August 10, 2011

Natural Foodie: Personal chef's vegan meals resonate with non-vegans

By Avery Yale Kamila akamila@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

Chris McClay of Westbrook runs a personal chef business called Modern Vegan, but she doesn't cater to vegans.

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Chris McClay of Modern Vegan prepares vegetables for a shepherd’s pie in a client’s kitchen in Falmouth. McClay cooks up to five days’ worth of plant-based meals in one visit.

Photos by Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Chris McClay offers an extensive menu of raw vegan and cooked vegan dishes, and is constantly adding new recipes.

WHAT IS VEGAN FOOD?

OFTEN REFERRED TO as a plant-based diet, vegan food is made without meat, cheese, eggs or other animal products.

VEGAN COOKING

CHRIS McCLAY offers an in-home chef service to clients looking for raw and cooked plant-based meals. She charges $40 per hour, with a minimum of three hours, plus the cost of groceries. Find more information and menus at modern-vegan.com or call her at 409-7778.

MODERN VEGAN COOKING CLASSES

JOIN CHRIS McCLAY to learn the basic techniques of plant-based cooking along with how to prepare specific recipes. The Aug. 13 menu includes quinoa bok choy orange "fried rice," hijiki seaweed salad with spicy sesame sauce, Thai tofu red curry with forbidden rice and dessert sushi. The Aug. 20 menu features broccoli rabe with figs, garlic and pine nuts, spinach pesto over zucchini "pasta," spring vegetable risotto and chocolate truffles three ways. Each class is followed by a waterfront dinner and a sunset boat ride.

WHEN: 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 13 and 20

WHERE: Waterfront home, Little Sebago Lake

HOW MUCH: $50 per class; space is limited

INFO: 409-7778; chris@modern-vegan.com

"It's so interesting – nobody's been vegan yet," McClay said of the clients for her business, which she launched in April. "I've always had the feeling right from the beginning that my service is not for vegans. However, my clients do lean towards vegetarianism."

One such client is Paul Kelley. At 66, he exercises regularly and is far from being considered obese. But during the past five years, he's watched his weight and blood pressure creep ever higher.

Most distressing to him has been the persistent rise in his blood sugar levels, which recently spiked into the zone associated with diabetes.

"It was an alarming trend for me, and I wanted to do something about it," said Kelley, who lives in Falmouth with his wife.

In an effort to reverse these numbers, Kelley, who's eaten meat and dairy products his entire life, first consulted with his doctor and then hired McClay in June. Since then, he's been eating vegan meals prepared by McClay three times a day.

"In six weeks, my weight has gone down 10 pounds," Kelley said. His blood sugar numbers have dropped as well.

Kelley said his new mealtime routine is not a temporary diet, but a long-term lifestyle change favoring plants over processed foods, sweets and animal products. "I eat what I want of her food, even with some cheating in there," Kelley said.

The biggest challenge comes when he eats out. When Kelley and his wife dine at a restaurant that doesn't offer decent vegan fare, they'll both order salads without cheese and then split a chicken-based entree.

McClay's signature service is a once-a-week visit to her clients' kitchens, where she prepares enough food to provide three meals a day for up to five days. For clients who want food for the entire week, she'll come to their homes twice a week.

She shops and cooks for most of her clients every week, but she also works with people who have a one-time need, such as meals for visiting family or a meal for a vegetarian friend.

On a regular weekly visit, McClay prepares four to five dishes. These might be hemp protein granola bars, chickpea spinach stew, Cajun sweet potato fries, quinoa bok choy salad and coconut milk ice cream.

"I treat each visit like it's my family, and I cook what I think they'll like," McClay said.

She regularly checks in with clients and asks them which dishes are their favorites. "Then each week I pick a couple from the favorites list and add a couple new things," McClay said.

Her most requested dish is mango bean salad. Other favorites include tofu breakfast burritos, paella with faux sausage, chick'n piccata, chana masala and raw lasagna, which is made with uncooked cashew ricotta cheese, sundried tomato sauce and zucchini noodles.

McClay offers an extensive menu of raw vegan and cooked vegan dishes, and is constantly adding new recipes.

At the request of clients, she's produced meals that are kid-friendly, low-carb and salt-free.

McClay charges $40 per hour, with a minimum of three hours, plus the cost of groceries. An average cooking session lasts about three and a half hours, and most clients pay around $250 for five days' worth of prepared food.

Kelley said before McClay started cooking for him and his wife, the couple ate out at least four times a week. Now that he's eating out less, he calculated that he's saving about $150 a week on food costs.

"What we love about it is she comes in for one afternoon and cooks up a storm for three or four hours," Kelley said. "She does all the shopping too.

"She makes ordinary meals spectacular. As a result of this, I don't have to watch what I eat."

 

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: akamila@pressherald.com

Follow her on Twitter at: Twitter.com/AveryYaleKamila

 

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