If Mother Earth were an actual person, it would be Alejandra Schrader. Environmental steward, chef, nurturer, Oxfam Ambassador, food policy advocate, sister, daughter, humanitarian … Schrader fits the profile to a T. In the past decade, she has steadily grown a private chef business while inspiring global food transformation through her work with Oxfam America, the Chefs Network for Global Goals, and the EAT foundation. But one might be surprised to know this internationally renowned, plant-based, sustainable chef and change agent is currently in the midst of a career that was never planned—or even considered—until life intervened.
Schrader has been interested in the environment—and humans’ impact on it—for as long as she can remember. Her father was a builder and civil engineer in Venezuela. She spent time on construction sites early on and was acutely sensitive to the ways in which construction impacted the natural world. This is perhaps why Schrader chose to pursue a graduate degree, and subsequent career, in land use planning with a focus on sustainability.
But the recession hit, and Schrader, like many others, found herself unemployed and looking for work that similarly inspired her. Schrader’s husband and friends encouraged her to apply for the hit Fox series, MasterChef. Schrader, who, at the time, cooked only as a hobby and a way to connect with family, shrugged off the suggestion … until she realized the potential prize money would allow her to pay off her student loan debt. From thousands of applicants, Schrader earned a spot on the show, and in the top 10, as the “fan favorite.”
“ I care about our actions and how they impact Mother Earth,” she said. “Because of that interest, I’m always going into a conversation thinking about what can we do to change the way we eat, what we buy, and how we buy to benefit the world we live in. ”
Master Chef launched Schrader’s career as a private chef; but it did more than that. Schrader used the platform as an opportunity to spread the message of sustainability. She’s now a food policy advocate, whose audiences include the United Nations, the World Bank and U.S. lawmakers.
“I care about our actions and how they impact Mother Earth,” she said. “Because of that interest, I’m always going into a conversation thinking about what can we do to change the way we eat, what we buy, and how we buy to benefit the world we live in.”
Schrader’s no-food-waste attitude and appetite for knowledge influenced her to go from a diet of mostly pastas and rich foods as a child, to a pescatarian and plant-based diet, to a 100% plant-based diet. She credits her involvement with the EAT-Lancet Commission Report and current Cornell coursework in plant-based nutrition with accelerating the final transition.
“I know too much,” said Schrader.
But there are challenges to living a plant-based, no-waste lifestyle: getting the right nutrients, finding the best flavors and having the ability to break down tough items like stems, seeds and pits. Schrader insists investing in one or two good tools is critical.
“My Vitamix allows me to upcycle foods to maximize consumption of ingredients and achieve zero waste,” said Schrader. “With upcycling, we give a much better purpose to food that would normally be thrown away.”
“ They wouldn’t get a smooth texture without Vitamix, said Schrader. I can’t break them down in any other machine. ”
Schrader refers to her work breaking down avocado seeds in her Vitamix machine as “the breakthrough.” These seeds were historically used to treat inflammatory conditions in many South American cultures. Schrader sun dries the avocado seeds, pulverizes them in her Vitamix blender and sprinkles the dust on soups, stews, salads and more.
She also uses her Vitamix blender—the same on she’s had since 2012—to grind dried papaya seeds, which add nutrients and a nutty flavor to items like salads and grilled vegetables.
Carrot greens are Schrader’s favorite zero-waste ingredient, as they beautify dishes and taste great. Her Vitamix blender gives her the power she needs to create the best chimichurri from carrot tops and radishes.
“They wouldn’t get a smooth texture without Vitamix,” said Schrader. “I can’t break them down in any other machine.”
Schrader knows there are barriers to consuming a plant-based, zero-waste diet. Namely, timing.
“Vitamix can help you overcome this,” she said.
Schrader recommends starting with something simple, like soup. “Go to a farmers’ market, ask the farmer about his or her produce (or google a recipe later), take it home, steam it up and put it in the Vitamix. You’ll get a fantastic sustainable, homemade meal.”
For inspiration from Schrader, check out her mouthwatering plant-based Instagram creations. Share your own Vitamix-made, plant-based dishes using #MyVitamix.