Marz Valcorza talks about her vegan journey, writing cookbooks, and opening up her own vegan restauarant, Sadhana Kitchen, in Sydney
Maz Valcorza has had a dizzying journey to veganism and eventually the excessive partying, smoking and lack of exercise took its toll on her health. She traded her corporate career for the chance to open Sadhana Kitchen in Sydney. Maz is now an advocate for the vegan way of life and has written two cookbooks to simplify delicious vegan food for those joining the vegan revolution.
Tell us about your own vegan journey
It all started when I applied for yoga teacher training while I was working in pharmaceutical sales and marketing. I had made assumptions about yoga and veganism at the time and preemptively decided to go vegetarian as I didn’t want to be the only meat eater in my training group. Much to my surprise, there weren’t many vegans or vegetarians in the group and yet I started to really resonate with the foundational principle of ahimsa. It’s a Yama, one of the tenants of yoga that recommends that we treat others with compassion. Ahimsa is Sanskrit for non-violence or non-harm. Through yoga, I connected with the part of myself that always understood that I didn’t want to harm other beings and that the most meaningful way I can take action was not to eat them! As soon as I re-connected with this inherent wisdom, I became vegan overnight. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my health and wellbeing. I used to get asthma and hives every time the season changed; I was on steroids and nebulizers to help me breathe and always thought it was normal. All of that went away and I was off my medication within 1 month of becoming vegan. That was enough, even my super skeptical Filipino mother, to see that I had made an awesome decision.
How did you learn to cook great vegan food?
I was a really fussy eater as a child, but when I turned 11, something shifted and I became really interested in food. I started eating so much that my parents thought I must have had worms! To support my appetite, I started cooking and taught myself how to combine flavours and textures into delicious dishes. These days I joke about how I have a foodie super power, which is basically to be able to guess the ingredients and component of almost everything I taste. This helps me in my creative process of creating recipes. I imagine the recipe in my head, salivate over the flavour combinations, textures and aromas before I make it in real life and taste it for real. It’s been a deliciously rewarding process.
How would you describe your own signature style?
My signature style is healthy, vegan comfort food. I love taking classic desserts like donuts and comfort foods like mac’n’cheeze and making them into vegan, gluten free, organic, refined sugar free and I often make raw food versions too.
What is your signature dish?
The raw lasagne and raw tacos from my book, The Naked Vegan, have been two of the most popular dishes on the Sadhana Kitchen menu. I also love cacao! My partner and I started our own brand of organic drinking chocolate called Sacred Taste and I often use our powders in desserts because chocolate is actually a health food, rather than a confectionary, if it’s prepared raw and without harmful additives like refined sugar or dairy. It’s one of the most potent antioxidants foods on the planet, rich in magnesium, calcium, iron and naturally elevates our mood by boosting levels of feel good chemicals in our brain. One of my favourite desserts is our choc-raspberry cheezecake using Sacred Earth drinking Cacao.
How did you create the menu at your restaurant?
These days I work closely with our chefs because they’re so creative and talented that I ask them to just do their thing, provided what they create in aligned with our values — always vegan, gluten free, refined sugar free and delicious! We always work with the seasons so our menu changes four times a year and we only use the most delicious and nutritious produce that are available at the time. In the beginning, I was making all the food myself, from recipes I created to eat at home and post on my blog, it’s been so awesome to see Sadhana grow and evolve.
What do you think is the future of vegan food?
I think the future of vegan food is growing your own produce and making food that is affordable and convenient at home. I co-founded an online platform called Everyday Vegan that teaches people how to live healthy and happy plant-based lifestyle sustainably. This is really something I’m super passionate about sharing with as many people as possible. A thriving plant based lifestyle is one that people can healthily sustain over time and it’s not just about food, it’s about movement, fitness, nutrition, environmental impact and compassion too! Once we have the capacity to nourish ourselves, whilst supporting our planet, then we really are empowered to create a lifestyle where we can thrive, and a world where we all support one another and whilst caring for our environment.