Recently, Venus Williams publicly addressed her battle with Sjogren’s syndrome, and how her raw vegan diet really helps her handle her illness. And you probably heard about her Serena Williams setting a record for number of aces in a match at Wimbledon 2012–a whopping 102. But did you know she did it on a vegan diet?
I had been told I should meet a chef named Lauren Von Der Pool, Venus and Serena Williams’ personal chef, months before she randomly hit me up on Facebook. Don’t you love that chat feature? I asked Lauren how she got her start and she responded with “Google me son.” So, I did, and then we had a little chat. This is what I found out.
So Google told me you are the premier vegan chef to the stars.
No one has ever said that to me before. I started when I was 16 in DC, getting into a lot of trouble and it was not that I was trying to change my life, it just happened organically. I looked at my environment and noticed I was eating a lot of processed food and had no balance. The closest I came was my grandmothers’ home cooked Caribbean breakfast of salt fish and bakes–other than that it was a lot of chips and blue juice and a host of other junk. She jokes Boston Baked beans were my breakfast. I was the queen of “hood gourmet.” Lunch at school was pizza, and dinner was chicken wings and mumba sauce.
Lauren goes on to say that it occurred to her that no adult in her environment ever had any input otherwise about her diet.
I grew up really poor and everyone was on food stamps (laughs). I look back and remember waiting for everyone to leave the store before whipping out the food stamps. It was embarrassing.
You said no adult had any input, so how did you know something was wrong?
It was a light bulb that just went off. I just became more aware this is my breakfast. It was more systemic, because the parents were either on drugs or just not there. This is a huge epidemic. The food desert in the inner city is like chemical warfare. Poisonous foods in colorful packaging, drugs, and alcohol flood the environment. It creates chemical imbalances in the body and a lot of the time, it’s not the drugs. It’s the food.
For example, how can a child go to school and learn, if they are not getting enough oxygen to their brain? I started asking questions: How does this food affect you? Is there a link between obesity and what we are eating? I was more so looking at it from within my own environment and thought this is really effed up.
So I decided if no adult was going to do it, I was. I began to educate myself with raw food and nutrition at 16. I put my teachers on diets at school. I gave them list of what to eat, where to get it, and what herbs to combat things like arthritis. I was not trained but I was just so passionate about it and I believe if when you find your calling, the law of attraction kicks in and what you need comes to you.
We cannot just sit around and twiddle our thumbs waiting for someone to tell us what to do. We are powerful beyond belief.
Who is the “we” you speak of?
Initially, it was the people in my environment the kids in my neighborhood. I was one of them. It seemed like everybody was on drugs, including my family members. I would go over to a friend’s house and their mom might be smoking crack in front of us. It was everywhere. I would look out the window and see crack heads, prostitution, etc. It was very much the hood at that time. I was not thinking about suburbia at the time. Today my view is much more expansive. I don’t think it’s race specific. It’s not about a color. It’s about humanity. It took an evolution.
Growing up I was that girl who had all the name brands, Fendi, Prada, Gucci, etc., but living in the worst house on the block–like 5 people to a bedroom poor. I had to break free of that, so I gave away all my clothes and just wore fabric. Yes, people thought I was crazy. I stopped combing my hair and became totally “hippified.” I believed my beauty came from within. And I didn’t need these things.
Funny, because one of my questions is, when I was Facebook stalking you I noticed that your pictures are very “on brand” sexy, foodie erotic etc. So what was the root of that?
It was all in growth. It’s a long story. Where should I begin? When I was 16 I would sell my raw vegan food in front of colleges, like GW, Howard, etc., so I had a clientele of business people, drug dealers, students etc. I was making about 2 grand a week with my business. I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and then I meet my son’s father. I was young and he was a lot older. I was naive and he took full advantage. I didn’t know it at the time but there were a lot of red flags. Thinking back it was a crazy life I had, I lost my virginity to him and simultaneously got pregnant with my son at the age of 17. How many times does that happen?
Editors note: As most of us know abusive relationships are ongoing until you can brake the cycle this was no different. it went on for three more years. I decided to take out details for safety of my subject.
The next few years became more and more abusive so at age 19 I planned to escape the madness- I moved with my son to a silent monastery (nahziryah monastic community) where you are only allowed to wear purple, in the Ozark mountains in Arkansas. It changed my life. You meditate 3 times a day, and it’s all vegan. I started to just visualize. A lot. I didn’t know about “The Secret” or anything like that. I had a lot of growth and strengthening my vision. I must say one of he most powerful and essential lessons I learned while at the monastery is this – most basic yoga is meditation if you master that you can achieve anything. This is how I learned to manifest the things I wanted to change in my life. I eventually came back to DC. My son’s father found me and kicked down the door. It was crazy. I got away and went into hiding, it was like the underground railroad, honey. It was crazy!
I was hiding out in a basement apartment in DC, about to move to Petersburg VA. On my way to mail the money order to pay my friend for letting me stay in her place, I ran into another friend who said “hey Lauren, my friend Wesley Howard wants you to be a personal chef for him.” I said I’m about to move to VA, like tomorrow. He said just call him. So I called -he told me he had colon cancer and choose to change his diet instead of a western medicine approach. I told him I didn’t see how I could take on a personal client because I was moving the next day. He said you are not moving anywhere, you are going to be my chef, so find a place here in the DC area and I will pay your first and last months rent and put you on salary as my personal chef. So, I said yes and found a place in Takoma Park, MD then, I had this moment of shedding everything. it all had to go I burned all my “fabric” clothes, cut my locks, burned all my pictures with my old hair and just started over. I put Wesley (my first client) on fast after cleanse and raw food until the cancer went in remission until it was gone completely.
I went out and bought my first pair of tight pants and regular clothes. And I realized I forgot I was beautiful, I forgot I was sexy and the power of my feminine energy. I feel like I have been given specific instructions as to how to teach what is coming through me in a certain way and it works for me. I was healing myself after being abused and I had to give myself permission to be beautiful. I want to be an inspiration to most importantly to my son who experienced domestic violence as well as abuse survivors and children around the world. I want to show that you can break the cycle and there is no excuse you can do whatever you want. Unless you stop you.
I know that’s a lot but…It’s a lot more interesting than “ I know that will sell.”
Lauren goes on to say her new client who hired her because of his prostate cancer was her angle. He gave her a books, music, advice etc., introduced her to Eckhart Tolle and other metaphysical text and so on. It became a real turning point and healing process in her life.
I think I get it, but I wonder, what do you love about cooking?
I’m an artist. I love to create beautiful food. The presentation is key, my favorite part is putting together new flavor profiles. And using different techniques. I’m like a chemist. I like the grind of it. Pound out 8 thousand pieces. I like to work the pace of say, catering the Grammys or Oscars. I also like to be slow and deliberate and of course -eating it. If you are not completely turned on when you sit down to eat then honey you should not be eating it. That’s my motto.
Food justice–what is your take on food deserts and monster seed companies, etc.
My purpose is raising awareness about food and how it can heal the body and how to be self sustaining. If you don’t know how to plant a seed or some herbs to grow your food then you are going to die. I’m really focused on how food effects the body, not the elitism we see a lot in this healthy living culture. I have worked with Michelle Obama in her Let’s Move campaign as well as other prominent neighborhood based organizations spreading awareness to low income communities.
Tell me more about your work with Michelle Obama.
I am one of her chefs. I go into schools and do cooking and food awareness demos, and green house initiatives. I also have my own non-profit. I actually got involved when I was invited to the white house in 2009 for a green energy economy forum for young leaders. I was the youngest CEO there. They were really impressed with my work and asked me to be apart of it and it kind of all started from there. Given that obesity is at its highest levels in our history and our nations capitol being at the top of the list, I work a lot here. However it’s a nation wide program so I work in Florida and California.
The program Lauren is referring to is Chefs Move to School–pretty cool stuff.
Miss Lauren goes on to say she got her start working with celebs first with the rapper Common who was friends with the Williams sisters, and when Venus was looking to heal herself with food she again serendipitously found herself in the right place at the right time. Rock on sis!
Now a recipe for raw pizza from Lauren’s new soon to be released ebook, Eat Yourself Sexy:
2 cups of Raw Cashews
1 tbsp. extra virgin coconut oil
1 tsp. of Italian herbs
Pink salt to taste
3 Tbsps. raw tahini (sesame butter)
½ medium onion
1 garlic cloves
¼ of water
1 cup extra virgin coconut oil
1 cup nutritional yeast
Pink Himalayan sea salt to taste
2 Tbsp. onion powder (optional)
1 Tbsp. garlic powder (optional)
6 whole tomatoes
1 cup sundried tomatoes
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp. favorite Italian herbs (thyme, basil, etc.)
Pink Himalayan sea salt and pepper to taste
1. Place cashews, pink salt, coconut oil and onion powder and Italian herbs into a food processor until it begins to turn into a ball of dough.
2. Begin to form crusts in to desired shapes by first taking a large handful of the dough and rolling it into a ball.
3. Place your thumb into the middle of the ball and begin thinning out the sides to create your crust.
4. Place into the dehydrator for 5 hours or just to get a little warm and crisp.
5. Add cheese sauce ingredients to blender; blend until smooth; pour mixture into medium bowl; set aside.
6. Add tomato sauce ingredients to blender; blend until smooth.
7. Spoon cheese sauce on top of tomato sauce; add favorite toppings into the crust.
Wan’t more of Lauren? We don’t blame you. Check out Lauren’s site, follow her on Twitter @QueenofGreenLV , and keep an eye out for her ebook, which is being released August 2nd through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and her website!