Hello, I am Anna Valentine. I’ve had a passion for food from a very young age and now I want to share this love with others.
I come from a family of well travelled foodies. We grew up trying cuisines that were different to other kids. This contributed to my creativity with food and I clearly remember experimenting with recipes from a very young age and feeding the results to my poor sister. A now very dear friend introduced me to vegetarian food from the age of 10, and by 12 I had become a devoted vegetarian.
I trained to become a chef instead of finishing my final year at college, and spent 10 years in the industry working in top restaurants, cafes and starting a couple of my own catering and market ventures in New Zealand and overseas before creating New Zealand’s first commercially available kumara chips ‘The Original Kumara Chips’.
Shortly after starting the kumara chip business my husband (and business partner Gareth) and I had two beautiful daughters - it changed the game a bit. We were living in Northland and I wanted to continue to be a stay at home mother, this meant we couldn’t expand the business as much as we had wanted to and I had a burning desire to share how to raise a healthy family on a plant-based diet. We sold the business (which was not an easy decision) and in 2016 The Veggie Tree was born.
The Veggie Tree is made up of cook schools, recipe sharing, blogging and seasonal cookbooks. The cook schools are held twice a month in our century old Kauri villa in Kaeo. I cater to all different cookery levels, ages and tastes - vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free - there is something for everyone.
Wanting to reach further afield than Kaeo, I've created, photographed and self-published ‘The Veggie Tree Autumn & Winter Cookbook’ and the 'The Veggie Tree Spring & Summer Cookbook' to share my recipes with a larger audience. It is a compilation of recipes that I cook for my family; they have also been tried and tested at the cook schools. They are easy everyday recipes that will inspire you to eat more plant based meals with ingredients that are readily available - I hope you enjoy them.
Teaching children to cook and eat healthy plant-based food through my Eat a Rainbow Kids Classes and my weekly class at Kaeo School have really given me perspective into how our early food experiences shape our eating habits for life. I love working through recipes to make them accessible to kids with limited experience and often fussy tastes. My aim is to encourage healthy food choices, trying new flavours and textures, keeping it simple but also nutritious.
For the last three 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.
I have recently had the privilege of consulting with a couple of the best restaurants in the Bay of Islands to ensure that plant-based gluten-free patrons get delicious nutritious meals. Along with plant-based catering and occasional celebration cake I'm excited to be learning and creating my own herbal remedies to support my families health and extending my foraging forays into educating and sharing what can be harvested from your lawns and local surrounds, we literally have nutritious and delicious food growing right under our feet.
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