It seems like just yesterday that Credible Edibles was one of Ottawa’s hottest veg-friendly cafés, with Judi Varga-Toth and her crew slinging tofu and ladling out soup at a record pace.
But in a decisive move, Judi recently ceased cafe operations, and converted her business to a full-scale cooking school. We caught up with the always bubbly Judi to find out more about the vegan cooking classes that she is offering.
Q: Credible Edibles was a pretty fab café. Why the decision to cease cafe operations and focus on the cooking classes?
A: Running a café is a lot of work and very unpredictable. While I had a lot of regular and very regular customers there was a lot a variation from day to day in the number of people who came to the café. This made it difficult to plan and schedule staff. And because the café kept me so busy I was not able to offer cooking classes. My first passion has been to teach and inspire others to create their own wonderful, healthy plant-based meals and I love to interact with people and get to know them better.
Q: What did you learn from the café experience, and how will that be applied to your business going forward?
A: Through the café I learned which dishes were the most popular and these are the ones I am now teaching people to cook for themselves. I also met many, many wonderful people who have become my friends and also participants in many of my classes. The café was a joyful place and proved to me that Ottawans are ready to eat healthy, environmentally-friendly food! I am hoping that the good reputation of the café will help spread the word about the great cooking classes we offer.
Q: Why vegan cooking classes? Who is taking your classes, and who should be taking them?
A: There is growing evidence that plant-based eating is not only the best option for environmental reasons but also the best for our own health. While I have been vegetarian for many, many years it is the recent movie Forks over Knives that convinced me that plant-based eating was essential to good health. I offered one trial workshop called Forks over Knives last summer and it sold out. Since then I have offered it five times and the interest in plant-based eating keeps growing.
I think many people worry that vegan cooking is complicated or boring or needs too many special ingredients. My classes focus on amazing recipes that you can get on the table as quickly as 20 minutes with basic ingredients you would normally have on hand in your kitchen. I also provide participants with an essential pantry list and a list of places in Ottawa to buy what you need to make plant-based cooking as easy as ABC.
Q: Tell us about what you’re offering.
A: Every month I offer eight to ten classes that introduce people to different aspects of plant-based cooking. I teach most of the classes myself but also partner with other skilled vegan chefs in town to offer a wider range of classes. Each class lasts about 2.5 hours and includes a full meal, four to six recipes, hands-on training using both basic and more unusual ingredients, hand-outs to simplify and demystify plant-based eating and extra food to take home to share with others. The classes range from the introductory Forks over Knives class to specific classes on using soy, legumes, making soups, incorporating chocolate, seaweed and more.
Q: What is your teaching philosophy?
A: I love to teach and inspire. I believe everyone can cook and get pleasure out of cooking for themselves and others. Every single class includes hands-on cooking rather than just demonstrations. People learn best by doing. I also share tips and suggestions about cooking more healthfully, choosing the best ingredients, where to buy things in Ottawa, where to go out to eat, what books and movies will support your journey and so on. There is also plenty of opportunity for people to learn from each other in my classes. Everyone who attends a class has some experience that benefits the rest of us so I make sure to have time for everyone to contribute. Finally, the most important element is to sit and eat together. Sharing a meal (especially one we all made together) is fundamental to experiential learning. And it is so much fun!
Q: What are your goals for the Credible Edibles cooking school?
A: My goal is to expand the school to be able to offer more classes to meet the needs of everyone who is interested in transitioning to a more healthful, ecological way of eating. I would also like Credible Edibles to be a place where people come to connect with others making changes to their lifestyles so we can all encourage each other on this path to greater well-being.
To view the schedule of cooking classes, click here.
Slow Food for Fast Lives
78 Hinton Avenue North, Ottawa