Going plant based has opened up a whole new world for me and I have met so many amazing people. One of those people is Czarra Platon. I met Czarra when she attended the very first Mesa Ni Misis collaboration at Lanai Cafe. I was told that she was ‘vegan’ and very strict. I got a little flustered because our menu had some cheese and eggs, so I made some changes with the kitchen staff. Thankfully she liked the food! Very intimidating for me as I am not a chef, but I thought she was! After the dinner, she spoke some very encouraging words to me which were such an encouragement because it was the first time I was sharing my recipes with the public. We kept in touch over Instagram in the following months and we sent each other messages once in a while. I recently attended a brunch featuring her plant based food- a plant based take on brunch favourites. No fake meat, all plants! She was kind enough to take my celiac disease into consideration and made me a gluten free version. I’ve never had plant based corned beef ever- like none does it… until now! More than her delicious food, Czarra’s story of how going plant based changed her life is truly inspiring- proving that you are what you eat.
Where did you train to be a chef?
I actually never went to Culinary school but studied in Switzerland to take up my BBA in Hotel, Restaurant, and Resort Management and International Business Management. I was a chef’s apprentice at the Intercontinental Hotel Manila when I was taking a gap year after high school and in Switzerland I had my internships. My “training” would probably come from my curiosity and experimenting ever since I was 6. I was very lucky I had open-minded parents who allowed us to explore our interests.
When did you go plant based and why?
March 2017, my older brother dared me to try to go plant-based for 15days. Mind you, before this, I was cooking everything and almost anything I would take interest in. So, with a lot of hesitation, I accepted the dare and did it for 15 days before I had a month-long trip to Paris for my birthday. I succeeded and felt so good. I
Went to Paris; ate irresponsibly (because Paris!); came back home and felt so terrible! So I decided to be more mindful and go back into plant-based cooking to “detox”
I had to return to France for another long trip but this time I was more careful with what I ate and found myself being ok with it. I came back to Manila and it kind of just snowballed from there! I saw more what I was gaining from it rather than all the things I had to give up. It’s much easier because the primary motivation is health and then there’s the bonus of being more mindful, contributing in my own way to sustainable efforts, helping the environment and just being good with myself. Officially, my veganniversary is on September 6, 2017!
How long did it take for you to fully convert?
From the first time trying to fully committing, I would say about six months.
Was there anything hard/ challenging?
It was definitely challenging to get rid of old habits like having my bread, cheese, eggs, butter, cold cuts, and jam every morning! I used to joke that I was fine not having a coffee but don’t let me miss out on my egg for breakfast!
Eating out and trying to explain to people what I couldn’t eat was a bit challenging at first. Not many restaurants offer options so I became a master of creating my main course out of side dishes and appetizers!
What is your cooking style- you seem to make ‘regular’ meat dishes plant based and so good and hearty!
Cooking for me has always been a passion because it was about sharing this art that you can experience with all your senses. When I think of an idea or even just an ingredient, my mind kind of obsessed with what I could do to make something with it. I love having fond memories attached to food and I would like to think my cooking style is more experiential, heartwarming, and filled with love! I really enjoy sharing yummy, good food with people and seeing how they respond to something that I’ve cooked!
Name your top 5 ingredients to make things tasty
1. Good quality salts like – Black Salt and Himalayan pink salt
2. Varieties of peppers and spices
3. Fresh or dried herbs
4. Nutritional yeast
5….and of course, LOVE!
What is your favourite vegetable? Least favourite?
I always enjoy cooking with a variety of mushrooms, eggplants, banana heart, sugar beets, and discovering new local produce!
I’ve never met a vegetable I didn’t like so I can’t say I have a least favourite one.
What immediate benefits did you see going plant based?
I became happier and less frustrated with myself.
I felt lighter.
I have more energy.
I sleep better.
I don’t have hyperacidity anymore.
My asthma attacks have dissipated.
My skin eczema and acne cleared up.
My food allergy reactions disappeared.
My mood is better because I feel less sluggish and less brain fog.
My mind is calmer.
At the gym, I lift heavier and my endurance is much better.
I’ve lost about 30lbs from my heaviest.
What was your health like before going plant based?
I was overweight, moody, stressed out, sluggish, and unhappy. I was in denial about feeling negatively towards myself.