Team Wicked are thrilled to announce our new recipe contributor, Amy Levin!
Despite being new to our platform, she is certainly not new to the team! Amy’s sophisticated chocolates and elegant desserts were the cornerstone at all SAF restaurants, owned by Chad Sarno, during their opening years. Amy is a classically trained professional chef who found her way into vegan and vegetarian cooking in 2004 while training to be a holistic health counsellor at The Institute of Integrative Nutrition.
With over 20 years experience as a professional chef, and a decade specialising in healthy chocolates and desserts, Amy leads the way when it comes to empowering people with the tools needed to forge their own path within this sector. Amy has been teaching her signature chocolate and dessert classes, both live and online, since 2009. Her skills as a teacher are unparalleled, whether it be teaching a home cook or professional chef.
Since the start of the pandemic, Amy has moved to Livestream teaching and is now selling a line of hand-painted Bonbons which are available worldwide.
We caught up with Amy for a brief chat, to whet your appetite for the creations she will be sharing with you all.
Welcome to the team, Amy! To start, could you share where your vegan and plant-based journey began?
When I was 25 years old I studied nutrition at The Institute of Integrative Nutrition. We learned about every ‘diet’ under the sun, and the one that struck me the most was raw and plant based. I began integrating this into my own life and really enjoyed the process of trying new foods, like spirulina, raw cacao and salads that were far more creative than the ‘salad bar’ items I grew up on. It soon became all I wanted to focus on in my work and it all kicked off from there.
You are well known for being able to teach the art of chocolate making to beginners and seasoned pros alike. That being said, many new cooks find chocolate making to be a daunting task! What advice would you give to people wanting to give it a try?
There’s no doubt that chocolate making is an art and a science. I think that might be one reason it’s off putting to people. It does have certain requirements that need to be met, otherwise it simply will not work.
So, I’d say start at the shallow end of the pool and work your way to the deep end. Whatever that looks like for you. Maybe that means buying some premade chocolate, melting it down and tempering it. See how that goes first and then see where your natural curiosity takes you.
Chocolate is an expansive area with plenty of entry points for meeting people exactly where they are, and allowing them to expand endlessly. Patience and being open to learning are all that’s required to work with chocolate.
You’ve specialised in healthy desserts and chocolates now for over a decade – what is it you’ve enjoyed the most about working with sweet treats?
The connection I feel to desserts and chocolate is unlike any other area of cooking for me. It’s a place where I can truly express my artistic self. The other thing I love about it is that people glow when you present them with sweets. Always. And I like being part of someone glowing, humming, feeling joy and savouring.
You’re also a holistic health counsellor, what can you tell us about the health-giving qualities of your desserts?
I could go into the nutritional aspects of my desserts, but I take a different approach. For me, it’s more the emotional aspect. The fact that my job is to teach people how to make delicious, healthy desserts and chocolates means that I have a small part in those people feeding their loved ones. In a world where you can easily buy pre-made desserts and chocolates, people chose to make it from scratch. They dedicate their time and energy to that. That’s the most ancient practice of humans and it’s healing.
Is there a sweet flavour combination that you can never resist?
At heart, I love the classics. Mint Chocolate. Coffee Hazelnut. Raspberry Star Anise. Apple Cinnamon.
A lot of your creations look like works of art! Where do you find inspiration for your craft?
This is a difficult one to answer because my inspiration comes from so many different areas that melt into one. Sometimes it’s from wanting to make something for a friend or loved one because they’re craving it and don’t want to have the ‘unhealthy’ version of it. Other times I’m working in the kitchen, one thing leads to another and boom, something amazing happens. Something unexplainable. Those are my favourite moments, because I feel like a vessel for something greater to express itself through me.
What’s your signature dish, sweet or savoury, that you always fall back on?
I make a Chocolate Hazelnut Layer Cake with Mocha Frosting that is a huge hit with anyone who has ever eaten it. So, when the chips are down, that’s a go to.
And finally, could you please share one tip for people wanting to eat more plants?
Something that was said to me during nutritional school and it always stuck; The good pushes out the ‘bad’. The more good stuff you eat, the more your body craves it, and eventually, it pushes out the ‘bad’ stuff entirely. Also, start easy. Steam some broccoli, sprinkle it with sea salt, and drizzle with coconut oil. The simplest stuff can be the most nourishing, I find.
Thank you, Amy, we look forward to featuring your recipes here on the Wicked Healthy Recipes blog!
Keep your eyes peeled for her masterful recipes, from tempering chocolate, to truffles and jellies. Her first recipe will be up on the blog on Friday the 5th of March.
FB: Amy Levin