Maddy Coghlan, Teen Vegan Chef on World Vegetarian Day

Madeleine Coghlan photo

UPDATE: October 1 is World Vegetarian Day marking the beginning of Vegetarian Awareness Month.

UPDATE October 1, 2012: Maddy is still a voracious vegan and has a television pilot in the works. She’s perfected a few recipes that might not be considered vegan possibilities including tuna salad, creamy carrot coconut curry soup, and the ultimate vegan salted caramel sauce.  She’s been delivering vegan meals as well.  We hope to post one of her special recipes in the future.  Good luck in all  your endeavors, Maddy!

By Stacey Gualandi

Look out Rachael, Martha, and Paula. Maddy Coghlan has a new recipe for success!

At 14, this Los Angeles 9th grader, cheerleader, and budding actress is now a full-fledged vegan chef and hopes to carve out her own niche when it comes to TV-friendly cooks. She’s been a vegetarian since birth, but recently decided to go vegan. That decision helped her to get interested in cooking, often preparing all the family meals.

I must confess. I’ve had the privilege of tasting her fabulous home-cooked 5-course meals. Her parents are good friends and I’ve known Maddy since she was 2. While I know nothing about cooking, this gal is well on her way to gastronomic good fortune. Maddy is now cooking circles around her friends, neighbors, even her own mother! And her talents have already been recognized on national television.

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Maddy is a huge fan of author/actress Alicia Silverstone, who wrote “The Kind Diet“. She says she has made just about every recipe in the book, and even got to meet her fellow vegan idol at a recent book signing.

Maddy Coughlan

Maddy and Alicia Silverstone

One of Maddy’s favorite meals to prepare is curry-spiced lentils and Greek salad with red wine/dijon vinaigrette and baked sweet potato fries and brown jasmine rice and garlic-roasted broccoli. Whew! Yummmmm. I’ll have two helpings please!

Maddie Coghlan meal

With childhood obesity a national concern, and most teens eating junk while sitting at a computer, one can only hope more teens like Maddy could lead by example.

She took time in between doing her homework to talk about what she says will be a life-long passion…

EYE: So Maddy, why are you a vegan?

MADDY: I decided to go vegan when I was fourteen for none other than animal rights issues. I guess you could say I had a mini revelation. I was selling baked goods to raise money for an animal shelter and since I had recently been hearing and reading a lot about veganism, I had to face the hypocrisy in my doings. How could I feel such a strong need to help one group of animals, while doing harm to another?

I decided right then and there that I couldn’t and wouldn’t participate in any suffering anymore. It was only later that I learned of the extraordinary health benefits that came along with this compassionate decision.

“The ‘what do you eat?’ turned into, ‘Can I try some?’”

EYE: What do your peers at school think about all this?

MADDY: Well, after I explain to them what “vegan” means, most of my peers stand in disbelief that I could survive without Cheetos and ice cream. However, after I assure them that I am thriving just fine, the questions begin.

“Wait! So you can’t have {insert your own non-vegan product name here}?” Or, the most common one and my personal favorite: “So what do you eat?” As the school year went on though, my lunches that I packed filled with the bright-colored food I was eating began to entice some of the other kids.

The “what do you eat?” turned into, “Can I try some?” or “Man, I wish my lunch was that good.” I believe that I have hopefully gained respect from my peers because of the decision I’ve made, and I definitely would love to “convert” my friends to eat healthier and more thoughtfully.

Maddy Cooking

EYE: You know I hate to cook, but why do you enjoy it so much?

MADDY: Hey, my mom feels the exact same way. I think my loving to cook goes along with my choice to go vegan. I became vegan in order to do what I could to stop animal’s suffering and bring joy to the animals. I cook to bring joy to people.

I love being able to nourish my friend’s and family’s bodies with meals I prepared from scratch. If I ever see my mom reaching for the boxed cornbread mix, I’ll have whipped up a fresh batch in under 20 minutes that tastes and is better for her.

I also enjoy cooking because its a different form of art expression. I express myself through the colors and textures of different food.

“I want to be known purely for me and the differences I can make”

EYE: Is there a downside to being vegan and a teen? Do you get enough nutrients?

MADDY: A plant based diet at a young age can prevent heart disease, and as long as vegans are informed and know what sources all their nutrients come from, I think it’s perfectly safe at any age. The typical kid diet (I know because I’m with them everyday!) are cookies and coke for lunch, not exactly ideal either.

EYE: Is your goal to be the next Rachael, Martha, Julia, or Alicia?

MADDY: I definitely see Alicia and Julia and all these chefs and animal activists as great inspirations and I could only hope to be as successful, but in all honesty, I don’t want to be the next anybody.

I want to be known purely for me and the differences I can make. Of course, I would not object to a show on the Food Network. I want to show veganism and cooking in a new light, one that portrays veganism not as a fad diet or a weird eating decision, but as a beautiful and fulfilling lifestyle change that one will always reap the benefits from.

EYE: What do you say when someone says how can you not eat pizza or ice cream?

MADDY: I say, “Please come to dinner at my house and then you’ll see why!”

EYE: Ok, I’ll be there Saturday!!! Thanks so much, Maddy!

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