Going Vegan: 5 Tips From Plant-based Chef Matt Downes

Everything you need to know about thriving on a vegan diet

Plant-based diets have the bad reputation of being very restrictive. When asked about our diet, people often ask how we get our nutrients and how we yet didn’t die of a protein deficiency. We asked Chef Matt, the new plant-based chef at Alive Geneva, what his tips were on switching to a vegan diet. Thinking of going vegan? Nothing better than getting information from a plant professional !

Matt Downes has been plant-based for years. He worked as a plant-based chef in very exciting projects like Pure Food and Wine in New York and Evergreen Organics in Doha, Qatar. We caught up with him in his brand new kitchen in Geneva. He tells us all about his vegan experience while making some delicious raw cashew cheese ravioli. 

1. Find your (own) pace

After opening your eyes on the reality of the meat and dairy industry, the pressure to be 100% cruelty free can be very strong. It’s very important to listen to your body and transition to a conscious diet at your own healthy pace. Matt assures that there is no “one size fits all” and that every effort is a step in the right direction.

Some people will jump right into it and others will go gradually, and both ways are great. “Be kind to yourself and set some intentions”, he says “and don’t beat yourself up if you end up having a little piece of cheese at a party, enjoy it” 

Most (if not all) vegans have already slipped in the past or done a lot of back and forth, it’s part of the journey.

 

Matt preparing some raw cashew ravioli

2. Start with familiar tastes

This second one is pretty important if you’re planning on staying vegan on the long haul. Chef Matt encourages aspiring vegans and plant-based newbies to try and reproduce familiar tastes and recipes but with vegan swaps. “Try and find something that you already like and find interesting ways to replace the meat and dairy” Matt says. If you like Italian cuisine, stick to easy recipes that taste good to you. Could be pasta or lasagna, everything can be veganized ! 

The internet offers so many ressources on vegan cooking, you can find almost any recipe in the book. Shops are also really making an effort to supply vegan products, try all the options and most importantly: have fun !

 

3. Know your vegetables

Chef Matt isn’t really into mock meats (veggie foods that look and taste like meat) and for a good reason: a plant-based diet requires a very smart combination of vitamins, amino acids and minerals. Mock meats are usually very high in low quality fats and won’t give you essential nutrients. To achieve maximal health results on a vegan diet, the most important thing is to know your foods: understand how each food nourishes your body. 

His best piece of advice: “eat the colours of the rainbow” . This way, you’ll be sure to have most essential vitamins in you diet. Editors note: what really changed everything for us was when we started planning meals around vegetables instead of proteins or grains. Don’t get us wrong, healthy carbs are important, but make sure veggies are very high in your priorities. 

 

The only exception he warns us about is B12, often you must supplement this essential vitamin.

4. Play with your food

Switching all your recipes into veggie mode is a tough task. But it’s also a great way to discover new foods that you weren’t eating until now. “There is so much to explore in the plant kingdom: vegetables, nuts, legumes, grains, seaweeds, get creative !” 

Matt’s tip is to have a great imagination and curiosity towards our food. “Try something, if it doesn’t work, don’t get discouraged, just get back to it”. When you start mastering recipes, start thinking about twists, he says. Take the same ingredients and play with them, creating different shapes or tastes. 

That’s what we do with our breakfast, always trying new superfoods and recipes based around smoothies and bowls. 

 

5. Eat fresh

On the top of Chef Matt’s food priorities: fresh, local food. He likes balancing out raw and cooked foods, depending on the season. “There’s a reason why tomatoes don’t grow in the snow” he says, “Mother Nature points us in the right direction in many ways.” Eating seasonally is very important. Artificially farmed vegetables won’t give you nearly as much benefits as slow grown ripe ones. 

Think of it this way: eat things that don’t come in plastic containers. Fresh fruits, vegetables and non processed grains and legumes will do your body best. 

 

Matt also hosts some very interesting workshops at Alive Geneva. You will learn a few of his recipes and cooking techniques. He’s very interested in lacto-fermented foods and healing the gut. If you have any interest in pro and prebiotic foods, Matt is your man. 

Alive is turning into a restaurant ! It will be open starting July for lunch and dinner. We recommend you try out this talented chef’s cuisine. Check their Facebook and Instagram, for news and updates.

A big thank you to Matt and Kimberley Downes for having us.

Going Vegan: 5 Tips
From Plantbased Chef Matt Downes

how to thrive on a vegan diet

Plant-based diets have the bad reputation of being very restrictive. When asked about our diet, people often ask how we get our nutrients and how we yet didn’t die of a protein deficiency. We asked Chef Matt, the new plant-based chef at Alive Geneva, what his tips were on switching to a vegan diet. Thinking of going vegan? Nothing better than getting information from a plant professional !

Matt Downes has been plant-based for years. He worked as a plant-based chef in very exciting projects like Pure Food and Wine in New York and Evergreen Organics in Doha, Qatar. We caught up with him in his brand new kitchen in Geneva. He tells us all about his vegan experience while making some delicious raw cashew cheese ravioli. 

 

1. Find your (own) pace

After opening your eyes on the reality of the meat and dairy industry, the pressure to be 100% cruelty free can be very strong. It’s very important to listen to your body and transition to a conscious diet at your own healthy pace. Matt assures that there is no “one size fits all” and that every effort is a step in the right direction.

Some people will jump right into it and others will go gradually, and both ways are great. “Be kind to yourself and set some intentions”, he says “and don’t beat yourself up if you end up having a little piece of cheese at a party, enjoy it” 

Most (if not all) vegans have already slipped in the past or done a lot of back and forth, it’s part of the journey.

 

2. Start with familiar tastes

This second one is pretty important if you’re planning on staying vegan on the long haul. Chef Matt encourages aspiring vegans and plant-based newbies to try and reproduce familiar tastes and recipes but with vegan swaps. “Try and find something that you already like and find interesting ways to replace the meat and dairy” Matt says. If you like Italian cuisine, stick to easy recipes that taste good to you. Could be pasta or lasagna, everything can be veganized ! 

The internet offers so many ressources on vegan cooking, you can find almost any recipe in the book. Shops are also really making an effort to supply vegan products, try all the options and most importantly: have fun !

 

3. Know your vegetables

Chef Matt isn’t really into mock meats (veggie foods that look and taste like meat) and for a good reason: a plant-based diet requires a very smart combination of vitamins, amino acids and minerals. Mock meats are usually very high in low quality fats and won’t give you essential nutrients. To achieve maximal health results on a vegan diet, the most important thing is to know your foods: understand how each food nourishes your body. 

His best piece of advice: “eat the colours of the rainbow” . This way, you’ll be sure to have most essential vitamins in you diet. Editors note: what really changed everything for us was when we started planning meals around vegetables instead of proteins or grains. Don’t get us wrong, healthy carbs are important, but make sure veggies are very high in your priorities. 

 

The only exception he warns us about is B12, often you must supplement this essential vitamin.

4. Play with your food

Switching all your recipes into veggie mode is a tough task. But it’s also a great way to discover new foods that you weren’t eating until now. “There is so much to explore in the plant kingdom: vegetables, nuts, legumes, grains, seaweeds, get creative !” 

Matt’s tip is to have a great imagination and curiosity towards our food. “Try something, if it doesn’t work, don’t get discouraged, just get back to it”. When you start mastering recipes, start thinking about twists, he says. Take the same ingredients and play with them, creating different shapes or tastes. 

That’s what we do with our breakfast, always trying new superfoods and recipes based around smoothies and bowls. 

5. Eat fresh

On the top of Chef Matt’s food priorities: fresh, local food. He likes balancing out raw and cooked foods, depending on the season. “There’s a reason why tomatoes don’t grow in the snow” he says, “Mother Nature points us in the right direction in many ways.” Eating seasonally is very important. Artificially farmed vegetables won’t give you nearly as much benefits as slow grown ripe ones. 

Think of it this way: eat things that don’t come in plastic containers. Fresh fruits, vegetables and non processed grains and legumes will do your body best and you will see visible changes in your health and mindset. 

Matt confesses that he feels much better on a plant-based diet. “I have more energy and I don’t get sick”. Good genes or miracle diet? We’ll let you judge. 

Matt also hosts some very interesting workshops at Alive Geneva. You will learn a few of his recipes and cooking techniques whether you are going vegan or not. He’s very interested in lacto-fermented foods and healing the gut. If you have any interest in pro and prebiotic foods, Matt is your man. 

Alive is turning into a restaurant ! It will be open starting July for lunch and dinner. We recommend you try out this talented chef’s cuisine. Check their Facebook and Instagram, for news and updates.

A big thank you to Matt and Kimberley Downes for having us.

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