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Say CHEESE! Vegan Cheese Shop Opening Soon

February 6, 2018

IMG_8124-2 (1)When you work for an organization like Growing Chefs! you get to spend time with the most amazing people! Enter Chef Karen McAthy of Blue Heron Creamery, one of our supporters and volunteers. She’s got some awesome news to share, and we were lucky to get the inside scoop.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

This is the hardest of all the questions to answer. I am a nerd, who likes to understand how things work, and have had the opportunity to do that as a chef for the last 7 years, and in cooking more generally for longer. I have been very fortunate to be able to have my career evolve along with my personal ethical choices, and have been focused on plant-based, vegan cuisine, and cooking methods for the past several years.

Working in the food industry was, for the longest time, only something I was doing until I planned to do my pH.D. But, in truth, I have been growing and cooking food and interested in doing things with food and feeding people for as long as I can remember. I never did the pH.D, and am not sure I regret that. I love being in the woods, or along the coastline, and if I have any opportunity to do things that take me to those spaces, I am eager to jump on those. I grew up on a tiny island, Cormorant Island (Alert Bay), and so, the ocean and all the diversity of life that lives along the coast are near and dear, all the time.

Colin, my business partner, was a regular guest of mine, while I was the executive chef at Graze, and he used to come in with his wife. Together they had a company called Feed Life, (which he still has), a nutrition and wellness company, and I had done a few recipes for one of their holiday e-books featuring local plant-based chefs and recipe developers. Sadly, his wife passed, but Colin has maintained his interest in plant-based wellness, and we reconnected in early 2016, and this has evolved into both a strong business partnership and a great friendship.

Colin is a firefighter with the Richmond fire dept, and the co-author of the Juice Truck book, a musician, and herbalist, and brings the light, and faith and belief to my intensity, drive and well, probably, oddballness.

BHwindowAndreTell us about Blue Heron Cheese.

downloadIn 2014, I was approached by an editor from New Society Publishing at RIPE (the YLFMS annual fundraiser), and in the midst of the busy evening was asked if I might be interested in writing a book about plant-based cheesemaking. While Graze closed in 2015, I continued my research and development in writing the manuscript, and the book was published in May of 2017: The Art of Plant-Based Cheese Making.

After Graze I moved to another chef post at a different vegan restaurant, and it became clear by early 2016 that interest in what I was doing was not abating (vegan cheeses!), and that I wanted to give more focus to it. So, the name Blue Heron popped into my head (I’ve always found myself drawn to herons, and I have a tattoo of one I got many years ago). Herons are intentional, they maintain focus for long periods of time, they can interact socially when necessary, but also are solitary. I love watching their elegant, precise movements at Spanish Banks.

I reconnected with Colin, and we had the support, help, and effort from two others, Eden and Zoe, who are both incredible forces in what they do (Eden runs the kitchen at Eternal Abundance, Zoe is a force with Music Heals and a member of the Vegan Project).

Eventually, Colin and I got ourselves sorted into the current formal business of Blue Heron, and after a year-long r &d process of refining methods and recipes and approaches, we are now in the position of opening a modest storefront in East Van.

Tell us about the new shop you are opening in Vancouver at 2410 Main St.

The shop is a bit of an accident. We were initially looking just for a larger, secluded production site, but then this opportunity arose. We get to be next door to another great vegan, plant-based business, Friendly Snackbar and have had such great support from Lisa (Wallflower Diner), and now we are opening a shop.

We’re excited about the new branding developed for us by graphic designer, Dima Yagnyuk, of The Graphic Design Studio, feel like the new direction is well suited to some of our longer-term goals for evolving Blue Heron.


The storefront is small and intimate, and we were very hands-on in the finishing. I and my tattoo artist/best friend, Ciara (Sticks and Stones Tattoo Studio) did the illustration art on the feature wall, and I designed and built the front counter table (with the build really being guided by Brad of Biota Fermentation), and we’ve been building our own sandwich boards etc. 

The shop will focus on selling our cultured, young and aged vegan cheeses, yogurts, sour cream, butter (both cultured and not), preserves that we make, and fermented goods from our producer friends, such as Biota, Hoochy Booch, etc.

Why do you think organizations like Growing Chefs! that teach kids about growing and cooking their own food are important?

I grew up in Alert Bay, and with parents both from agricultural backgrounds, we always had a vegetable garden at home. The elementary school also had a garden, and so I grew up with this focus on knowing where your food comes from. Our early teachers and elders in the community always emphasized the importance of caring for the land and the sea, and our impact as humans on the environment.

I think what Growing Chefs! is doing is critical for urban environments, where it is so incredibly easy to become disassociated from how food is grown, produced, altered, etc. Knowing how to grow and cook food, connects you to the idea of land stewardship, and to self-care and knowing how to feed yourself. At every opportunity through the process, there is an opportunity to learn self-reliance, responsibility for the spaces we live in, and a sense of connection to each other.

What advice would you give to a child who is interested in becoming a chef?

It is not like it seems on tv shows. Be willing to learn, be willing work hard, be willing to commit yourself, acknowledge that mistakes will be made, that perfection doesn’t exist even if it is a goal, that amazing things can sometimes happen from mistakes.

Make caring about the food system part of your thinking as a chef. Food security for all people and reducing food waste are no longer things that should be separate from one’s participation in their career as a chef. And because, it is still the best part, learn, learn, learn, explore, explore, explore!


Seeking Eggs… or Chickens…whichever you think came first!

February 1, 2018

Have you ever pondered the old question,
which came first: the chicken or the egg? At the Growing Chefs! office this question is quoted often, as we work to bring our Classroom Gardening and Cooking Programs to more kids in more communities.

The Growing Chefs! Classroom Gardening and Cooking Program started in 2005 with two classrooms. Last year, we brought the program to 49 classrooms in B.C., and this year we plan to be in nearly 60 classrooms in the province!

Growing Chefs! pairs chef and community volunteers with elementary school classrooms. As our programs are 100% delivered by these incredible volunteers, the number of volunteers we recruit and train directly determines the number of kids we are able to engage in hands-on learning about healthy food and food systems.


Photo credit: OSG Photography

As the program grows geographically we find ourselves in a bit of a conundrum: do we first recruit the volunteers that are essential to run the programs, or do we sign-up classrooms and then work to recruit volunteers in that community?

Working in more communities means that we are looking for both volunteers and classrooms that call those communities home. We are starting by spreading the word through our network of chefs and supporters and we are confident that as we continue to work we will build local volunteer networks and grow vibrant programs in these communities.

We know that just as there is no shortage of amazing kids that would benefit from Growing Chefs! Programs, there is also no shortage of passionate, skilled people that want to contribute.

Photo credit: OSG Photography

We don’t know if the chicken or egg came first, but we do know that we are excited and ready to engage both new volunteers and classrooms (in whichever order they arrive) this Spring. Training to become part of a 
Growing Chefs!’ volunteer team begins this month and requires only a short commitment of four hours a month for three months.  If you (or some you know) is passionate about the work we do and calls Metro Vancouver or Victoria home we would love to a receive a volunteer application from you. If you would like to have the Growing Chefs! program in your school, ask your teacher or administrator to contact our program manager or fill out the online application.

Who We are Looking For: IMG_7246
Passionate Community Members
Pastry Chefs
Food enthusiasts of all kinds!

Communities We Currently Work in:
North Vancouver
New West

A Growing Team at Growing Chefs! Introducing Alan Chen

January 31, 2018

This January, Growing Chefs! welcomed three new Program/Volunteer Liaisons to our team. We’re thrilled to introduce you to Alan Chen. Welcome, Alan!

180108_Alan Headshot_D6C_4050

“Hello! My name’s Alan, and I’m excited to join Growing Chefs! as one of their three new Program Liaisons this spring season.

The Growing Chefs! Program lies at the sunny intersection of a few personal passions, three of which include sustainability, cooking, and social change work. My cheeks glow pink for each of these topics on their own terms, but to have the opportunity to work on all three at the same time is another kind of thrill altogether.

What is it that excites me? Well, I’m particularly pumped about how Growing Chefs! changes everything about healthy eating for kids (and by everything, I mean just one thing) – they’re given a paradigm shift. When kids look at salad or broccoli at home, they see a test or an obstacle. In classrooms with Growing Chefs!, every seed, leaf, and root is an opportunity to discover something new on their own terms. There’s little pressure and no judgement, only shared excitement between kids and adults alike.

We get to turn their classrooms into a playground, with the vegetables as their toys and our chefs as their role models. By nurturing their agency to take ownership of a healthier lifestyle, we’re planting the seeds for an important culture-shift. In a world saturated with junk food, consumerist media, and a culture of convenience, priming the hearts and minds of a younger generation with a certain sense of clarity is an inspiring initiative that I feel lucky to be contributing to.

In the brief 23 years I’ve spent learning, I’ve had the privilege of doing so in the company of many compassionate individuals from various change-making communities. Growing Chefs! is one such community that I look forward to growing with and learning from over this next spring season.”


A Growing Team at Growing Chefs! Introducing Morgan Shupe

January 25, 2018

This January, Growing Chefs! welcomed three new Program/Volunteer Liaisons to our team. We’re thrilled to introduce you to Morgan Shupe. Welcome, Morgan!

“Hello, my name is Morgan Shupe and I am one of the three new Program Liaisons for Growing Chefs! I will be helping organize volunteers and make sure the program runs smoothly this spring.

I am in love with all things food and just about my whole life revolves around good food. I was lucky to be introduced to cooking at a young age. I was so interested in the kitchen that my parents had to put up a baby gate to keep me out, but that wouldn’t stop this girl. No siree, I would stand on the other side of the gate with my hands reaching into the kitchen asking, “Me some. Me some more?”. They were not able to keep me out for very long and sooner than later I was helping them as often as I could. My favorite thing to cook was (and still is) pie! I would get to take the pie pastry scraps from my mom’s Tofu Pot Pie. I would roll them out myself, and then fill them with whatever I wanted. I am told that most of my pies were good but there may have been a few unfortunate flavor combinations but my supportive family would always eat whatever I made.

Being invited into the kitchen set me up with a healthy appetite for the kitchen and by 16, I started working in restaurants as a dishwasher and worked my way up to Sous Chef. From there I became an office Chef making daily nutritious lunches for a staff of 100, and then became a freelance chef developing recipes and writing cooking articles for companies.

Learning to cook at a young age can teach kids so many skills – reading skills, problem-solving skills, math, science, nutrition, and most importantly a healthy appetite. The kitchen can be a playground but it is also a classroom. I am so excited to help introduce the Growing Chef! students to cooking and gardening.”

A Growing Team at Growing Chefs! Introducing Afton Bell

January 22, 2018

This January, Growing Chefs! welcomed three new Program/Volunteer Liaisons to our team. We’re thrilled to introduce you to Afton Bell. Welcome, Afton!

“I’m so happy to join Growing Chefs! So far, I’ve been stuffing (I hear my supervisor likes food puns) my brain with all there is to know about Growing Chefs! and meeting all the passionate people that make Growing Chefs! a unique and awesome organization.

I’ll start by saying that I’m a small-town kid, I grew up in the Kootenays and my family always had a garden. As a child I can remember marveling at the giant zucchinis, eating fresh raspberries, and telling tales about how poisonous a rhubarb leaf is. When my husband and I moved to the Lower Mainland into a small townhouse (with no yard) I wondered how different life would be with no green space to call our own. It took some adjustment, but we noticed that what city dwellers lack in space they make up for with industrious creativity. Following the lead of our neighbours, we planted tomatoes, and lettuce on the deck and filled our front walkway with mint and cilantro. Nothing makes me happier than stepping outside to pick some herbs for dinner, it reminds me of home and makes dinner taste great.

When my daughter entered preschool, we were very excited that her school had plenty of outdoor space and a large garden that the kids worked hard to plant, maintain and harvest. In the summer, the kids are invited to visit as often as they like, care for the garden and stuff their pockets with whatever is ready. Spending time at the garden became a highlight of our summers. Watching my daughter’s eagerness to learn about the garden and her amazement at a humble vegetable like a potato renewed my interest in food and encouraged me to seek out more opportunities for my family to connect with food whenever possible. For us, this means growing some food, visiting the farmers market, preparing food together, and sometimes even making drawings of our food (see below for my daughter’s portrait of an especially pretty potato).

Today, we are full-fledged city folk, but we have still found plenty of space in our life for growing, preparing and eating delicious fresh food. I am keenly anticipating meeting the kids and volunteers that will be working with Growing Chefs! this spring and learning more about how they connect with food in the city!”


Portrait of a potato

“POTATO” by Penny


Ready? Set! Dine Out!

January 19, 2018

dine outIt’s that time of year: Dine Out is here.

Over 300 restaurants in Vancouver are gearing up for two of the most intense weeks of their year. Before 2002, this time of year was generally a ‘slow’ one, but the Dine Out Festival has since changed these 17 days into prime time to show off Vancouver’s amazing food scene.

Today, the festival brings together hundreds of chefs, wineries, craft breweries, suppliers and more for 17 days of dining, food-forward events, and experiences designed to give local and visiting culinary enthusiasts the opportunity to taste the best flavours of the city.

Within the restaurant industry Dine Out is both revered and feared. Each establishment carefully crafts a set menu that shows off their specific corner of the culinary world and is then presented with the challenge of delivering an identical, unforgettable dining experience to a full restaurant, sometimes four times over, every night. A real tour de force!

T’is the season to be kind to your server, be in awe of skilled chefs, and menu-hop to your heart’s content. Where will you go this year?

Ready? Set! Dine out!

Here are some of our favourite menus this year:

In the $20 category:


A different main dish every day of the week! From Timber beer steamed mussels to a Sunday Bison Roast, you’ll want to be here every day.

In the $30 category:


How to make BC product taste like a little restaurant in Italy? These folks know. Nona’s meatballs? Local Farro risotto? Chocolate cake with pistachio? Yes, please.


Edible Canada

With a staggering six appies and six entrees to choose from, you’ll need to bring five friends to sample this delicious corner of New Canadian cuisine.

In the $40 category:


With offerings like Kimchi Forbidden Rice, Chamomile Spiced Cheese Pumpkin Soup, and Hay Smoked Cavatelli, they take vegetable-forward Dine Out to a whole new level.


Homer Street Cafe and Bar

With a beautifully elegant menu, Homer St. is open for lunch and dinner! Don’t forget the BC wine pairings, to go with your chicken rillettes and your baked gnudi.




Volunteer Feature: Amy McCabe from BC Place

December 15, 2017


Our chef volunteers are not all chefs! Case in point, Amy McCabe, Marketing & Communications/Business Coordinator for BC Place:

How did you hear about Growing Chefs?

Jaydeen from the Growing Chefs! team contacted me to request that the BC Place roof light up green for Giving Tuesday (we light up different colours to promote events and awareness campaigns).

What made you want to volunteer?

I loved the idea of Growing Chefs! – working with children, teaching them such important lessons about healthy food, urban agriculture, and sustainability, plus learning from the other volunteers! I had wanted to volunteer for a while and Growing Chefs! seemed like the perfect fit!

What lesson/activity was your favourite to deliver?

I really enjoyed the lesson where everyone brought in different vegetables and the class tried them all! Some kids were so brave – trying raw garlic, celeriac, raw fennel etc. It was pretty impressive and awesome to see the kids so enthusiastic about veggies they’d never heard of!

How do the kids react to the chefs being in their classroom?

The kids were super welcoming! They treated us like celebrities each week! It was heartwarming to see that they were so eager to participate in each lesson and learn what we had to share with them.

What did YOU learn from your volunteer experience?

Not working in the food industry, it was a bit daunting signing up for this, but that didn’t matter at all! Working with the other chefs was great because I learned so much from them – picked up a few tips on growing veggies in my apartment, and also learned a few new vegetable names! I was lucky to work with a vegan chef, so I also picked up a few tips from him on living more of a plant-based lifestyle (thanks, Chef Matt!).

What would you say to someone who is considering becoming a volunteer?

DO IT! Growing Chefs! is an amazing organization and program. The team makes everything so easy, and each lesson is so well planned – it’s foolproof! For minimal time commitment, the reward is huge.

Thank you so much Amy for your time and talent!

Click here to sign up to be a volunteer!

Donor Profile: CIBC

December 14, 2017

CIBC_CR_2C_RGBWe have been receiving the generous support from CIBC since 2015. We recently caught up with Chris Stuart, Executive Director- Equity Trading- World Markets, to chat about their generosity, and to find out more about CIBC Miracle Day.

Chris, thanks so much for spending this time with us. What about Growing Chefs! resonates with CIBC?

CIBC recognizes the value in investing in youth. We think this program is a great to help children learn and make smart decisions about their diets today and in the future, as well as provide them with a unique set of life skills (gardening basics, cooking, menu planning etc.)

Do you have a garden at home? What do you like to grow?

We grow all of our own spices at home; rosemary, basil, bay, thyme, and most recently started growing kale.

What is your favorite vegetable to eat?


Do you enjoy cooking? What’s your favorite recipe to enjoy as a family?

We love to cook! we are so lucky here on the West Coast as we have access to fresh seafood, as well as amazing produce from the Valley. Shopping for the ingredients is sometimes the best part!

Do you have a favorite Vancouver restaurant, and why?

Again we are so lucky in Vancouver with such a diverse population we have access to so many great choices. Whether its Asian, European, Latin and so many other cuisines. But right now I am enjoying a lot of the sustainable food (Farm to Table) restaurants.


What is CIBC Miracle Day?

CIBC Miracle Day is a proud tradition that has helped to improve the lives of millions of children since it began in 1984. Every year, on the first Wednesday in December, our CIBC Capital Markets team and CIBC Wood Gundy Investment Advisors donate their fees and commissions to help kids in need. Last week, on December 6, we had another amazing day and numbers are still being tallied but we are confident it was another great year!

Why is Miracle Day important to you and your team? Who’s involved?

Miracle Day is important to everyone at CIBC but also to our clients. It is a chance for us all to channel our efforts and give back directly to our community. Obviously, we rely on our amazing client base to send us their business on Miracle day so they are very much the biggest part of it but we have involvement from our Wood Gundy Group, Investment Banking, commercial banking and many other groups within CIBC.

Why is Miracle Day a fun day at work?

Miracle day is many of our staffs favorite day- it is a chance to see where some of our efforts go. We have guest celebrity VIP’s but more importantly, we get to showcase organizations such as Growing Chefs! and hear in more detail about some of the amazing things they are up to. Without these interactions, we would not get to hear stories about how the kids get to create their own recipes (always wanted to do this), and how the program even seeks to engage families in their home to participate in menu planning and nutrition.


Thank you CIBC for the incredible support! HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Bon Appétit Aux Élèves

December 11, 2017

It’s December, and we’ve suddenly found ourselves at the end of yet another season of growing and learning in the classroom! This fall season our Intermediate (grades 4-7) Classroom Gardening and Cooking Program was delivered to 9 elementary school classrooms in the Greater Vancouver area, by a small army of committed volunteers.

In South Vancouver, École Henderson’s grades 3/4 classroom is under the spirited leadership of Ms Adèle Anctil. Chef Anna, Chef Olivia, and I (Growing Chefs!’ Chef Selma) were welcomed into this bustling classroom for 7 lessons, all in french! Together, we went on a gardening and culinary adventure from seed examination, through science experiments, knife skills, and stock making, through to an all-out stirfry cooking competition, judged by the most important people: the school administrators and a mom.


At the end of our program, we leave Ms Anctil’s classroom with a tear in our eye, and a mind full of memories. After 7 lessons, this classroom is full of vegetable ambassadors. There were talented culinary geniuses, avid veggie scrap users (we saw some bags of scraps being taken home for stock), amazing pea growers, vegetable skeptics turned champions, we know all about food miles now, and one of the students, Piper, was even on the Global TV Morning News holding a giant tomato!

I’d like to share another beautiful story from the École Henderson classroom:

Camilla and Go Broccoli, Go!


During our fourth Growing Chefs! lesson, the Chefs had asked the students to choose an ingredient that they wanted to represent in a fun balanced meal-making game. On her rounds through the classroom Chef Selma noticed that Camilla had written “Go Broccoli Go!” on her card. “

You must really like broccoli, huh?” she asked. “Yes”, said Camilla, “I never used to, really, but then you told us about broccoli, and now it’s my favourite”.

Now how did that magic transformation come about? Can a vegetable really go from “ew” to “woo!” You can see for yourself in this video.

In the video Camilla explains that she never used to like broccoli, as it was a green thing and she didn’t like eating green things. But then, in our second Growing Chefs! lesson, we talked about all the different parts of plants that we eat, and Camilla found out that broccoli is really just hundreds of little flowers. And since she really likes flowers, she went home and asked her mom for some broccoli (I have on good authority that her mom didn’t think broccoli went very well with sushi, but got it for her anyway). Now, lo and behold, broccoli is one of Camilla’s favorite vegetables.

Written by: Selma van Halder, Program Coordinator, Growing Chefs!

Giving NOW Means Giving MORE

December 7, 2017




Photo credit: OSG Photography
Thanks to local businesses Eight SolutionsPan American Silver CorpLyra Growth PartnersSea Cider Farm & CiderhouseShauna Gold Personal Real Estate Corporation, and Whole Foods, we are able to DOUBLE THE IMPACT of all new Champion Radish Club monthly donors* who sign up on or before DECEMBER 31, 2017!
Champion Radish
The sustainability from monthly donors allows us to plan ahead and implement our hands-on programs more efficiently. Join our Champion Radish Club and keep our gardens growing! Your monthly gift will provide a consistent, reliable, and predictable source of funding to help us give more kids hands-on experience growing and cooking their own healthy food. It also lowers administrative costs. Giving now means giving more!
  • Your monthly donation of $10 doubles from an annual gift of $120 to $240!
  • Your monthly donation of $25 doubles from an annual gift of $300 to $600!
  • Your monthly donation of $50 doubles from an annual gift of $600 to $1,200!
  • Your monthly donation of $100 doubles from an annual gift of $1,200 to $2,400!
Why choose monthly giving?
  • Your gift is easy, secure, and green—a monthly donation saves paper, postage, and energy!
  • You ensure your gift has the greatest possible impact!
  • You will get special updates from the classroom from our participating students!
  • You get to be a Champion Radish. (A most delicious type of radish!)
Donation commitments can be made online using a credit card (via Canada Helps) between Wednesday, November 1, 2017, and Sunday, December 31, to be eligible for matching.


On Giving Tuesday, Tuesday, November 28th, BC Place was lit up green for Growing Chefs!
Photo courtesy of the CKNW traffic helicopter.

* up to a maximum determined by local business donations


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