If you, like me, have decided that this year is the year you finally get healthy for real, you’ll want to turn on Cooking Channel’s new show, “How to Live to 100” when it premiers just after the New Year.
I was excited when I heard about the new show, hosted by vegan chef Jason Wrobel, because I’ve long wanted a show for those of us who at least try to embrace a plant-based lifestyle. It’s a little intimidating to switch to vegetarianism, and going vegan is even more overwhelming. I told Jason as much when we were talking about his new show this week.
“I’ve been vegan for 15 years now, and the first seven and a half of those were spent in Detroit,” he said. “And I can honestly tell you that if you can be a healthy vegan in Detroit, you can do it anywhere.”
His whole family has a long track record of “healthy veganism,” a phrase I find interesting enough to ask him about. He explains that there are some key differences between eating healthy and just not eating meat or animal products. When he first started, he says, he was a junk food vegan. So just because it’s not meat, doesn’t automatically make it healthy. Got it. (*crosses Fritos off grocery list*)
To make converting to a plant-based diet a little less intimidating, Chef Wrobel suggests starting with an open mind.
“There are three important components,” he said. “The first is to research nutritional information. Ask yourself what you can substitute that will cover all the bases. Protein, iron, potassium… all of those important nutrients you can find in plant-based sources as well. There are no nutritional gaps. The second thing is to learn how to cook. You can find vegan restaurants all over the place, but it’s important you get comfortable in the kitchen. The third is to just experiment. Be willing to try certain foods, see how you feel.”
Once an aspiring actor, Jason turned to his next-greatest love, cooking, and earned his degree at the Living Light Culinary Arts Institute in California. He has worked as the Head Raw Food Chef at the award-winning Cafe La Vie in Santa Cruz, and now hosts “The J-Wro Show” on YouTube which showcases healthy recipes and lifestyle transformation tips. His first DVD, Simple Vegan Classics, is a best seller and has taught thousands of people how to prepare easy and nutritious plant-based dishes.
“How to Live to 100” is a continuation of all that he’s been doing for the past eight years. It’s not only an informative show for anyone who is interested in eating healthy and embracing a plant-based lifestyle, it also a lot of fun. Jason’s love of acting shows, too, with its sitcom feel and colorful characters. There’s Roshi Joe, Jason’s spiritual food guru, and Sunny, who owns a café and is the object of Jason’s unrequited affections. Together, they explore the world of healthy cooking, eating, and living, and help viewers find that elusive fountain of youth.
“We kind of have this playful competition, we’re always trying to outdo each other,” he explained. “I find inspiration in my friends. It’s a really fun, non-traditional format. There are some segments of me working in the kitchen and others where I visit some really great chefs in their restaurants. Most people talk about food from a taste perspective, but I realized what we really needed was an education on the role of food in longevity. So we decided to present it in a fun and lighthearted way, and show people how easy it can be to do it in their own home. Most of the stuff we talk about you can find at your local grocery store or farmers’ market.”
Speaking of the fountain of youth, I was beyond curious to hear what Jason has to say about “superfoods,” which are constantly cropping up in my own culinary readings.
“Superfoods are nutritionally dense, highly mineralized foods, sometimes from pristine growing environments or sometimes from cultures that have grown them for centuries,” he said. “Some of my favorites are coconuts, blueberries, and dark chocolate. They all have specific benefits to the human body, such as scavenging for free radicals. Some other superfoods have been less common but are coming more into the mainstream now, things like Goji berries, hemp berries, and chia seeds. Chia seeds were probably the most popular food of this year.”
The whole concept of “How to Live to 100” is another stroke of Cooking Channel ingenuity, from casting the boyish and charming Chef Wrobel to its strategic premiere at a time when most people’s thoughts are on how to keep those New Year’s resolutions. And, as Jason points out, more and more pop culture figures are choosing a plant-based lifestyle.
“I really feel like the timing of this show is absolutely perfect, and the demand for this type of cuisine is at an all-time high,” he said.
“How to Live to 100” premieres Friday, Jan. 3 at 9 p.m. on Cooking Channel.