Meet a Vegan: Food & Wine Specialist Sunny

Sunny Gandara, a native of Norway is a food, wine, and vegan lifestyle consultant.  Among her many different passions, skill sets, and interests, she is also a writer, food blogger, and animal lover.  But, don’t try to label her or squeeze her into a one-size fits all category. She provides plant-based and vegan cooking classes, food and wine pairing (vegan of course), restaurant consulting, one-on-one coaching, and she will even help you with content copy-writing and branding. Wow! Such a phenomenal woman and role model!  

Moriah John, the founder of Eat Bright Living, decided to reach out to Gandara to talk about Gandara’s journey to becoming vegan, and see what advice she had to offer those who are considering a vegan lifestyle. She did not disappoint! 

Tell me about yourself.

I’m a native of Norway and moved to the United States at age 19 to go to college after a year in Italy where I lived to learn the language. After I finished my international marketing degree in San Francisco, I moved to New York to work. I landed a job in the music industry and worked in record labels and traveled the world with pop stars and rappers for 10 years before deciding to go to culinary school and become a chef.

During that time, I picked back up on my inspiration I got while living in Italy to start learning more about wine.  I received my WSET Diploma in 2007 and started my own catering company, Fork and Glass, with my chef-husband who I met while in school.  This was before I became vegan.

We focused on farm to table cooking, and we actually worked from a professional kitchen inside a farm, and I think that is when I really started to connect the dots – seeing the beautiful animals outside and becoming aware that they had to die in order for us to cook and prepare meals for our customers.  The final straw was when I watched the film “Earthling” that a dear friend (already vegan) sent me. I went vegan overnight.

I’ve since worked in multiple facets of the wine industry as a sales consultant, buyer, and educator, and now I have my own consulting company, Menufacturers, where I provide services for restaurants who want to add plant-based food and wine options on their menus. I also work with private and corporate groups and conduct workshops and classes on wine tasting, cooking and pairing food and wine. I am also Wine Director for Vegan Wines, the first vegan online wine club in the United States.

What’s one thing you wished people told you about becoming vegan?

How easy and rewarding it is! But also how hard it is.  By the latter I mean it’s really difficult to have ‘woken up’ to the atrocities we commit to our fellow animal friends, the planet and of course – to ourselves by eating food that is not produced in a way that is healthy for us anymore.

How has becoming vegan changed how you approach cooking and eating out?

I am definitely much more adventurous in the kitchen now.  Before I went vegan and was considering making the leap, I was worried my choices would be limited and that I would be bored. I laugh thinking about that now because I think my cooking is so much more exciting and varied and I truly look forward to every meal.

When I eat out, I always do some type of ‘research’ or preparations in the sense that I call ahead to make sure there are vegan options, if the restaurant is not vegan. In fact, I prefer going to non-vegan restaurants now as I take inspiration from dishes that are made with animal-based ingredients and think about how I can make it into a vegan dish that will be better than its original.  It’s also a chance to influence and speak with the waiters, restaurant managers, and owners, to request vegan options and make them realize that this is not a “trend”, but a way of eating and living that is here to stay and they should expand their horizons and get on the plant-based train!

What’s your favorite thing about being vegan?

Going to sleep at night feeling good about the fact that I didn’t hurt an innocent animal because of what I’ve been eating. Knowing that I try to spread kindness and love to every living being on this planet because we need more of that than ever now.  Secondly, of course, is the food!  So many exciting vegan foods are coming out on the market now, and it’s so rewarding to see companies embrace vegan-friendly products.

What advice would you give young vegans (vegans just starting out)?

To be kind to yourself, know that this is a journey.  Know that you are trying and if you mess up – forgive yourself, we all make mistakes, but your effort is what counts. Nobody is perfect, and it is impossible to be 100% vegan in today’s world. We do the best we can, trying to inflict as little harm to others as we can by our lifestyle.  We all learn something new every day, and we continue to improve upon our daily habits.  Also, surround yourself with other vegans when you have those tough days and you want to scream from the rooftops (we’ve all been there, lol!).  A little compassion, understanding, and patience with yourself and others go a long way to making this lifestyle not only more attractive to others but more importantly to yourself.

Visit Sunny’s website or find her on Facebook or Instagram!

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