Like most people, I didn’t start out as a raw vegan chef or coach, but with some passion, synchronicity and heart-based connection, I have found myself to become one of the most well-known and sought-after raw vegan chefs and coaches in the world. Let me take you on a journey on how this began and share some key tips for you to grow with cheffing large events in the process!
Chris Kendall’s Health Search Begins
In 1999, I found yoga via a bulk VHS bin, in Walmart of all places, seeking a way to help stave off depression and other physical issues. Yogic literature sparked an interest in health and holistic nutrition, which I took on, at first, primarily to heal faster from all the punishment I put myself through as a competitive amateur skateboarder. For five years, I focused on self-study and made leaps and bounds in my health. I had always been interested in making food and had sought out to become a vegan chef but, instead, went into a nutrition course in 2004, as I couldn’t find any strictly vegan cheffing schools at that time. During my time at CSNN (Canadian School of Natural Nutrition), I went to an event and saw Dr. Douglas Graham speak on the subject of raw food nutrition. My life was forever changed, and my way forward was clear. I was here to share about holistic health and the raw food lifestyle.
A Budding Raw Vegan Chef Launches a Website and Book
In 2009, after five years of procrastination, I started my website, TheRawAdvantage.com as a way to share my love of the raw food lifestyle and the benefits I had received from living and applying a holistic low-fat raw vegan diet since meeting Dr. Graham. I really can’t thank Dr. D. enough, as, before meeting him, my schooling and education was really for me and my skating. His spark and the raw lifestyle really was the impetus to a life of loving service. Within the first weeks of starting my website, I wrote my first raw recipe book, 101 Frickin Rawsome Recipes as well as a simple holistic lifestyle guide and some blog posts. I also put myself out there as a raw food coach offering my services by donation. I share this as a preamble as to what followed.
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A Skateboarder Needs Help, and Chris Kendall Responds, Serving As Raw Vegan Chef and Coach
Seemingly out of nowhere, in early 2010, I got an email from a well-known professional skateboarder by the name of Steve Berra, who also happened to run the biggest, most-well-known private skateboard park in the world called The Berrics. He asked whether I would meet him over the phone to do a consult with him on his diet. Truthfully, I thought it was a joke, at first, but it turned out to be true. You see, Steve had put out a video on TheBerrics.com, talking about his health troubles and seeking help. A good friend of mine emailed him, tipping him off about my website and services and mentioning that I was a lifelong skater. I told Steve that I could meet him in person a few weeks later, as I already had a ticket to Los Angeles to hang out with a friend and skateboard for a few months to escape some of Canada’s lingering winter.
When in L.A., I met up with Steve at The Berrics, and, right off the bat, he asked if I would be willing to do an interview with him for his website. During the interview, I mentioned that I did live-in coaching and cheffing, and he immediately said he wanted me to move in with him for a month. I obliged and, within the first few weeks, he let it be known that he wanted me to stay on in this position as long as I could.
We set up a full-on raw kitchen in the office. I was given a trolley and a credit card to hit the markets whenever needed, and I, essentially, became The Berrics’ chef, making raw food meals three times a day for him, two other raw friends, Raw Ray Raw, and Steve’s personal assistant, Tim, as well as anyone else in the office who wanted to join in. Beyond this, I also skated as much as I could in my free time, which was pretty plentiful. As a bona-fide skate rat, I was in paradise.not only was Steve a great guy and super fun to live with, but I got to skate with the best pros in the world all the time and, amazingly, the skate park was blocks away from the Los Angeles wholesale produce markets and organic wholesalers.
A Chance Meeting Propels Chris Kendall to the Farm of Life
One night, I was biking back from the offices to Steve’s house and took a different route, biking down a random back alley I had never been down before. Out of nowhere, Steve drove down that same alley in his car and asked whether I wanted to join him at a juice spot down the street to talk and have a juice. Once at the spot, I peeked my head into the full-to-capacity restaurant and noticed my friend Stacey sitting there with a man and woman I hadn’t met before. That said, I had an inkling to who it was. You see, a few days earlier, Stacey asked whether I wanted to come to an event she was putting on where a couple from the Florida area were doing a cross-country promotional tour for their brand-new raw vegan healing center in Costa Rica called The Farm of Life. I wasn’t able to make the lecture, as I had a catering agreement for a DC shoes skateboard shoe commercial (blatantly showing off now) but figured it had to be them with Stacey in the restaurant.
Since the restaurant was full, Steve and I sat at a little table outside and had our juices. Fifteen minutes, later Stacey and her two new friends came out, and she introduced them to us as Brian and Jody Calvi of The Farm of Life, and she kindly introduced me to them as an amazing raw vegan chef! Without a thought, Brian told me that I had to come out to the Farm sometime to check it out and to perhaps do some cheffing and/or host a retreat. I told them that that would be great, that perhaps it would work in three to four months after Steve had had his fill of my services, and so they gave me a business card. Two weeks later, I got an email from a fellow raw fooder, Ka Sundance of The Raw Food Family, asking whether I wanted to chef his retreat for him in a month’s time! I asked him where it was, and he said it was in Costa Rica at the Farm of Life!
Although, in some ways, I could barely believe it, as neither Ka nor Brian or Jody had been in touch about me about this, I was getting pretty used to amazing synchronicities happening ever since I started up the raw food diet, as many people do. I asked Steve whether he was OK with me heading to Costa Rica for 10 days on those specific dates, and he said that worked perfectly, as he had a nine-day trip to Chicago, Illinois, on those exact dates that I couldn’t come with him for! Seriously?
As a Raw Vegan Chef, Chris Kendall’s First Retreat Produces “Hit” Recipes
Now it’s fair to say I was excited and also a bit intimidated. I had made a recipe book and served The Berrics as well as family and friends raw food but I had never cheffed a retreat. Deciding to say yes to such a fun opportunity, I fully embraced it and went to the Farm of Life for the first time. Little did I know that I would be returning every year for a decade!
The Farm of Life was a literal heaven on earth fully stocked with all the raw fruits and veggies you could ask for and had all the tools of the trade. Once there, I roughly multiplied portions from my 101 Frickin’ Rawsome Recipes ebook and decided to test out some new recipes that I was working on for an upcoming book, then called Cravings Busters which didn’t fully come out—long story—and is now called TRA Retreat Treats. All the recipes were a hit, and I made sure to serve them in large-enough quantities to have leftovers for my large appetite. The whole retreat went off without a hitch, and Brian and Jody really came to feel like family. When it was time to leave, I promised I would come back sometime in the new year of 2011.
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Chris Kendall Pauses to Rest and Heal
After a month or so back with Steve, I went home to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, for a few weeks to be with my family over Xmas. I then was set to head back to L.A. again. Which, unfortunately, didn’t work out. You see, I was working by donation and figured that was a loophole for Canadians, but it turns out it wasn’t, and I was red-listed from the States for five years and put under scrutiny any time I entered after that. This essentially cut my time with Steve and The Berrics short (thank you, Steve, for the amazing times) and instead opened up my schedule to head back to Costa Rica and the Farm of Life. Once back, I spent a few weeks doing hard manual labor with Brian and a new friend, Dr. Samuel Mielcarski, and then underwent my longest water fast, 11 days, when I dove deeper into rest and healing. I documented this whole journey—including my time at The Berrics and everything I experienced at the Farm of Life—in rough day-in-the-lifestyle videos, skate videos and recipe videos on my YouTube channel, The Raw Advantage.
Right Place and Right Time: Chris Kendall Emerges as a Yoga Instructor
OK, you may be asking, “When does this get deeper into cheffing?” Trust me, I am getting there. During my stay at the farm, the then-head chef, Wilco, decided he had enough of cheffing, and I became the head chef there for the next round of retreats and guests. During a yoga retreat, the roads got washed out, and the yoga teacher couldn’t make it. Everyone was like, “What are we going to do?” Saying yes to the opportunity, I shared that I had been practicing yoga for over a decade and would be happy to lead classes. I’ll admit, these were the first classes I led, but I had a blast and soon became the resident yoga teacher! Thank you, Brian and Jody, for everything over the years. ❤️
Woodstock Fruit Festival Calls for Chris Kendall to Be the Head Raw Vegan Chef, Yoga Teacher and Speaker
During my time at the farm, I got an email from a past consult by the name of Yuliya, who shared that she was helping put together a new raw food festival headed by an amazing raw vegan athlete named Mike Arnstein called The Woodstock Fruit Festival. She asked whether I would consider being the head chef, a yoga teacher and a speaker. Once again, intimidated but fired up by such an amazing opportunity and chance to rise to the occasion, I said yes. Thank you, Yuliya and Mike, for taking a chance on me, providing such an opportunity to grow through sharing my passion and for all the amazing times and connections over the past decade of festivals!
Raw Vegan Chef Learns and Adapts in Trial by Fire
Now this was the first Woodstock Fruit Festival, and—how do I say this kindly?—it was new to us all and loosely put together. I was told that a few hundred people were expected, that Woodstock Fruit Festival would order a ton of food and that we would figure it out. It boggles my mind now, but we didn’t really have a plan for the food, meaning that the day I showed up for the festival, I didn’t know what was on the food order, didn’t make a menu beforehand and we didn’t have any refrigeration or food storage. We unloaded thousands of pounds of produce into the main hall and simply tried to stack boxes along the walls of every room in the building.
Once the festival started, I loosely threw together my favorite recipes and multiplied the amounts by 200 using approximate weights from the sides of the boxes. With a mix of gumption, luck and a great kitchen crew, we managed to pull it off, keeping everyone filled up and happy. I recall one dish in particular, a fruit soup, that was devoured in literally a matter of seconds. The team and I spent two hours destemming and filling a 60-plus-liter tub three-quarters of the way full with organic grapes and then filling that to the top with a thick orange-pineapple smoothie—all of this with one Vitamix blender! We put it on the table to serve and walked back to the kitchen to start on the dinner prep and were tapped on the shoulder no more than a minute later. “Is there more soup?” Ha-ha! We rushed and made some more! Midway through the week, someone smelled something funny—“funny” being an understatement. We then found a whole case of rotten zucchini. Trust me, you do not want to smell rotten zucchini!
Raw Vegan Chef Proves Mettle, Leading to New Opportunities
The festival really went amazingly, and I’ve got to say, I feel so blessed by the opportunity to serve both Woodstock and all the amazing people I met there. Each and every opportunity I shared in this story really stretched my limits and got me ready for the next opportunity at hand. Since my first festival with Woodstock in 2011, I have served over 20 festivals as a yoga teacher and presenter (UK Fruitfest, Slovenia Fruit Festival, Swedish Raw Food Festival) and many as the head chef, including seven of the nine festivals that Woodstock has put on, four Raw Food Festivals in Denmark, the first ever Raw Vegan Cruise in Croatia and over 15 raw food retreats. I am set for the Woodstock Fruit Festival’s 10th annual festival this year with some new and ambitious recipes and want to let you know that you can get $100 USD off with the code “banana,” if it’s your first time attending!
Top Tips From the World’s Most-Sought-After Raw Vegan Chef
Over the years and with these festivals, I have learnt a ton that makes cheffing for large groups a lot easier.
Understand Your Audience Well to Build out Your Food Plan
Firstly, have a plan, meaning scale out recipes by weight estimating a general portion size for the average person. This should be somewhere between a hard-core huge meal for a raw foodist and a dainty newbie who gets full quickly. This can be the most challenging part, as I have had some retreats in which attendees literally ate twice the amount of other groups of the same number. It really helps to know approximations of how many men, women, kids as well as people new to the diet and people who have been doing it a long time. People who have been raw for longer tend to eat two times the amount of new people. With all of this info, it is a lot easier to come close, but, in the end, this is the hardest part of cheffing large amounts.
Dial Down Herb, Onion and Garlic Ingredient Amounts
Second, reduce the quantity of herbs as well as green onions and/or garlic if you use them. Time and time again, I have found these ingredients do not scale the same way as other main ingredients, and it’s easy to overorder them. I usually cut them in half from what my recipes would say for smaller portions.
Trust Your Taste Buds
Thirdly, go by taste as much as you go by the recipe. As my first tip says, it is good to have a plan, but every single recipe—heck, every piece of fruit and veg—is unique. When you’re making dozens of liters of sauces and smoothies, the taste can change, always test and play with your recipes, being ready to put in some changes in the moment based on how it tastes.
Be Agile and Able to Pivot
Lastly, be flexible and ready to improvise. When you’re dealing with thousands of pounds of produce, you’re sure to run into some issues with ripeness or overripeness, some food not being delivered or, perhaps, some food not being eaten and there being a need for you to find a way to fit it into a sauce or different recipe. I have found that a relaxed attitude and a sense of play that is open to discovery can bring about the most unique and delicious creations around.
I hope this two-decade-plus-long tale inspires you to stretch yourself, to be open to life’s opportunities and to enjoy growing through sharing your passions and abundance in loving service to the highest good.
As always, wishing you much PeaceLovenSeasonalFruit,