Hello my name is Anna Valentine and I have had a passion for cooking, creating and a love of animals from a young age.
Committing to a vegetarian diet from the age of twelve, I decided I liked animals alive more than I enjoyed eating them so embarked on this journey with childhood stubbornness and naivety to which I have never felt any regret. Now empowering others to eat more plants, holding cook schools and workshops from my home in Kaeo, I thrive in sharing the knowledge I’ve picked up along the way. Heading off to university to do a diploma of catering and hospitality majoring in cookery instead of finishing my last year of high school, I found what I was good at and have stuck to it, going from strength to strength, not following the regular chefs path, rather striding out on my own making food businesses, from delivering sweet baking to a local café, having a weekly stall at the farmer’s market to creating the first commercially available kumara crisp chips in New Zealand.
I have authored, photographed and self-published two seasonal plant-based cookbooks and have recently launched Abundance, my third cookbook with the help of Upstart Publishers. My business ‘The Veggie Tree’ encompasses my cook schools and workshops, plant-based catering, plant-based restaurant consulting, locally grown handcrafted preserves and sauces, selling awesome local businesses products and supporting thousands of people’s gut health by growing and selling water kefir grains for the past five years. I adore food photography and styling, making food look as delicious as it tastes is my number one goal. I built my website eight years ago and this is where I share all of the above. I have an active and flourishing community on theveggietree.com where I also share new recipes and have a seasonal informative newsletter which I get great personal feedback from.
My path has evolved into a full love affair with the plant kingdom. I am an avid forager, edible weeds advocate, anthophile and natural medicine maker, fascinated in the nutrients you get from plants and how they benefit our overall wellbeing and health. I extensively research food, ingredients, health, nutrition, naturopathy, herbalism, biodiversity, permaculture, organics and I have a wild garden where I encourage plants to flourish naturally, going through their full life cycle, replenishing the earth, growing food to feed my family and which I work within, in an educational setting.
Educating children (and adults) about a healthy diet full of plants is especially important to me, empowering them to choose real food instead of packets, showing how exciting and tasty plants can be with easy fun recipes, encouraging them to make a mess and enjoy cooking, try something new and veering them away from the ‘I don’t like this or that’ mantra. Learning and teaching is an ever growing process and one I intend to continue sharing, my intention is to inspire people to find health through making better food choices and giving them delicious recipes to help them along this path.
For the last seven years I have been contributing recipes to the Vegetarian Living NZ magazine. It is a quarterly publication produced by the NZ Vegetarian Society
and is sent out to subscribers. I highly recommend joining the society, not only because you get three delicious recipes from me, great nutritional information and tips on becoming and sustaining a vegetarian lifestyle, but you will also contribute to being part of the solution, as every person that eats a more plant-based diet helps preserve the environment as well as your own health.
My wild organic garden supports my family but is by no means the only produce I use. I am an environmentalist at heart and we utilise all the scraps from the kitchen in the garden as well as burning all paper waste (which also goes into the garden). I order bulk organic foods and truely believe you are what you eat and have real concerns about how food is grown and produced and the secrecy around it. Eating organic doesn't have to be expensive, it's all about utilising ingredients you have efficiently which I strive to teach in my classes and would like to spread that net more widely. We are a zero food waste household and create very little rubbish, I feel that this is a very important lesson to pass on to future generations and can be done with just a few tweaks to peoples habits, education and also getting industry on board.
I would love to hear how I can help you to get your family eating more plant-based meals so please don't hesitate to contact me