Eddie Garza is on his second act in life. The vegan chef went from being a professional musician and teacher to a celebrity chef and public speaker who’s using food to change the world. He’s gone from teaching scales to teaching people how to eat food that’s good for them and the world they live in.
The 42 year-old Mexican American has taken his culinary secrets and re-imagined Mexican food as vegan fare. In his new book, Salud! Mexican Vegan Cookbook, Garza shares 150 plant-powered recipes including favorites like flautas and burritos as well as fideos and moyetes (open-faced sandwiches).
His food is so good that he has been a private chef for Latino celebrities including Marco Antonio Regil, Ximena Córdoba, and Catalina Robayo. Garza has shared his ideas about food in schools and large conferences like South by Southwest in Austin and ExpoSer in Mexico City.
We spoke to Garza about life before and after going vegan, power plants and why Mexican food is vegan food hiding in plain sight.
‘LLERO: Tell us about how and why you went vegan?
Chef Garza: I went vegan when I was 21 years old. I weighed 310 lbs and I’m 5’7”. Morbidly obesity at that point. I had constant sprained ankles because of my obesity and couldn’t walk. [I was a musician and teacher at the time] and one year on the first day of classes [a new teacher] said “Dude you’re fat!” She said it so bluntly like she was in shock. I turned beet red and started sweating. She said ‘Join me this weekend. I’m going to this meeting to learn how to lose weight.” So I did. We were in AA for food. I learned about eating and health and together we made this big lifestyle change.
I also learned about the environmental impact of agriculture. Diet is the most important and impactful way to help. At this time I started meeting more people involved in this work for ethical reasons and saw how animals were treated. It all came full circle. It started with health, then empathy towards all animals and now knowing I’m being a champion for the environment.
‘LL: For those who don’t know tell us what being vegan is.
CG: To be vegan, at least in food world, means not consuming animal products: meat, dairy, eggs, anything that comes from an animal including honey from bees. My kitchen is completely animal free.
‘LL: How and why did you switch careers?
CG: I’ve been cooking as long as I can remember. It was one of the first things I knew I wanted to do. When I was 7 years old, my mom was sick so I made her breakfast in bed, French crepes. I knew at that point, ‘This is my calling.’ My lifestyle change prompted my career change. I went to study with a chef in Dallas at the Spiral Diner. The only established vegan restaurant where I was living. I went back to myself as a chef. Applied all the tricks I learned to my Mexican kitchen. That’s when I really found my identity. Less than a year in, I branched out on my own. I started out as a private chef and it was really word of mouth from there.