Margie Cook, Vegan Chef, accurately describes her charming new Revel Foods storefront as “cute as a button.” And chatting with her there on an early September afternoon, it turns out, is every bit as captivating as the space. Margie is experienced, wise and thoughtful—and laugh-out-loud funny.
Amid the humming refrigerators filled with small-batch, hand-prepared sauces, dips, main courses and desserts, the conversation meanders from food and cooking to family and friends, travels and loves, and somehow winds its way back to food.
It’s similar to her career, really. “Always, regardless of what I tried to do, I was always pulled back to food in one form or another,” she says. Over the years, her education as a registered holistic nutritionist and certified vegan lifestyle coach intertwined with her roles as an educator, caterer, personal chef and business owner.
And, for almost three decades, that life in food hasn’t involved animals. Well, mostly. “The road to veganism isn’t really a straight line,” she says of her own slow path from aquavarian to lacto-vegetarian to vegan—none of which are identifications she clings to. “Why do we need the labels? I just think we should all eat the way we want,” she laughs.
“My kids, when they were little, would say, ‘Mama, can you eat this?’ and I’d say, ‘I can eat whatever I want! I choose not to eat that.’ I really believe everyone’s food choices should be their own,” But, she adds, “I don’t think anyone would argue that the more plants you eat in your day is ever going to be a bad idea.”
It’s this light-hearted, soapbox-free take on nutrition that has enabled her to inspire corporations, restaurants, home cooks and friends to rethink their own meal choices.
“I’d love it if the world was vegan,” she says. But facts and figures, rants and raves aren’t her way. “Food is my activism. I’ve spent my life feeding people, and surprising them.
Rich and creamy cauliflower soup that dares to say it’s dairy-free. A tantalizing smoked-salmon dip that—wait, those are carrots, not salmon! Tangy, lemony tzatziki that you’d swear is brimming with crumbled feta.
When Margie made the choice to go full vegan a decade ago, she looked forward, not backward, with her decisions. Instead of tossing out animal-based apparel from her closet, she focused on future purchases—which meant she could hold on to her favourites, but only for as long as they lasted.
“Blundstone boots in particular were so huge for me. I wore them all the time,” she says—even though she sometimes caught flack for wearing leather, albeit leather purchased years before. “I’ve had them for 20 years. When the soles finally wore out, my saddest day was when I realized, ‘Damn! I can’t wear Blundstones any more!’” So, when Blundstone released their first vegan boot in 2021, she was ecstatic. “My vegan Blundstone boots were an angel-send,” she says, taking a gleeful turn around the shop in her newest pair, reminiscing about that summer long ago at the cottage, leaping from the dock in her old boots.
The conversation floats back to food again, as we sample some of her Dream Cheese on crackers and nibble N’egg Salad sandwiches.
“Food is memories. It’s smells and flavours and sitting around with your family. Food is the centre of our universe,” she says. “I call it equal-opportunity dining. Everyone at the table should have a special meal, something that lights them up.”