Chef Liz Arraj on Why It's All About So Much More Than Just Food, & How Getting Mad Got Her Out Of Her Comfort Zone.
June 9, 2022
In this beautiful conversation my friend Chef Liz Arraj reminds us that food should not be challenging, it should be fun!
She shows up for herself everyday because she knows she cannot rely on other people to make her successful. And she also understands boundaries…not to accommodate you, but for herself. She is keenly aware that she cannot be everyone’s everything or she will be her own nothing.
Come with me and listen in to this gift Chef Liz has given us as she reminds us all…It’s only crazy until you do it.
Chef Liz Arraj has trained under the renowned vegan Chef Mark Reinfeld of Vegan Fusion. She has received a T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition at Cornell. She has taught vegan culinary classes for over 6 years, starting at Klamath Community College and now teaches classes in her vegan eatery, a certified Blue Zone Zones restaurant. She recognizes the growing awareness in people who want to eat healthier and educate themselves. She can give you 165 reasons to add more vegetables to your plate because that is how much weight she has lost on a plant-based diet.
Chef Liz’s vegan eatery Terra Veg Eatery in Klamath Falls, Oregon, and is 100% plant based, specializing Middle Eastern-Mediterranean Cuisine.
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Sarah Metzger 0:02
Okay, I’m here with Elizabeth Arraj from Terra Veg Eatery, one of my spirit sisters out there in the world. I just feel so connected to you. Welcome. And thank you for joining me today and letting everybody listen in and get a glimpse of all the awesomeness that you put out into the world.
Chef Liz Arraj 0:26
Well, thank you. Yeah, I feel the same about you, too. So yeah, this is, this is cool.
Sarah Metzger 0:35
Yeah. Thanks for joining me today.
Tell me tell me where, tell me where you became inspired to start your journey? How did you find yourself embarking on your path?
Chef Liz Arraj 0:48
Well, I mean, backup 10-11 years ago, the short version is that, you know, I was held having major health issues. And I found this book called Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Furman. And I read it, and read it and read it. And then I was like, Oh, I’m going to try doing this extreme plant based, you know, diet that you recommended. And I tried it. And it made me go back into my kitchen and recreate recipes and how I looked at food. And then I was like, Well, I wonder if there’s any vegan culinary things happening. And I’m in Oregon. So where I live, it’s cow country.
So not like Portland? Ha,ha…
No…so imagine my shock when I did find, like this vegan culinary immersion thing by this awesome chef that I didn’t know at the time of in Portland. And I was like, Okay, I’m gonna go here and, and totally get out of my comfort zone and see what this is all about. And that’s what really got me started on looking at food, recreating food, and really like learning. Like, it was like a whole new world for me. And then the process getting my health back. So I guess that’s really not a short version. But
Sarah Metzger 2:21
with every second of hearing it, though, it’s so important.
Chef Liz Arraj 2:23
So I took like, a five day training thing, and I met you, you were assistant for Chef Mark. And I remember the first time I met you, too, because you wore this shirt that I actually own this shirt now. And it was like vegan for the planet for you know, like how to all this…. Like you know, I’m like, she’s got it, this rockin attitude and like, super positive, just kind of standing in the background, just quiet helping Chef Mark and I was like, This chick is, you know, I remember like, totally out of my comfort zone and, and learning a lot and meeting cool people. And then I went home and I was like, Oh, this is really cool. So I started doing I did a couple more, like 10 day trainings with Chef Mark. And then I became his assistant once when he did a training in kawaii and I was like, Hey, he asked me he’s like, do you want to be I’ll give you a discount. And I was like, huh, venue right on the beach. All right. It’s January in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Where’s ton of snow? So yeah, sure. So, I, in the process of that I reached out to one of my community college here. And I was like, hey, what do you guys think about me coming in and doing vegan culinary classes. And at the time, they had a culinary program. And I didn’t hear anything back for them. So they’re like, Okay, I guess that that’s the answer there. Well, months down the road, like six months down the road. They got a new community education director, and she’s found my old email and emailed me was like, Oh, are you still interested in doing this? And I was like, Yeah, and so I took Mark’s teacher training and you know, but like, he always used to say, like, start off small, just start with animals, then you graduate to your children and family members, when you’re starting to teach. So I was like, totally out of my comfort zone. And it’s like one of those things like I know I want to do it, but I have no idea what I’m doing but I’m gonna do it anyway. So I created this whole six week class. And the local newspaper at the time did a little article around the world in eight weeks, you know, and because each class was a different country,
Sarah Metzger 5:15
right, I remember that I remember following your posts on that.
Chef Liz Arraj 5:19
Yeah. And so like I asked, you know, Mark, if I’m like, Hey, can I use some of your recipes? He’s like, Yeah, sure. So the first class I did, I was, of course, nervous wreck. And I picked it apart. And then the second class, I changed like, 50%, of all how I taught the class. And I still teach that same way, years later, it’s been like, seven, eight years now. Yeah. And so I was teaching, teaching that and then I saw, I was doing creating my class at a local little cafe. And they had a kitchen spot that opened up and they asked me, Hey, do you want this position? And I was like, Well, sure. And so, I worked there for I started off just part time, and then I went into running the kitchen. And I worked there for over three years. And then, you know, I saw the demand, because we get a lot of travelers, and people are like, Oh, this is great, you have vegan options, you know, available. And, but my bosses didn’t like it too much. Because, you know, the word around town was that oh, you you’re like really do a lot of vegan stuff. So they didn’t like that too much. So they took me into the office and gave me a little talking to about about all the vegan options I was offering. And I was like, this is a sign of the universe, because now I’m pissed. Because I’m like, I’m providing your customers, what they want, they’re requesting it, this is a sign of the times, like we need to be more aware of what’s happening in the world. And it’s more, it’s more than just food. You know, it’s about, like, sustainability. It’s about trying to work with people that grow food close to you, you know, like, it’s all the all of these things. It’s like so layered, you know, and, like most things that get me out of my comfort zone, I have to get, you know, really mad first and then I was like, You know what, like, I’m just gonna, I just can’t do my own thing. And then looking around and like, well, you know, where am I going to do that, you know, if you’re in this town, and I knew of an empty building. So I messaged the owner. And she’s like, Well, I’m not interested in leasing. So I’m selling it. And my mom’s like, well, how come you don’t just buy it? I’m like, CAUSE THAT COSTS MONEY!
Sarah Metzger 8:08
Chef Liz Arraj 8:10
So with the help of my mother, though, I bought this little brick building that sits on three city lots, and it has a huge backspace. So like, when I was doing my pros and cons of creating, you know, totally losing my mind and creating my own business. I was like, do a food truck, or brick and mortar. I’m like, food truck, I can’t teach classes. And I put my feet in a box. And then here comes the pandemic. And I’m like, I can’t have indoor seating. And I have to put my food in a box. Like, good thing. I’m stubborn. So, you know, I had I made it a full year and then the pandemic hit, and it was like, no, no indoor dining. So that was fun. So it’s been like this roller coaster ride of like, basically just feeling frustrated, but going, I’m just gonna keep on going and see what happens. You know, and I still feel like that, actually, you know, like, I’m like, I started teaching a bunch recently. And I actually liked teaching more than food service. Because the people are, you know, like, my philosophy is like, I I want people to realize that when they walk into my place that you’re not just grabbing food to eat, you know that. It means more than that. Like it’s about, you know, you’re taking a minute out of your busy day to nourish yourself with some organic food, and you’re gonna, you know, fuel your body. So you’re energetic to, you know, kick butt in the rest of your day. But you’re also if you’re taking stuff to go, you’re getting, you know, a box out, you can put in a compost, you know, like, all these little steps, you know, of, like, just earth being earth friendly, just being aware, you know, and, but also, educating yourself and knowing, like, I could take the class here, you know, and I can learn how to do this. Because my whole thing is like, I love to feed people. But I also, I even more than that, I love to teach people how to feed themselves, because then they go back into their own kitchens. And they’re like, all right, their kids are cooking with them. And then they’re friends with them over like, Oh, what do you make? And oh, that tastes good. You know, and it’s just like, You ever see that meme that you know what my friends think I eat as a vegan. You know, I’m like, let’s not, let’s not even, let’s not even say that word. How about that? How about let’s not do you know, stereotypical image in someone’s head and like I eat, uncooked and unseasoned tofu and wheatgrass. Hey, awesome. That sounds good.
Sarah Metzger 11:27
Said no vegan ever.
Chef Liz Arraj 11:29
Right? Exactly. So just bringing that awareness so like, right, if I inspire some one person to like, go into their kitchen and, and rethink how they’re doing something …awesome. Then my works, you know, like, great, that’s perfect. That’s better than just serving some random person, you know, food, you know? So that’s basically how my that’s, I mean, that’s how I got started. It’s like a constant evolution. You know, it is call it the money embankment, you know, where you’re like, one inch up the money and banquets lay down three feet. Okay, I’m stubborn, yeah, you know, climb up some more like, how can I improve? How can I make a tiny little dent? You know? getting other people, you know, to be like, Hey, we’re gonna look at this differently. So I think that’s really important. Unfortunately, the area that I live in, I have like, no vegan culinary support, because, you know, we the culinary scene, the non existing culinary scene that’s happening in my town. It’s like burgers, you know, pizza, Mexican food. That’s about it, you know?
Sarah Metzger 12:54
Chef Liz Arraj 12:55
A lot of fast food, places. And, you know, which is so frustrating to me. You know? I’m like, I need another little vegan place to open up so I can have some place to eat.
Sarah Metzger 13:07
Well, that was the reason that Lelulo’s started for me is because I was tired of not having options. Like, you know, I don’t have any options. I’m gonna create one. Yeah, that was my mindset. So yes, I completely understand where you’re where your, your frustration is with that. Yeah. So but gosh, you know, everything that you just said there, Liz, I mean, you are so you so encompass everything that is also in my own mindset, everything that you just put forth there, there’s a reason that you and I became connected all those years back and continued to just, you know, feel a vibration between the two of us, even on opposite ends of the country. Everything you said about, you know, it’s really not it’s not about selling food.
Chef Liz Arraj 13:07
Sarah Metzger 13:12
It’s about feeding people, right, and teaching them how to feed themselves. So it’s sustainable. It’s about giving them the experience of what it means to be plant based. And just the full circle of everything from what you’re talking about with health and why you became first interested to giving back to the community with local producers of your food, that’s an amazing thing that you put forth all the time and then right back to composting, the food containers that you use to be able to give that back to the earth to continue that cycle of just production of plants for the consumption of people rather than giving it to animals. As being a middle , you know, guy in that regard. So everything that you say resonates with me so much and I’m right there on point with you. And one of the things that you really said that stood out to me quite a bit was just, you did it anyways, you didn’t know what you were doing. You didn’t know where you were going to do it or how you were going gonna do it. You didn’t have any support… And you said, I got this.
Chef Liz Arraj 15:05
Yeah. Anyways, yeah, well, my mom’s like, well, you’re about ready, you’re on the diving board. And there could be water in the swimming pool or there could not be I don’t know. And I’m like, Gee, thank you, I’m already having heart attacks everyday from anxiety from all the million things it takes because, like, the building that I got, didn’t have a kitchen built. So I had to, I had to build. And, like, one of the things like I did that was not normal was that I have solar panels on my building. And so I wanted to have an electric hood system with electric stove under there, which is like, unheard of, like most people are like, we’re gonna get this big giant hood system with, you know, gas burners and everything. And I was like, No, I want to, so I can utilize my solar energy, you know, right. And so like, you know, the local building department was like, here’s this crazy person come in with stacks of research and saying, Please, and thank you a lot, the good old boy that is looking at me, like, Who is this person? But I got it approved.
Sarah Metzger 16:22
It’s only crazy until you do it, right?
Chef Liz Arraj 16:25
Exactly. Yeah. I mean, you know, the learning curve still is just like, when you look back on some of the stuff, and you’re like, Hey, I’m doing it, you know, and the look like, all that stress and growth. It’s there for a reason. So now you’re like, Okay, I know how to do that. Okay, move next. Like, what’s the next challenge? You know? Yeah.
Sarah Metzger 16:49
Well, let’s talk about that challenge. I mean, what did you what are some of the biggest obstacles? Not so much logistically, but in regards to just you not having all those ducks in a row and you jumping in? And, you know, not having the support? I mean, does it affect you a lot that people might judge what you’re doing in an area where there isn’t a vegan option on every other corner?
Chef Liz Arraj 17:17
I mean, I guess like,..lol… I love that question. I guess I kind of have that mentality where I, like, I made it sure, like, on my windows that it has a really big letters vegan eatery on there, like, I wanted people not to be confused. Like, you’re walking into my place, and I’m not your normal restaurant, you know, and I’ve just a little lunch place, I’m only open for lunch, you know? So I didn’t want the confusion there. And then of course, you get to people that are like, what’s up Vegan?, lol? Okay, this is a teaching moment, you know, my, my biggest thing was, like, I know what I believe in, and I know what I want to do, and I’m just gonna give it a shot. And if I epically fail, it’s not really failure, because I don’t look at it that way… when you’re focusing in on something that you truly believe in, and it’s your right life path, no matter what, how that looks. If you’re dependent on other people to make you successful, you might as well forget it. You know, just like to stay true to your path and then, you know, do your thing, and then hopefully, people show up. And, you know, I’m still shocked when I do classes, like I just finished Meatless Meals Made Easy class series on all the Mondays in February. And I’m still like, after all this years, I’ve been doing it for six teaching for like, over six years now. And I’m still like, amazed. Like, people always sign up. You know, I keep my class at eight students, because my kitchen is tiny. It’s like a 10 by 10 little space. So it’s like playing Tetris, you know, with herding a bunch of feral cats in my little sapce now trying to, you know, so that’s always fun, too. You got a whole bunch of people in there. But, like, I just was like, I, I can’t see myself doing anything else. And when you get to that point, you’re just like, alright, well, here it goes nothing. But I’m gonna still do it. You know, even though I don’t have the support, you know, like I would like, like, it’d be so awesome if I had other like vegan chefs to like, at least bounce ideas off, you know, or to team up with I mean, that I don’t know what that would even feel like, honestly. Because I’m the only one who’s cooking in the kitchen. I’m the only one serving out the food. So but yeah, I guess like if you know, it’s the right life path and you do it anyway and, and hope that people respond. Yeah,
Sarah Metzger 20:21
yeah, it’s like it doesn’t mean it’s not hard, right, but you just do it anyways even though it’s hard, right. And following that path, it’s like you have to just keep bringing yourself back to your why? Yeah, whats your why, you know, that’s something I always tell myself I really, you know, have a regular conversation with myself in regards to okay, remember what your why is like when things get hard, and they really, you know, seem impossible, or the struggles are so real that, you know, you just want to like lock the door and go back in there. It’s like, okay, what is my why? And you start thinking about your how, and your where it you know, so showing up like that every day is, you know, when you don’t have everything in place, and you are unsupported. It really has to be internally part of you, and who you are and what you want to bring to the people you serve.
Chef Liz Arraj 21:20
Yeah. Well, I mean, I guess for me is that I mean, I love my craft. And I believe that food can heal you. And when I’m doing classes, instead of complicating my little intro, I just usually tell them that I can give them 165 reasons why they should add more vegetables to their plate, because that’s how much weight I’ve lost. So like,
Sarah Metzger 21:50
Wow, that’s an amazing, twist on what you do there with that information!
Chef Liz Arraj 21:55
Yeah, so I’m just like 165 reasons to add more vegetables to your plate. That’s how much weight I’ve lost. So let’s start with that, you know.
Sarah Metzger 22:06
you are amazing!
Chef Liz Arraj 22:08
You know, walking, talking, you know, example, because like, you never want to, like, have someone….and I don’t believe in like cramming information down people’s throats. I’m not about that. But when people come and ask questions, you know, like, hey, what about this? And what about that? And how do you do this, and you know, I don’t have time to eat healthy. And I’m like, you don’t have time to be sick. You know.
Sarah Metzger 22:35
It’s choosing you hard. It’s hard to be healthy, it’s hard to be sick, which one you want to do.
Chef Liz Arraj 22:42
Exactly, you know, and trying to just offer that support of being like, you’re not alone in this. So if you feel like you need a little bit of guidance you want a crazy ass person that has a restaurant in Klamath Falls to help you if you need it, like, that’s what I’m here for, you know,
Sarah Metzger 23:06
One of these days, I’m going to make a trip out your way. And I’m gonna walk into your eatery. And I just know that when I walk in there, there’s just going to be this cleansing energy that just overtakes and also like, pulls me in.
Chef Liz Arraj 23:24
You give me more credit than I deserve.
Sarah Metzger 23:27
No way I feel you I feel your energy even this far away. And I feel just the good vibes that you put out into the world. And I told you like you grossly underestimate yourself because I can feel you, I see you and I hear you. And I think that the people that walk into your world, on a daily basis just are so inspired and they absorb so much from you. Because you just have so much not just, you know, actual knowledge and information to put forth but just that relentless, you know, I’m doing this, whether it’s you know, whether it’s the vegan diet or lifestyle change, or whether it is just, you know, that carries over into so many other parts of your life. I mean, that was just the that and I don’t even know anything about your journey prior to you exploring veganism, but I can only imagine that that’s the way that you’ve lived your life in many ways is, you know, you, you’re all in with it. You know, it’s like I’m doing this I’m taking charge of this and I’m going to figure it out regardless and you did you you’ve, you know, saw that there was something wrong in regards to your health. You empowered yourself to look for a course and then you educated yourself more and then you wanted to teach other people and then you did and you kept doing it, you opened your own eatery, you continue to just show people they have a whole other path that they can choose. And you do it all. With just not having all the ducks in a row, you just do it with what you have, how you can do it, and you are just awesome at it.
Chef Liz Arraj 25:24
Like I say, too much credit. That’s what I mean. It’s like, I mean, the whole ducks in a row thing. Like, if we had all our ducks in a row, we’d be like, Oh, we’re certifiably crazy, okay, now we’re gonna go to an island somewhere and live and not deal with. Like, I feel like it’s a process, you know, the evolution. evolutionary process is one, it’s up and down, ebbs and flows. And one day, you’re ready to conquer the world. And the other day, you’re like, I want to stay in my pajamas, eat popcorn for dinner, you know. I mean, that’s so true. Like giving yourself that grace, we acknowledge, like, you know, at some days, I’m gonna be rocking it. Other days, I’m going to be very unmotivated. And I just want to watch some crazy, you know, Netflix, you know, series or whatever. And, you know, and, and just allow myself, the resting is hard for me, like, just allowing myself to rest instead of always pushing like, what can I be doing more? What can I, you know, how can I do this better? Or, like, I should really do XYZ. And I should be doing this and doing that. And, you know, my biggest thing that I have to remind myself is just keeping everything like super sustainable. And that also includes how much I work, you know, and how much I want to take on projects or not to take on projects, you know, and that beautiful word? No, it’s a magic word. You know, for our people. Here, I want you to cater for me, I’m like, I’m one person. You know, like, people don’t understand that. Like, I’m one person, I can’t cater for 50 people on a weekend. Like, I’m not doing that. Like, thank you so much.
Sarah Metzger 27:22
I love that you love me, but I cannot…. Yeah, I feel that’s so hard.
Chef Liz Arraj 27:28
It’s been one of those lessons, though, of like doing this along the way where you’re like, I sense a crazy burnout mode, where I’m gonna start running down the street, you know, pulling whatevers left of my hair out, you know.
Sarah Metzger 27:44
For sure it’s that notion of doing the best you can, does not mean running yourself ragged, it does not mean running yourself into insanity. And that’s a hard thing to I feel like, take in a lot of times, because we are both people of service. And we want to especially, you know, new people to veganism or be able to put more out there on a broader scale. It’s like, oh, you really want to be able to take such catering things like you’re talking about, but like, also, you cannot be everybody’s everything or you will be your own nothing.
It’s so hard, though.
Chef Liz Arraj 28:25
Yeah. I mean, my whole thing is like, Okay, well, I can’t….ok, I’m serving you healthy food, and I’m teaching you how to cook healthy food. And I’m trashed.
Sarah Metzger 28:39
I was just gonna say you’re going home and eating like a bowl of cereal or something.
Chef Liz Arraj 28:47
I’m like, No, this isn’t going to work. So I think really, that one of the biggest lessons I’ve taken, out of the two years, that we’ve been dealing with all the restrictions and everything, you know, the cost of goods going up and all these fun things is that, you know, the people that will support you, as far as like customers. They’ll be okay, if you say, you know, I’m taking a week off, you know, like, they come back. Like, that’s one thing. Like before, I was like, Yeah, I want to be consistent, but also, like, I took two weeks off Christmas time. And then we had a big snowstorm and I was just like, Alright, I’m taking another week off. And I well, I changed my home and I was working, you know, but I changed my menu and stuff. It was like, impossible for me not to do that. But I’m like, you know, people that are supportive of what you’re doing. They’ll come you know, though, they’ll find you have so many travelers coming From Washington that are like, Oh, I believe that we found a vegan place in Klamath Falls like, Yeah, well, I took like a lot of you know, Chef Mark always said, Well, you know, if you want to start your own restaurant, just first you have to take the psychological test. And then if you fail that, then you’re perfect for the industry.
Sarah Metzger 30:23
We both failed, by the way. You know, but one of the things you just said there about, like, the people will find you and that’s the difference, like, those are your people, right? Yeah, people that are complaining that you’re not open till nine or 10 At night, the people that are complaining that you’re not been all weekend, or that you closed for three weeks, those are not your people. And that’s okay. You know, that’s the other thing too, that I learned is, it’s okay to not just be that people pleaser mentality. And it’s okay to also make sure you’re not just eating peanut butter and jelly or cereal. Yeah, it’s but it’s a daily reminder, you know, it’s so hard, even with starting my own day in the morning, just making sure that I drink my my vitamin water concoction that I drink every day, before I answer emails, or before I check my messages, you know, it seems urgent, right to get back somebody that you know, is waiting, but it’s like, you know, what, I need to protect my peace. Right? I need to find my mindset. Yeah. Rather than just jumping into somebody else’s agenda.
Chef Liz Arraj 31:29
So I don’t answer my phone until after 11, And this is again, I learned how to create, because like, here’s this beautiful thing, boundaries are for me, not for you.
Sarah Metzger 31:45
Chef Liz Arraj 31:45
I’m in the kitchen, producing all this food all by myself and trying to make my bread, have a chill morning before chaos ensues, you know, it’s right, at 11 o’clock is when I open, I’ll answer my phone after 11. And if you want to talk to me about special stuff, between 11 and two, send me an email. And then I’ll answer it in my time, you know, usually, you know, in the evening, you know, but these are all lessons like, you don’t develop the boundaries. And the you know, you know, you don’t acknowledge your own need to have health in whatever passionate thing endeavor you’re doing, until you have the time to experience the good and the bad. And, you know, for my, my experience so far, is that the ones that are like, oh, when are you going to be open for dinner, it’s like, Who are you again?… because like, I’ve seen you once, like, you’re not a regular customer, you know, or like, oh, you should do this or that, or I get a random, you know, email, you should offer this, you know, at your place, and I’m like, you’ve never come to my place, like you don’t get like your opinion, is just like static, you know, we will always feel the need to, like fill in and tell you how you should be living your life that includes your business too, my whole thing is like, I deliberately went into this going, what kind of food do I want to make? Oh, I know, I want to do Middle Eastern because Lebanese ancestry that I have, you know, I like eating that kind of food. That’s the kind of food I’m going to focus on. I’m not going to, you know, do too heavy into the, you know, I do specials that you know, like, a veggie burger or whatever, you know, but like, what do I want to focus on? And then stick to that. I read somewhere. Your menus got to tell a story. And I think that’s a good advice to anyone you know, like, what’s your menu? Are you telling people like a story, you know?
Sarah Metzger 34:19
I love how you’ve thought about all that in what you’ve created for yourself there. I don’t know that I thought about any of that, quite honestly. I don’t know that a lot of places do but that’s something that you’re you’re right. You’re absolutely right. People like to hear stories, they like to tell stories. And that’s a really interesting way of starting something. The beautiful place you’ve created, for example.
Chef Liz Arraj 34:46
Well, I mean, it’s sort of like where people are like, how do you….well, because my so my mother’s name is Tara. And, you know, Tara, everyone’s like, Oh, it’s so cute. You named your place after your mom… like Tierra and Tara veg are two different things. I’m like, No, I did not…. First of all, lolol. But basically Terra veg is at because I was, you know, really focused on Mediterranian, most mostly Middle East, right? A little bit. I took the Terra out of Mediterranean, and it’s Latin for Earth. And then veg is for, you know, veggies, of course, vegan, whatever, whatever you want to take out of it. And so that’s how I came up with my name.
Sarah Metzger 35:38
And that’s beautiful.
Chef Liz Arraj 35:40
So yeah, so I’m like, Earth vegetbles… All right.
Sarah Metzger 35:47
That’s lovely. I love it when I get to hear how names and things were created. And you’re so authentic.
Chef Liz Arraj 35:54
Well, thank you. Yes, yes.
So I know that you had a little like focus on what you wanted to talk on, instead of just talking about my restaurant,
Sarah Metzger 36:05
I mean, I think we’re hitting it. I think you’re telling me all the things I wanted to hear. Yeah, you know, I love just hearing the way your energy transplants itself into your daily work. And I feel like you’re describing it all perfectly. You know, like I said, no real scripted questions needed, because I just love hearing people talk about just their journeys and why they are, where they are in their lives and how they got to where they’re at who they’re serving, these are all things that you’ve, you’ve just really hit the nail on the head with. I’d love to hear where you feel like you’re going, what you feel like you’re doing moving forward.
Chef Liz Arraj 36:48
I mean, that’s the thing, you know, with us, that’s a curse and a blessing. Right? Oh, who knows?
Sarah Metzger 36:52
Like, you want to have your arms wide open for just taking in whatever opportunities present themselves, right. Like, that’s one thing I know, I’ve learned is like, you can’t be so scripted or no, man an agenda that you just completely lose your mindset when not even if but when it becomes derailed? Because it will, right? Yeah. So you have to just be arms wide open to the opportunities. But, you know, I would love to know, if you do feel like, there’s things that you envision for yourself or for your eatery. And how you see yourself evolving even more with your personal and plant based journey.
Chef Liz Arraj 37:34
I mean, honestly, like, you know, I think about it all the time, because I don’t want an always around a three year mark. So like, we’re coming up, you know, march 25, marks three years, I don’t know what it is. But on anything I’m doing, I’m like, ya know, three years coming up. You know, we’re like, okay, what can I do differently, or what I want to do more, and like, for this year, I’m going to be teaching more. And I’m really going to be aware of just like, not being as rigid as far as like, I have to be open a certain amount of days or hours. Like, you know, because honestly, like, what matters is, you know, what message do you want to send out to the world? You know, like, you can’t be I always feel like when people start talking about how they want to open up their own place or a food truck or something. I’m like, Well, if you’re doing it just for money, you should pick a different career. Because right…lol, because this is not like you get rich, let’s be real.
Oh you’re such a dream killer… I’m like, no, no, I just like, I’ve been doing it living in it. So like I want you know, people that would be like realistic guess I mean, that is kind of dream Crusher, but you know, be realistic. And so like I look at things and I’m very realistic. I’m like, Alright, well I want to do this. Is it gonna make much money? No, absolutely not. Oh, that’s even more exciting. You know?
Sarah Metzger 39:20
We have to do it for the right reasons right? Anything you do if you go into it thinking you want to do it anything just for what you’re gonna physically tangibly gain from it. You’re going to be disappointed… now if I go into something thinking what am I going to gain in regards to how I’ve empowered somebody else to explore plants… like That’s priceless to me that is my payments in so many ways in regards to what are you getting from it? You know, you are doing your part to propel forward the plant based movement and inspire other people to eat less animals so I mean, yes, there’s bills to pay. Yes, there’s, you know, things that, you know, require money in life. But at the end of the day though, if you’re stepping into any eatery for that, or any business, right thinking, How much money can we make today?
Chef Liz Arraj 40:20
Sarah Metzger 40:21
You’re never going to hit your mark.
Chef Liz Arraj 40:25
I mean, I’m a firm believer that like negative energy, if you’re making food, you’re negative energy, you’re stressed out or mad or whatever, it’s going into your food, and you’re serving that and you’re sending that energy out the door with your customers, right? Maybe get irritated and angry, too. It’s like, you got to put good vibes into your food. Yes, serving, you know, like, do I always do that? No, because you know, I’m human and, I have days where, you know, stuff frustrates me.
Sarah Metzger 40:58
Chef Liz Arraj 40:58
But as far as like, future endeavors, I am going to expand out my garden, because I have a little garden, that I grow herbs, and like tomatoes and stuff like that, and I use that in my place. So I have the space to expand out, that’s going to be another thing. Another goal for this year is creating a workspace outside so I can do culinary classes out in the garden.
Sarah Metzger 41:28
Oh, that’s lovely
Chef Liz Arraj 41:30
And I really want to get more primal. So like have like, teaching people how to roast vegetables that are growing right there on open flame, and I know have to sign a waiver for that…lol. Like, you guys are burning the shit out of yourself….But you know, it’s really like, the most basic stuff that we’ve lost throughout the generations. I feel like, I’m like, you know, grandma had a garden, you know, and e roasted things on fire back in the day, and we’re losing touch with that. And then we’re shocked when we lose touch of nature and, what the real reason why we’re on this journey snowball really like to not to consume and destroy but to, you know, be sustainable, be proactive and making, you know, the world a better place. That’s the hope anyway, right?
Sarah Metzger 42:40
Chef Liz Arraj 42:41
Yeah, you’re doing it, even though it may feel like it’s just a tiny little drop in the ocean, you’re doing the damn thing. You know?
Sarah Metzger 42:50
You’re doing the damn thing, that’s right! That’s like the best thing I’ve heard all day, just do the damn thing.
Chef Liz Arraj 42:55
Sarah Metzger 42:56
That’s it. And you know what, what you said earlier, too, you know, even if it is just a drop in the sea, even if it is just one person, audience of one is still an audience. And that one person matters. What they absorb from you matters.
Chef Liz Arraj 43:12
And you never know who you’re going to encounter throughout your day, that’s going to make a impact. You never know, like, what you’re going to say to someone or show them by example, that’s going to make them kind of like, oh, I never thought about it this way. You know, like, right. I know, I’ve I mean, you’re one of those people that made me go, look at what she’s doing over here. You know, this is cool. She’s a cool ass chick, its just, even when we don’t think that we influence people, we, you know, it’s like, all right, be mindful of like, what your what energy you’re putting out in the universe, because even if it’s just one person that’s, you’re going to impact, you know, you want it to be good not bad.
Sarah Metzger 44:06
For sure. And that’s not to say We’re faking our energy when we’re having bad days, either, you know, it’s just a matter of you can be having a bad day and still see the good.
Chef Liz Arraj 44:15
Sarah Metzger 44:18
Admit that to other people.
Chef Liz Arraj 44:19
We just got to, we got to take care of ourselves first if we want to, you know, try to, you know, get up the money embankment, you know,
Sarah Metzger 44:30
for sure, that love the embankment analogy. I love that.
Chef Liz Arraj 44:33
Yeah. It’s like, okay, I was spinning my wheels in the mud, you know, but still doing it, you know?
Sarah Metzger 44:42
Right. Right. I love that.
Chef Liz Arraj 44:44
That’s the thing that we have to remind ourselves that, you know, it’s not about perfection, it’s about progress, you know, not perfection, you know, just and progress could mean something different for everyone. You know, like, I always like, you know, there’s a reason why, you know, I have a tortoise tattoo on my foot. Because it’s like, I feel like I move very slow in my evolutionary growth process. And so it’s like, trudging up the hill, you know?
Sarah Metzger 45:19
Yeah. But to somebody else, you’re racing the fastest race and winning it on so many levels. So it’s all about perception of that, too.
Chef Liz Arraj 45:28
And again, I know I keep on using that word sustainable. But like, you know, if you do it, you know, you’re working out the all the Million Little Pieces. I sort of like, you know, in the beginning of like, creating my own business. So it was like, my crayon box and 64 colors is rolling around the floor. I’m trying to collect them all, like, losing my losing my crayons. Losing my marbles. Ah, you know, I like some order. But that is not the way it works.
No, it isn’t. No, not at all… order? I don’t even know. It’s like that ducks in a row analogy. You know, the other end of that is I don’t have ducks. I have squirrels and they’re running rampant all over the damn place. Right? Yeah, that’s, that’s what it is. And you just have to roll with the Crazy, right? Yeah, to be okay with that. And some days, there’s tears. Yeah, some days, there’s laughter. Some days what we need is to hit it hard. And other days, we need to just stay in bed.
Yeah, exactly. I mean, I’m kind of at that point where like, as more time progresses, you know, that, like, I’ll change things that I’m doing. And then I’m like, alright, well, I don’t feel challenged. I’ll change things. So I feel a little bit more challenged, you know, but then it’s that growth. And then you’re like, okay, all right. Well, I’m confident in this now. Now, I need some more challenge, you know, and so like, it shifts and changes. So like, the five, you know, people always the people that have like the five year plan or the 10 year plan, like…lol
Sarah Metzger 47:18
Not our people Liz… those are not our people…lol
Chef Liz Arraj 47:21
I’m like, What the hell? Plan? You know, I’m like…lol, I’m like…????.
Sarah Metzger 47:34
I guess there’s more than one way to do things, but
Chef Liz Arraj 47:37
totally, totally. But does it really work out that way? No, I don’t think so. Like I said, I mean, honesty, and what I do is I you know, and having a sense of humor about it, you know, even when I want to scream, somedays, no, I think that’s, you know, healthy approach. At least it works for me, you know, like,
Sarah Metzger 47:58
I can get better on that laughter part. I’ll be honest, I mean, I’m more like, chuck it in the fuckit bucket. Yeah. That’s right, where I’m gonna leave it and now move on. I don’t know that I’m to the point where I can laugh at it so much, but I’m working on that. I could learn lessons from you in that regard, for sure.
Chef Liz Arraj 48:17
Well, I mean, I think that like, honestly, like, we’re, it’s all experiment anyway. Right? So you just have to be like, alright, well, this is like, experiment. You know? It could be good. Could be bad. We don’t know. There’s like, Oh, what’s this concept? Sounds cool. Okay. Wow. I’ve just created a whole bunch of work for myself, but it’s gonna be awesome in the end, right? Maybe we don’t know. We don’t get to know that. I don’t want the crystal ball for sure.
Sarah Metzger 48:52
Yeah. And that’s why people always say that, Oh, we only had a crystal ball. But I think if you did, you probably wouldn’t want it.
Chef Liz Arraj 48:58
Sarah Metzger 49:00
Would you really look?
Chef Liz Arraj 49:01
No, no I’m good.
Sarah Metzger 49:04
Yeah, no, I’d rather wait myself.
Chef Liz Arraj 49:08
I mean, I definitely feel like I’m making creating food teaching. It’ll be something that I’ll always do. I don’t know what that looks like. Right, like long term.
Sarah Metzger 49:21
I mean, there’s your book coming out that I know that has to be coming
Chef Liz Arraj 49:25
Riiiight…Yeah, the same book that is still just gonna sit there and every time I look at it, like I want to change that what change that?
Sarah Metzger 49:37
That’s right. It’s a journey you know, it just hasn’t, you know, had enough magical dust yet, but I definitely foresee that coming for you at some point because the way you write out your recipes and your classes and just the way you organize and teach it I just I see that there’s, there’s something coming.
Chef Liz Arraj 50:02
Well, I’m glad you see it.
Sarah Metzger 50:04
I do I see it. I mean, it might be next year, it might be in 10 years, but I definitely see something like that in your future. So while we don’t have a crystal ball, I feel like when it’s good that we don’t, I feel like all the things that we might take out that we didn’t like in that crystal ball are the things that are gonna get us to the purposes, the purposeful things in our journeys, right? We stumble, to get to the end, we, you know, have to fail before we can succeed. Yeah, if we can see all those failures ahead of time, we probably avoid them. And then we would end up with a different result and not succeeding at all?
Chef Liz Arraj 50:45
Well, I think success is like, really doing what you believe in, and then just, you know, doing your best, I think that’s what success is, you know, at the end of the day, where you’re like, alright, well, I am doing what I really believe in. And maybe it impacted a couple of people. I don’t know, I fed a couple of people today, you know, you know, yeah, you know, again, like what the teaching is, like, I feel like that has more of an impact. And then doing regular, you know, like, I don’t do regular food service, you know, like, no one would ever accuse me of what I do is normal food service. Because, you know, so like, I definitely feel like, eventually, that part, I always joke around, like, what are these days, I’m just going to train someone how to do it, they can, they can do this part lunch service, while I’m over here doing something else. But I don’t know if I could let that go. You know, not that I’m a control freak, but it will be hard. Like I care about how each plate goes out. So yeah, I don’t know, if someone that’s just working for me would give that same consideration.
Sarah Metzger 51:58
Yeah, that’s always the challenge. It has to be the right, the right person. And that person will be hard to find, but I have faith that you could find them because you’ll want somebody to carry on your legacy. When either you want to just have time off, or when you just can’t or choose not to do what you’re doing anymore. You know, it’s important to keep that rolling. So maybe one of your students just how you started. Now you’ll see something in somebody. That is a glimpse of promise in that regard. And you’ll invite them to join you to a future class perhaps to assist you and maybe, yeah, you never know. Look for those opportunities.
Chef Liz Arraj 52:37
You may decide to move to Oregon…lol
You never know! I could move to Oregon!…lol
Sarah Metzger 52:43
Nothing’s impossible. I would love to assist you. That would be like a dream.
Chef Liz Arraj 52:49
Oh, I don’t know if their universe is ready for that!
Sarah Metzger 52:54
Oh, that would be some powerful energy in your kitchen. Yeah. Wow. I’d be so intimidated by your art.
Chef Liz Arraj 53:01
Hardly. You could teach me a thing or two. Which reminds me that I don’t know if I told you but that little clip you did on how to dissect the pomegranate….I so did one of my middle eastern classes. I totally took that.
Sarah Metzger 53:18
Chef Liz Arraj 53:19
My friend Sarah, and I like showed them how to do it. And then I just like, let them do it.
Sarah Metzger 53:26
That’s awesome! And that’s exactly… that right there! That, is what it’s about, you know?!
Chef Liz Arraj 53:32
I was like, what a genius idea, put it in water…it always make such a mess. And I start, you know, like, I started twitching when things are super messy. Genius.
Yeah, yeah….No, that warms my heart that you used that in the class. That’s exactly what it’s about is those little pieces of information, even if you’re the only one that took something away from that it was worth it.
Right. Yeah. And that’s how I feel when I do stuff. And I’m demoing, you know, telling people how I want things prepped and they’re like, you use a spoon to peel your ginger?
Sarah Metzger 54:11
Mark would be so proud of us… all these little things, right.
I think I got that from Mark originally. I don’t know…. Ginger with a spoon.
Yeah, I definitely did.
Oh, Liz. This has been so so fun. And we’re gonna have to do it again.
Chef Liz Arraj 54:30
Sarah Metzger 54:32
Yeah, I love talking to you. Is there anything that you would like the listeners to just hear from you about or know about you? What would you like to leave them with today as we end our visit?
Chef Liz Arraj 54:49
That’s a hard one, geez…. You have been talking this whole time now. You’re like, anything else? No, I just think that like you, anyone Should just treat food as a culinary adventure, you know, and, like, don’t be afraid of just going in and burning stuff in the kitchen and experiment as you know, just like I, you know, when I teach, I’m like, don’t worry about, like, the recipe is just a suggestion, let’s talk about variation. Like, you know, we’re all busy people. But going back the end of the day, it’s like, I’ll have time me cook healthy, it’s like, no, you don’t have time to be sick. That’s what meaning like, quality of life. And it’s, again, not about perfection. It’s about, alright, you know, I’m going to, you know, add more vegetables to my plate and whether I aspire to be a vegan or not. I’m doing healthy things for my body, to give myself, you know, health on all levels. It’s not just physical, but mentally, emotionally, you know, spiritually, you know, vibrating just a healthy, you know, frequency, you know, and that’s what it’s about. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. And it should be fun. Because, you know, we humans, we have short attention spans, and we like things to be fun. They’re not fun, it feels like work has to be a little bit more challenging, right?
Sarah Metzger 56:32
For sure. I have loved every minute of this conversation with you. And I thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy…for sure… I know busy day to connect with me for a little while. And we will definitely be doing this again soon.
Chef Liz Arraj 56:53
Yeah, I’m so happy that you’re doing it. Because like, I don’t know if I could do stuff like this. You know?
Sarah Metzger 57:01
Oh you can, I expect this from you in the future. I’ll be on your podcast next. You’ll see.
Chef Liz Arraj 57:09
Sarah Metzger 57:11
Thank you Liz!
Chef Liz Arraj 57:12
Okay, thanks, Sarah. I appreciate you.
Sarah Metzger 57:15
I appreciate you!
Chef Liz Arraj 57:17
Keep on spreading the vegan love
Sarah Metzger 57:19
you as well!
All right, you take care. All right. Bye.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai