spend twenty dollars on that here.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, absolutely. Some of the ones that have been around for a while aren’t even very good.

Leigh-Chantelle: Yeah, exactly. I’m honestly not a cheese person. I’ve never have a craving. I don’t need it. It’s not essential in my sort of diet. I know a lot of people crave it, and it’s good that there are those options nowadays. But I also think that we need to be relying on things that we can make ourselves instead of this sort of processed vegan foods.

As much as vegan food is better than the standard diet on a basic level, there’s so many products that are vegan nowadays that just aren’t healthy and are very processed. I just hope that we can move away a bit from those things.

Caryn Hartglass: I really agree and I’m glad that you’re saying all these things. I’m just laughing to myself here because on my non-profit website Responsible Eating and Living.com, our number one recipe forever and leaps and bounds ahead of any other recipe is our almond-mozzarella cheese. It has some nutritional yeast, it has some oil, it’s almond based, and it’s very good. I don’t make it very often.

Leigh-Chantelle: It’s not.

Caryn Hartglass: And then right under that are cookies and cakes.

Leigh-Chantelle: Yeah. It’s always about the sweets.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, that’s what people are looking for. So I keep trying to put out this whole-food, plant-based nutritious love for really healthy foods. And people are still looking for cheese and sweets.

Leigh-Chantelle: Exactly. And a lot of fake meat stuff. Like a load of people like the fake meat things. And I’m not saying never have that to people, and I think it’s amazing transition food. A lot of those foods. But I just think it’s one of those eat every now and then foods. Like maybe once a week, if that.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, absolutely. Okay. Now you have a book out.

Leigh-Chantelle: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: And I want to talk about that. You interviewed over a hundred athletes. Vegan athletes.

Leigh-Chantelle: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: And put all of this information into a book. What I first wanted to say is there seems to be a lot of continuity with the responses in terms of what they’re eating and why they came to this place. Being vegan as an athlete.

Leigh-Chantelle: Yeah. I think I like the idea because I think there’s more different people, different reasons they’re coming to it. Like some people are like, “I don’t care about my health. I just care about the animals” or “Don’t look at my diet. It’s pretty bad.” Or those sorts of things. And there are other people who are just raw all the time: never have oil; never have sugar and things like that. I think it’s quite different. Then with the food: it’s lots of grains, lots of beans. Whole foods really.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.

Leigh-Chantelle: That’s what the majority of the people in the book are saying to eat. Stuff that’s lighter, I guess. Lots of [20:21] oats get mentioned and grains. Some people say about the brains versus not eating brains. You’ve got both sides on that. I think it’s really interesting how many different types of people there are in it actually. And I love the fact –because I come from an animal rights position, and that’s why I went vegan in the first place twenty years ago.

But a lot of the people in the book are more health based and lifestyle or fitness based and exercise. I find that sort of interesting to learn from those sorts of people because I think the past five years in particular with the use of the term vegan, I think that should mean plant-based. In a lot of cases with what a lot of people are using online, especially with the media. So it’s really interesting to find out what people do and what people eat.

Yeah, the book’s got 111 people. And I made a pact when I first started four or so years ago. If I got one hundred people to interview, I’d put it into a book form. So I had 135 all up. Yeah, such a big task. But I love it when –we just did the launch and just looking through it, it’s so easy to use and to read. You can just flick to a page and read about one person. You can just read all the quotes or the tips. I think it’s really good.

I know for myself when I was editing it, it was inspiring to me. A load of people said it’s really inspiring to them too. So that’s really good, and I hope it gets to more non-vegans.

Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. I just wanted to –I grabbed a few things that I wanted to mention from different people in the book. Just to give people a taste and things that made me smile. So you interviewed Atsuyuki Katsuyama, the vegan barefoot ultra-marathoner.

Leigh-Chantelle: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: And there was the question about what is the most common question that people ask when they found out that you’re a vegan and how you respond. So it says here:

People: How do you take protein?

I: Many kinds of plant-based foods. How do you take your protein?

People: Meat.

I: Do you know how much protein you need in one day?

People: No.

I: If you do not know it, how can you say that you’re taking enough protein?

People: ?

I: I know how much protein I need to take in one day, and all the vegetables and fruits cover that amount. And I run a hundred miles too.”

I love that.

Leigh-Chantelle: He’s great. I actually met –we call him K for short– and I met him in Bangkok. Him and his partner run a vegan café called Bonita in Bangkok. Yeah, he’s a great guy. Really enthusiastic. And some of that stuff people don’t speak English as their first language. Had to edit a few bits so it would be a bit more readable in some cases. But I love that.

And load of people have that issue. Like where do you get your protein? And they have no idea how much protein you need or why it’s a big deal. They just know-

Caryn Hartglass: Or what it is! They don’t even know what it is!

Leigh-Chantelle: Totally. And that was ridiculous in my book. I think there was like 70% of the people I interviewed still get asked where they get their protein. Which I think is absolutely ridiculous. Like you can say to these people, “Some of these people in this book are bodybuilders and people that work out all the time.” Guys and girls who have massive bulging muscles. And I can just imagine the conversation. “Where do you get your protein?” They’re like, “Hmm, think I’m doing’ all right.”

Caryn Hartglass: Exactly. I just don’t want to go into my opinion of humans as a species, but…

Leigh-Chantelle: You’re okay.

Caryn Hartglass: Another one: Betsy Bailey, vegan volley baller. She wrote her first year playing in France. Her coach when he found out she was vegan told her she must eat pasta everyday for energy. She told him that if he ever notices that she’s lacking in energy, then he can tell her what to eat. And since then she’s had a few teammates actually go vegan on and on. I mean, exactly. They don’t have a clue!

Leigh-Chantelle: No. Most people don’t. And that’s the issue in particular with the fitness industry that I’ve noticed. Or even doctors, supposed health industries. A lot of people don’t have any nutritional background or anything like that. And I know when I was studying –which is over ten years ago now– it’s something like doctors only have to learn five hours of nutrition and like an elective. You don’t necessarily have to go to those hours. I just remember thinking, “That’s ridiculous.”

So many people –especially say, my parents’ generation– would go to doctors and whatever the doctor says, that’s what’s it’s going to be. And they have no nutritional qualifications. There’s so many people that just sort of say, “Oh yeah. I was vegan, but my doctor told me not to because I need this, this, this.” I think that’s really sad and it’s really bad.

Caryn Hartglass: So sad.

Leigh-Chantelle: It’s really bad when people don’t have– I think also now the issue is people don’t do their own research anymore. That does annoy me on a sort of blanket level wit society. You just see something online, and you just believe it. There are a lot of people who believe whatever they see online. And if someone looks hot and if someone’s lost a heap of weight, then, “Oh, I’m going to believe them with what’s going to work for me as well.” That’s a hard one that we somehow need to solve. I don’t know how.

Caryn Hartglass: I know. People don’t know how to research. They just go online, they find something that they like and then they become an expert. It doesn’t work that way, everybody.

Leigh-Chantelle: No. Definitely not.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Well, Leigh-Chantelle, congratulations on ten years of your vegan activism and all that stuff that you’ve put up on your website and your new book. I want to thank you for talking with me. Wish you the very best.

Leigh-Chantelle: Thank you very much, Caryn.

Transcribed by Heather T, 2/21/2016

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