Chef Rain Truth
I am an avid international traveler and this is specifically to study herbs and spices and different cuisines to increase my knowledge and offer my customers a true cultural experience.
-Chef Rain Truth
I loved having the opportunity to interview Chef Rain Truth of Waukegan, Illinois basedThe Cultured Vegan. Rain is a “proud Waukegan-ite,” a suburb north of Chicago, located near the border of Wisconsin and Illinois. is a mother, vegan chef, caterer, culinary instructor and certified vegan lifestyle coach. In addition to catering weekly meals, vending at fairs, festivals and tradeshows, doing food demonstrations and teaching classes, running a mobile 6-week culinary arts program for children, she is also in the process of publishing 2 cookbook! Thank you for your time Rain and here’s to all the fantastic educational and culinary experiences you provide!
Annika: When & where was The Cultured Vegan established?
Rain: We were re-established in Waukegan, Illinois in 2012. We initially started in 1995 under a different name while I was a Sophomore in high school. I live about 10 minutes from the naval base and started with catering dinner parties for sailors that were unable to go home for the holidays.
Annika: The Cultured Vegan offers a broad & very exciting range of services! How did these services evolve over time?
Rain: Initially it just started as the dinner parties, but as I started having children and realized that my calling must include children. I taught them how to cook and I observed the pride and confidence that exuded from them as they finished a meal or learned a new way to plate a dish. I wanted others to experience that same joy. That is how I created my culinary arts program and from there I received requests to show people hands-on how to prepare and create dishes. I also decided to take it a step further by becoming a certified vegan lifestyle coach. The services evolved based on the need and demand from the community.
Annika: Your “Seed of Truth” 6 week children’s culinary certification program sounds amazing! Can you share more about this as well as what it has been like now that the program has been launched.
Rain: Yes! This is a 6-week hands-on certification program where the children are able to come and explore all things food. I do incorporate an educational aspect in each class so that not only is this fun, but the children are learning and have something to take with them as well. I travel to the location and conduct the classes. I have contracted with the Chocolate Chip Association (which is a chapter of Girl Scouts of America), numerous park districts, a couple schools as well as private classes for individual students. I keep this program very inexpensive for the children so that everyone is able to participate. They children get a 1 hour and 15 minute class, an apron, a recipe packet and a certificate upon completion of the course. The program can also be condensed to accommodate any time restrictions an organization or person might have.
Annika: How have kids been responding to the “Seeds of Truth” program and what are some examples of dishes they have been making?
Rain: I also incorporate a healthy smoothie class in each series of classes. We have also done a raw vegan snicker bar, vegan pizzas, homemade wraps, and DIY mini taco bar. I keep my dishes very simple for the children so that they can continue to prepare these dishes at home with little to no supervision. The children love the class and I always feel so proud when they walk up to me or see me out and tell me how they have still been cooking or how they recreated a specific dish we made in class. The smiles they give me are priceless and make it all worth it.
Annika: Are kids who attend the program or other culinary classes often vegan (or their parents vegan)?
Rain: Ironically they are not. My children’s program is vegan, however, I focus on children that are plagued with food allergens, obesity or diabetes. That is really my main push for the culinary program. I want children to have an outlet where they can creatively express themselves and I give them the culinary arts aspect as such. The entire curriculum just happens to be 100% plant based.
Annika: The Cultured Vegan Catering menu has a dynamic mix of regional and cultural influences. Was it this way from the beginning? What was the inspiration behind the menu development?
Rain: As a child I always had friends from an array of backgrounds. I had friends from Cambodia, India, the Philippines, Mexico, Ethiopia, Puerto Rico, Guam and other beautiful places. We played at each other’s houses and I would always happen to be there at dinner time or when their families would be cooking. I was very intrigued with how different each culture prepared their food or what they considered to be their staple item. The fragrant aromas and the different spices and herbs used from each respective country. It was fascinating to me. I was enthralled. This sparked my desire to trave, learn and study and see how and why different cultures had different cuisine and that sparked my desire to want to learn how to cook everything.
Annika: What are some of your signature dishes?
Rain: A couple customer favorites would be our Caribbean Coconut Black Beans, Jerk Cauliflower Wings, Curry Not Chik’n and our Chik’n & Sausage Gumbo with rice. However, we specialize in so many items and pride ourselves on customized dishes created specifically to cater to the client’s needs.
Annika: Do you have any particular events that The Cultured Vegan has catered that stand out in memory?
Rain: Yes! In 2015, we did a vegan wedding in a beautiful barn on a farm in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. It was amazing. The bride, groom and the groom’s mother were the only vegans in the entire party. They warned me that the majority of the family were heavy meat eaters and hunters. I was quite nervous as to how they might receive my food. However, that day we received so many compliments and people actually coming up individually to tell me how much they loved the food and never thought they would like vegan food. That was a very special day for me and I hold that as one of my fondest memories.
Annika: You have been vegan for many years. What has it been like to see the vegan movement and interest in plant based foods grow over the years?
Rain: It has been such an honor to witness the progress and transformation of veganism…So many of my family members and friends have also dedicated themselves to a plant based diet. It makes me feel proud to know that so many people are understanding that what we consume affects not only our body and mind, but the environment as well. Even restaurants are jumping on board and waking up by offering their customers vegan or vegetarian options.
Annika: Were you vegan through pregnancy?
Rain: Yes I have been vegan throughout my entire pregnancy and also raised my children as vegan. It was very easy and allowed me to incorporate creativity and variety into my daily eating.
Annika: Can you share any special changes you made (i.e. with diet & nutrition) during pregnancy?
Rain: I primarily just increased my caloric and iron intake. I made sure to have a sufficient amount of fluids as required, sleep, and exercise and honestly just kept a positive mind and heart.
Annika: Did motherhood have any influence on your vegan outlook?
Rain: Absolutely! It added to the level of knowledge I sought to obtain beyond just what is best for myself, but also for my children. I was seeing my children and so many of their friends being bombarded with unhealthy food options and the pressures to be like everyone else. It really pushed me even harder to offset that with a healthy alternative. My children are my world and wanting the best for them didn’t only include them getting good grades in school, but also how and what they consumed affected their body and mind.
Annika: How old are your children & are they vegan?
Rain: My children are currently 18, 14 and 10 months of age. I breastfed all 3 of my children and they are all vegan. My 14 year old has been dealing with a bit of pressure now since he has entered into high school this year in wanting to fit in and has shared with me how rude some of the kids can be. I just keep trying to instill in him the confidence to know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with him and keep him around other vegans. We go to all of the vegan fests together and keep the literature handy so that he knows he is perfectly normal.
Annika: What are some of their favorite foods and dishes?
Rain: When I ask them they tell me everything, but they love my baked macaroni and “cheese”, BBQ Cauliflower Wings, Pad Thai, Chik’n Lo Mein, and my vegan street tacos.
Annika: Does your child’s school offer vegan meals?
Rain: Not on purpose. I have been the sole provider for my children’s lunches since they started in the school system. I actually enjoyed it as well. If school would have a pizza party, I would make sure to bring vegan pizza or any vegan version of whatever type of activity they would have.
Annika: Would you say the region you live in is vegan friendly? How has the response to The Cultured Vegan developed over time?
Rain: Honestly I would say yes. I am in the middle of Milwaukee and Chicago and both offer an extensive array of vegan cuisine and vegan-friendly options. The response to The Cultured Vegan has actually been very good. We have been very well received and are being recognized and featured in major publications and social media outlets. We also have increased our percentage of vegan wedding events over the last year by 300%. It has been an amazing journey and I am so proud to be here to share my gift with the world.
This interview is part of an ongoing interview series by Annika Lundkvist with vegan mothers and fathers around the globe. For more interviews and information please visit this page: Interview Series: Vegan Pregnancy, Parenting & Kids.