I adore the magic that happens in a kitchen: not just the food, but the joy and community it creates. After becoming a vegetarian overnight at the age of twelve, I was literally thrown into the fire when my mother decided just as quickly that she was no longer cooking for me. In high school, I held baking contests at home and read through the entire Time-Life Good Cook series. Returning to the land of my birth, Japan, after college, I discovered French cuisine and ate everything I possibly could that was laden in dairy but not meat (there are more Michelin-starred restaurants in Tokyo than all of France!).
Eventually, I realized the toll that it was having on my health and became a vegan. To satisfy my craving for rich foods, I gave myself a culinary education by reading every French and Italian cookbook I could get my hands on, then applied those techniques to vegan ingredients. In the early 1980s, when resources for vegan cuisine were limited, re-creating those dishes presented a thrilling challenge. I began to teach, doing cooking demos at department stores in Japan, and opened a wholesale bakery, lugging 60 pounds of pound cake in a backpack, delivering them to stores all over Tokyo by train. (I still have that backpack—now my daughter uses it to go camping). At night, I sometimes moonlighted as a jazz singer, singing standards at clubs.
I wrote my first cookbook nearly 25 years ago (The Now and Zen Epicure, Book Publishing Company, 1991) to dispel the myth that vegan food could not be gourmet. Back in San Francisco, I launched a vegan bakery, then a vegan restaurant (Now and Zen), where I went into labor with my second child during lunch rush (my third child came along only a year later, and I carried her in a bundle on my back as I ran around the kitchen). The restaurant eventually morphed into a natural food manufacturing company with national distribution, making everything from meat substitutes – including the UnTurkey – and cookies and pastries for United Airlines. Eventually, I sold the business to concentrate on raising my young family.
My mission over the years has been to entice people to a compassionate, plant-based diet through delicious food. My passion for this mission has grown stronger each year, and now I carry that message to people around the country, actively promoting veganism through my books, talks, television shows (Vegan Mashup, seen on PBS) and cooking demonstrations.
I am grateful to have been blessed with a life that allows me each day to rise and greet my ever-growing flock of rescued chickens, run with my dogs, cuddle with my cats, and enjoy life’s adventures with my human family (a husband, Michael, and three grown kids–Aki, Sera, and Cammy). I hope that I can continue working the rest of my life to inspire people, through delicious food, to adopt a diet that can save animals, the environment, and their health.
Books by Miyoko Schinner
- The Homemade Vegan Pantry, the Art of Making Your Own Staples (Ten Speed Press, 2015)
- Artisan Vegan Cheese (Book Publishing Company, 2012)
- The New Now and Zen Epicure (Book Publishing Company, 2001)
- Japanese Cooking, Contemporary and Traditional (Book Publishing Company, 1999)