Chuck Underwood is the owner of the popular blog, Brand New Vegan where he shows thousands of people just how tasty a plant-based diet can be.
Chuck relies on his southern heritage to create all those yummy comfort foods we thought we'd given up forever.... foods like Biscuits & Gravy, Crispy Fat-Free French Fries, and BBQ Chopped 'Beef' Sandwiches.
He calls it 'Vegan Comfort Food” and based on his blog's popularity – it's a hit, especially amongst people just beginning to transition to a plant-based diet.
With no formal training in either cooking, writing, or photography, Chuck has watched his blog grow to over 20,000 followers in just a few short years. He has also won several Best Vegan Blog Awards and just recently published his very first cookbook.
Chuck began his journey in 2008 when his health was beginning to deteriorate. Chuck lost over 30lbs and brought his blood pressure back to normal just by changing his diet.
1. Did you find it difficult to transition to whole food plant based diet? How did you first find the inspiration for your recipes?
Yes I believe many people do. At first you're like “What CAN I eat?” And is you're not careful, you'll end up eating junk foods that may be “plant-based” but still have just as much fat and calories as the previous foods we left behind. Not necessarily a healthy choice.
That's why I started Brand New Vegan – to help people get started by giving them healthy recipes to choose from.
A lot of my inspiration comes from the food I grew up with. My mom was from the South so I have a lot of her Country Kitchen influence I'm sure. And I grew up in the Midwest – so you'll see a lot of Indiana foods I loved as a teenager.
I also lived in the American Southwest for 10 years so Tex Mex was a big part of my diet too, especially native New Mexican recipes.
I guess I like taking my favorite recipes from every area I've lived - and 'veganizing' them. You know – comfort foods. And people have a much easier time converting to a plant based diet when they can eat comfort foods they are familiar with.
2. When and what made you decide to change your diet?
I used to own a Computer Repair Shop in a strip mall – sandwiched right between 2 excellent restaurants. By the time I closed that business I was so unhealthy and overweight I was at risk for a heart attack! My BP and Cholesterol were thru the roof !
So I went plant-based to save my health. Since then I've lost over 35 lbs, and all my numbers are back in the normal range and I feel great.
I'm also at that age where too many of my family and friends who are not necessarily watching their health are beginning to suffer from it. People think it's because of their genes, or because they're getting older – but really it's because of the food they eat. As Dr. John McDougall is so fond of saying.....”It's The Food!”
3. Have you always had the passion for cooking? When did you discover that you had the talent for cooking?
I never used to think of myself as a cook – or that I was any good at it. But I will always remember my Father-In-Law....he used to LOVE my cooking and would sit at my kitchen table, and always tell me “You're in the wrong business....you should have been a chef!”.
It wasn't long after that, that I began my plant-based journey. The more I converted foods that I used to eat into “Fat-Free Plant-Based Recipes” – the more my family raved about them. So I started my blog to share them with others.
4. What is your guilty pleasure when it comes to foods?
I guess you could say I LOVE a finely crafted dark micro-brew from time to time lol. Besides that I'd have to say a good homemade bread, especially sourdough.
I've always loved bread. Sandwiches, pizza, grilled veggie burgers on a homemade roll.... mmmm.
5. Finally, can you give us the three best recipes from your website?
#1 - Easy – my absolute favorite recipe of all time has got to be my Oven Baked Fat-Free French Fries. This recipes has gone viral so many times I lost count. It's really an easy recipe – I guess people just love French Fries.
#2 – One of my favorite comfort foods is a nice big bowl of Chili. This recipe is also very popular with my readers and has a lot of my Tex Mex influence and tastes in it. I call it my Best Dang Vegan Chili Ever.
#3. Lastly – I guess my Amazing Cheese Sauce would have to be #3. I think Cheese is one of the HARDEST things to give up when switching to a no-dairy diet. This recipe has the same smoothness and creaminess as melted cheese with a lot of cheesy flavor as well. It's another favorite recipe amongst my readers and is 100% fat-free.