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December 2005/January 2006
Eat Peace! The No-Kill Philosophy of Native Foods

The Satya Interview with Tanya Petrovna


Tanya Petrovna and friend.
Slam-Dunk Recipe
By Tanya Petrovna

From The Native Foods Restaurant Cookbook
(Shambhala, 2003)

The Mad Cowboy
(In honor of Howard Lyman)

3-4 Soy Chicken “Brests” (available dried)
1⁄2 C. BBQ Sauce
2 Medium Potatoes, baked
3-4 C. Steamed mixed veggies of your choice
4 T. Black Creek Ranch Dressing (see below)
1⁄4 C. Green Onions, chopped
1⁄4 C. Corn Kernels, fresh or defrosted frozen
1 T. Red Bell Pepper, Brunoise-cut or finely cut into small cubes
4 Bamboo Skewers

1. Reconstitute chicken “brests” in boiling water according to instructions, approximately 20 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350°. Slice each brest into three slices lengthwise. Spear onto bamboo skewers. Slather both sides of brests with BBQ sauce, reserving extra sauce for garnish. Place on a cookie sheet or baking dish and bake for 20 minutes.

3. Cut each baked potato in half and put in a bowl or on a plate. Top with one T. of Black Creek Ranch Dressing. Mound steamed veggies on top and add another T. of dressing. Stick the two skewers into the potatoes or place them on top. Drizzle remaining BBQ sauce on top. Garnish with green onions, corn, and chopped red bell pepper.

Serves 2.

Black Creek Ranch Dressing

Black Creek Ranch in San Antonio, Texas, was a hunting ranch and cattle-raising facility for years, until one great woman turned it into a 1,200-acre sanctuary. I was privileged to cook there and pet the cows. This dressing is named after that soon-to-be-famous compassionate ranch and is fantastic on anything—salads, raw veggies, rice, you name it!

11⁄4 C. Vegan Mayonnaise
1⁄4 t. Garlic Powder
1⁄4 t. Onion Powder
1⁄4 t. Sea Salt
1⁄2 t. Black Pepper
2 t. Parsley, finely chopped
3⁄4 C. Soymilk

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl.

Makes 2 cups.

When people ask Tanya Petrovna, “Are you a strict vegetarian?” she replies, “No, I’m a fun vegetarian!” And that says a good deal about this chef and vegan restaurateur.

For years, Tanya has wowed diners with her colorful and delicious vegan creations. Her first Native Foods restaurant opened a decade ago in Palm Springs. Now with three more locations—in nearby Palm Desert, Westwood Village near UCLA ,and in Orange County’s Costa Mesa—Native Foods is not only a Southern California staple, but beloved by vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. To allow people to try her no-kill creations at home, Tanya revealed her secrets in a “manual for the masses,” The Native Foods Restaurant Cookbook (Shambhala, 2003).

For Tanya and Native Foods, it appears the sky’s the limit. In between running a successful business, rescuing dogs and educating her community about the benefits of no-kill animal control, Tanya Petrovna had a chance to talk with Catherine Clyne.

In a nutshell, can you describe the concept of Native Foods—the food and philosophy?
In a nutshell—I like that term, always with food. Native Foods is devoted to creating great tasting food to help the environment, animals and human health. The concept is to try and become a chain, to be on every street corner and feed the masses.

Basically, my philosophy has always been no-kill. I know the destruction of what we do just because we’re hungry. I am devoted to creating options that everybody enjoys, and moving beyond that whole ‘60s realm of vegetarianism—boring, bland. That’s been a big obstacle—some of the nay-sayers are right, because it has tasted pretty boring and bland.
I think the next level is moving the animals out of the kitchen and feeding them rather than serving them. We have to add the factor of common sense into the equation. I hope this all leads to people being concerned about animal products.

There tends to be a disconnect with people working for sustainable food and talking about issues like GMO-free and antibiotic-free animals and free-range and all that. How do you talk to people—colleagues—about animal suffering?
Well… gracefully. If it’s colleagues, they can become educated. Maybe they’re not looking at the situation and are still a little desensitized to it—most of us were at some point eating animals regularly. If they’re already looking at specifics [like GMOs, antibiotic-free animals, etc.], there’s not much I can do other than wait for their hearts to open up and have that a-ha moment.

There was this woman [the other] day who said, ‘I’m almost vegan, it’s just I do eat some cheese and dairy.’ Now, I am a very compassionate, determined person, so [I say] all you have to do is think about the mother when she’s taken away from her baby. Don’t even think about the slaughter—don’t even go to such graphic details. If you open up your heart to compassion, [knowing] that the baby is taken away so you can have that cream in your coffee, all of a sudden the common sense kicks in.

Some people like to defend [using] animals for food. And that goes for any movement, from labor to women’s rights. When you look at the issues that time has spanned and what the argument was, you see weak, not very educated responses: ‘Women are weak,’ ‘How are we going to get our sugar for our tea without our slaves?’ Hopefully we’re coming up to [an era of] compassion for all beings.

And food is such a big thing, people eat it three times a day, it’s really important in our lives. And now with the country being 60 percent obese—it’s an epidemic—it’s a perfect time to get the food out to the people. With one solution you can cover many issues.

The moniker you often use in salutations and on some of your Native Foods gear is “Eat Peace.” What do you mean by that?
“Eat Peace” is the opposite of eat war, eat pain, eat cruelty. It says a lot. It makes people think: if you don’t eat peace, what do you eat? It also makes you think what the opposite could be. Probably everything you do isn’t eating peacefully—eating McDonald’s, for example—and it concerns violence and food. You scare it, you murder it, you butcher it up, and you eat it—that’s the sadistic ritual people do every day.

Whole Foods is one of the largest supermarkets in the country now, and they’ve had a lot of fanfare about their animal compassion guidelines for humanely raising and slaughtering animals. What are your thoughts about this?
That’s what they’re doing and I wouldn’t do it. For all it’s worth, it’s certainly educating people that there’s a difference, to kill [animals] humanely (which is a huge oxymoron). It’s got to lighten some people up. I agree in a sense with [Whole Foods CEO and founder] John Mackey, at least he’s there. If he weren’t, no one would really care that this issue is even being addressed.

I do see that the Whole Foods customer becomes my customer. And once I can get them in…it’s almost ground work for the next level. We just have to expand that consciousness to helping the animals. Whole Foods has taken the responsibility of the humane issue in farming, and that’s where they stop. I could never stop there.

People have to be inundated with knowing there are other alternatives because they don’t know anything else. You’ve got to let them know what else is out there, make it so it’s not inconvenient, it’s not weird. Get it mainstream, take the show on the road and then take over the world.

Nothing less than global vegan domination, I guess. With four restaurants opened, what’s on the horizon in terms of expansion?
We’re talking about possibly franchising—it should be on every street corner around the world, as far as I’m concerned. I can’t slow down. And it’s not about being big, it’s about making something have a voice—taking something that’s fringe and making it easy for people to eat and to have this kind of lifestyle. After the next generation, kids are not going to say, ‘eww it’s not meat,’ kids are going to say, ‘that’s from an animal!’ Anyway, that’s what we hope. I live with that in my mind, anything less than that wouldn’t be doing anything.

Many ethical vegans have an a-ha moment, when they make the connection between animals and the flesh on their plate. Did you have such a transformation?
The vegan a-ha moment was a dairy cow. For the first year of Native Foods we still had limited organic dairy—I walked that line too, cheese on the burger, cream in the coffee. It wasn’t a big deal, right? At least we weren’t killing them.

For the Native Foods’ one year anniversary, Howard Lyman was coming to speak, and there was a local lady who had a baby milk cow. Howard was speaking about mad cow disease at the time. The little baby milk cow came and he was really cute and we were feeding him salad all day. I had so many questions: ‘How can it be a milk cow and be a baby boy?’ And then it just clicked—he’s veal! And then the whole issue: they rip the mothers away from the babies hours after they’re born, and the mother makes milk for her babies, not us. We’re the only species that takes the mother away so we can give her food for her baby to us. And then we grind her up and put on some cheese—the mother and the food for the baby [become] a cheeseburger. It’s just overwhelming. I said, ‘Okay, that’s enough for me now. What are we doing?’

So now it’s soymilk and we came up with Native Cheese that people like more. You can do anything. You just can’t listen to the old paradigms anymore.

Anything you’d like to add?
Everyone’s job, if they read this, is to make something good and turn someone on to it. That’s how we effectively change the world. And with food, you don’t have to talk so much. You don’t have to get in all these lengthy arguments, you just give somebody something good and then they start asking you questions, and that’s the position you want to be in. ‘Wow, that’s good. What was that again?’ And that’s how you start to open up people, rather than trying to convince them too hard. Food is the mighty converter.

To learn more about Native Foods and for restaurant locations, visit


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