CNM Graduate Teigan Mae completed the Vegan Natural Chef course. We interviewed her when she was a student at the college to find out why she decided to study the course, what she enjoyed most and her plans post-graduation. Here’s what Teigan had to say and a sneak peek into a day in the life of a CNM Vegan Natural Chef student.

Teigan Mae is now a qualified Vegan Natural Chef, recipe developer and blogger. 

Why did you decide to become a Vegan Natural Chef?

I’ve had a passion for cooking ever since I was young; my head was either stuck in a cookbook or I’d pretend I was on a cooking show. However, I never planned to become a chef when I “grew up” as I thought being a chef meant I’d have to cook in a stressful restaurant kitchen working long hours which I knew wasn’t a career for me. Instead, I focussed on a career path in art and design which is another passion of mine. It wasn’t until I became unwell in my mid-teens with post-viral Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that my path changed again.

With the help of naturopathic nutritionists, I realised the healing power of plant-based food and alternative therapies. I wanted to help other people with health issues and show them that you can self-heal with natural food and therapies. I tried studying a nutrition course at another institution but I didn’t gel with the course and it made me question whether it was the right career path for me.

It wasn’t until I came across CNM’s Vegan Natural Chef course in a health and wellness magazine that I had my ‘aha’ moment. I looked into the course and I was amazed at the endless career possibilities when you become a Vegan Natural Chef. It felt like the perfect course for me. I’d come across other chef courses in the past but none of them had a naturopathic nutrition or vegan natural food aspect like CNM’s does.

Studying this course at CNM has been the best thing I’ve ever done and I’m so grateful for everything I’ve learnt so far. It’s shown me that my career can still revolve around my passion for food, despite not working in a busy kitchen.

What else do you do alongside your studies?

I work part time at a local independent health and wholefoods store, where I assist and serve customers and pack food brands. I feel very fortunate to work in an environment where my colleagues are very knowledgeable, supportive and like-minded. I’m also grateful to be able to continue learning about food, health and wellbeing while I’m studying. When I’m not studying, working or cooking, I enjoy practising yoga, weight training, reading self-development books, listening to motivational podcasts, spending time outdoors in nature, travelling as much as I can and watching a Netflix series.

What do you enjoy most about the course and why?

I love that we get to learn from many different lecturers, all of whom come from different backgrounds with varied expertise. Every single lecturer has provided such great value. Not only do we get to spend a full day learning from them, but we’re also able to remain in contact with them and receive ongoing support if we choose to. Whilst the classes are very practical, I also like that we learn about food nutrition and how every recipe we make provides nutritional value. The course is well balanced and comprehensive.

What has been your favourite module so far and why?

It’s hard to pick a favourite module as they’ve all been so enjoyable and inspiring. However, the nut cheeze workshop has got to be one of the best. Before starting the course, I often made simple soft nut cheezes like a cashew and chive spread, a sour cream or a baked almond feta. But after experiencing Bruna Oliveira’s nut cheeze workshop, I was totally amazed by some of the cheeses she taught us to create. I particularly enjoyed making a vegan buffalo mozzarella and hard cheeses like a basic cheddar and parmesan, as well as learning about the fermenting process and how we can turn nut cheeses into a nutritious probiotic-rich food. I also loved Adria Wu’s class on careers and business planning. It was so useful to learn from someone with so much experience in the food industry. Adria is a former CNM student with a hugely successful food business so this was very inspiring.

Where are you planning to do your internship?

I had plans to do my internship abroad on a health/wellness/yoga retreat but unfortunately, that is currently not possible due to restrictions on international travel. There are many areas I’d love to get experience in so I’m open to opportunities. I’m hoping to get experience in food styling and photography, food and drink manufacturing and making food products for small businesses. I’ve been offered an internship at a vegan bakery in London where I will assist with the baking.

What advice can you give to anyone considering a career as a Vegan Natural Chef?

Do it now! Luckily the world is changing and the need for vegan chefs is increasing as more people are opting for plant-based options. More vegan restaurants are opening and non-vegan restaurants are adding plant-based options to their menu – it’s an exciting time to be in the industry. Be a part of this change. If you’re someone like me who is passionate about a career revolving around food, know that your options are endless. There are so many different career paths you can go down within the Vegan Natural Chef world and studying at CNM can open many doors and offer great opportunities.

What do you plan to do when you graduate?

Once qualified, I’d like to provide delicious, natural vegan food for health and wellness retreats in the UK and abroad. I’d also like to develop my skills in food photography, food styling, recipe development and social media as I intend to inspire and share my love for natural food and educate people on the power of plants through social media. I hope to travel and explore the different cuisines around the world with the intention of creating a cookbook inspired by my travels. One day you may even pick up or see one of my products in your local supermarket. I feel very inspired and ready to take on my dreams!

What is your go-to recipe at the moment and why?

It has to be the Gut Healing Broth by WallFlowerKitchen which was introduced to me during the soups and stews module. I’ve been making this for my family a lot recently so they can drink it a few times a week. It’s a cup full of healing magic! It’s warming, comforting and packed full of so much goodness for overall health – it’s great for the cold winter months.

My other go-to recipe is my vegan tofu pho which is a plant-based traditional Vietnamese soup with an umami flavoured broth, silky rice noodles, crispy marinated tofu and fragrant herbs and spices. This nutrient-dense bowl provides an excellent source of protein, B vitamins and antioxidants. With anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties, this dish is perfect for keeping your immune system in check.

Where is your favourite place to go for lunch or dinner and why? I have too many favourites, it would be difficult to just choose one! I absolutely love Farmacy because they promote biodynamic sustainability. Their menu offers seasonal, high-quality, plant-based organic food, connecting everything from the soil and the sun. I think it’s so important for us to coexist with nature and remain connected to the earth when it comes to food; eating fresh, local and sustainable food is very important.

Another favourite of mine is The Vurger Co because they offer healthy, ethically-sourced and produced vegan fast-food. It’s a real shame I live three hours away from London as I would love to visit these restaurants more often. There is, however, an Indian street food restaurant local to me in Yorkshire called Masala Craft, which offers a really delicious selection of vegan dishes.

How do you unwind at the end of a busy day?

I like to create a relaxing ‘zen’ atmosphere by lighting a candle, turning on my salt lamp and listening to calming spa music. I enjoy soaking in an Epsom salt bath with some essential oils. A 10-minute wind down, bedtime yoga flow and meditation helps me to unwind and relax. I find it beneficial to journal as it allows me to self-reflect, relieve stress and inspire creativity. I also love to read before bed; I’m currently reading Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty.

If you would like to learn more about becoming a Natural Chef or a Vegan Natural Chef, register for the next Open Event.