A self-taught vegan who satiated her craving for a delicious healthier cupcake by opening up the first vegan and gluten-free bakery in Los Angeles is now showing people all over the world just how sweet a healthier lifestyle can be.
Featured in Glamour Magazine, Sweet Debbie’s Bakery offers a dessert of the month sweet treat available for delivery and shipping nationwide and this is just one of the many perks available when you become a member, in addition to free weekly recipes, online courses, meal plans, and cooking demos.
Inspired by her son Shahn, Debbie’s first award-winning allergy-free and organic cookbook Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats was voted “Best Gluten-Free Cookbook” by Delicious Living Magazine, a “Favorite Book” by Gluten-free & More Magazine, and a “Best Vegan Cookbook” by Green Vegan Living. Her second cookbook Sweet, Savory & Free was named “Best Vegan Cookbook of the Year” by Naked Food Magazine, and her most recent, The Mediterranean Plate takes things even further by highlighting delicious yet simple recipes free from gluten, salt, oil, and even sugar.
Debbie agreed to step away from her convection oven to tell us a little bit about her journey and how she has been able to inspire thousands of people with her infatuation with healthy, plant-based food.
Currently based in Los Angeles, CA., where did your journey begin?
I grew up in Queens, New York. My grandfather was a Kosher butcher so there was always meat in the freezer (and we had two of them). It never dawned on me that this was causing so much harm and suffering to animals. I didn’t make the connection until much later on. My parents never allowed me to have pets so I didn’t develop an affinity for animals until my son begged me for a dog when he was two years old. I was actually afraid of dogs, but his insistence propelled me to get one anyway. And boy, am I glad I did. The minute my puppy sat on my lap, I became an animal activist right there and then.
At what age did you become vegan?
I became vegan at the age of 31.
How was veganism introduced to you?
I was never formally introduced to veganism. I just didn’t like eating meat anymore so I stopped. But I was formally introduced to a whole food plant-based lifestyle in 2015 when I read The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell. The gist of that book is that a Whole Food Plant-Based lifestyle helps prevent and reverse disease and should not include any salt, oil, or sugar.
Did you have any vegan family members or friends to inspire and support you?
No, I never had any vegan family members or friends until recently.
Please describe some of the struggles you’ve encountered along the way.
My struggles occurred when my son was born with severe and life-threatening food allergies. This became an issue because most of what he was allergic to were things like nuts and seeds, legumes, and beans. As every vegan knows, these foods are the bedrock of a vegan diet. I had to learn to come up with alternatives to these items so that my kitchen remained safe for my son. I became so good at swapping and substituting ingredients, that the publishers of The China Study asked me to write a book that was vegan and allergy-free and that became my second award-winning cookbook Sweet, Savory & Free.
What is the most significant experience you have had that has helped to shape your life?
Having my son has been the most significant experience of my life for many reasons. Firstly, my belief in my body’s ability to do anything I ask of it was fulfilled when I got pregnant at the age of 45 with no intervention. That helped shape my belief that if you truly, madly, deeply believe in something, more often than not, you can manifest it.
Secondly, when my son was born with severe and life-threatening food allergies, it forced me to reassess how I make food and how I was going to navigate keeping him alive.
Thirdly, my son’s enthusiasm for life injects me with a renewed sense of optimism, and his innate love for animals directly affects how I came to live a life of animal activism.
His being in my life has shaped me into who I am today.
Can you describe 3 major benchmarks in your story that are responsible for where you are today?
- I left the world of being a CPA on Wall Street to come out to California to be an actress.
- I became an entrepreneur instead.
- Having a child with severe and life-threatening food allergies changed my life.
What other activists inspire you or have inspired you?
Jane Velez-Mitchell of Unchained TV inspires me, and the young climate change activist, Greta Thunberg.
What is an average day for you?
An average day for me starts with a matcha latte and taking my son to school. Then I exercise by doing a combination of yoga, pilates, strength training, and walking my dog.
Then I go to work. If bakery orders need to go out, I do that. Then I sit down at my computer and figure out what new recipes I’ll share on social media for that day. I usually write an email with a new recipe for my followers for the following week and then I think about my larger activist goals and how to achieve them. Then I’ll go home and make dinner. If time allows I’ll watch a documentary with my husband.
Reflecting as far back as your childhood, what attracted you to the food industry?
I was never interested in the food industry until I opened up my bakery in 2006.
What has inspired your love of food? Vegan food?
My love of food is inspired by my hunger pains when I haven’t eaten. As far as I’m concerned, there is no other food other than vegan food.
What keeps you motivated?
What keeps me motivated is my love for animals.
Would you ever open a vegan restaurant? Why or why not?
I have no plans to open a vegan restaurant. It’s a very tough business and people like to complain a lot about their food.
How do you describe your style of teaching how to cook vegan food?
Show and tell.