As I crawled into bed after a busy day, my hand reached towards the glow of my phone screen one last time, a bad habit I’ve been meaning to break. I found myself on Instagram, scrolling through Lauren Singer’s endlessly inspiring photos. Lauren, a pioneer in the zero-waste movement, writes an incredible blog called Trash is for Tossers. The blog follows her zero-waste lifestyle and acts as a guide and a source of inspiration for those who are unsure how to embark on their own waste-free journey. As a food enthusiast, I instinctively paused on a photo of a wonderfully golden piece of toast brushed with a creamy butternut squash spread, @eatingwithmax was tagged in the photo. Max calls himself a conscious chef. The gorgeous photos of his meals and the somehow alluring photos of his compost are equally stunning and representative of his values. It was obvious that we shared our passions for sustainability and food. So why not reach out, I thought? Less than 24 hours later, I found myself engrossed in an enthralling conversation about family, cooking, composting, restaurants, and everything in between.
Max’s story is heartwarming. He is one of four kids and was raised by two food-loving parents in Connecticut. His dad was a chef and his mom tends to the garden in their backyard that often supplied the produce for their family meals. Growing up he was around food 24/7. Max recalled moments from his childhood in which his dad would prepare a meal and then ask Max and his siblings to guess which ingredients had been left out. The passion and love with which Max discussed these moments makes it clear that food has played such a tremendous role in his life and in the building of his relationships.
Perhaps due to his mother’s garden, Max’s has incredible respect for his meals and ingredients. One of the first things that he said to me was, “I don’t eat alone. I believe food is something that needs to be shared and discussed.” After a whirlwind few years that involved baking vegan cookies for yoga studios in LA and making chocolate in Australia, Max found himself back on the east coast, in NYC. He has worked the bar at a vegan restaurant in New York and as a private plant-based chef, but now through his emerging social media platforms, he finds himself embodying his values more each day. He shares his daily routine, meals, and advice on Instagram. He has hosted plant-based dinners consisting of several courses and he is now working on establishing vegan cooking classes in New York and online. He wants to share his love for fresh ingredients and wholesome meals.
Although Max has led a plant-based lifestyle for just about six years, he promotes the idea of ‘no-stress’ vegan. He believes in empowering people to listen to their bodies and eat what makes their minds and tummies feel great. Eating is necessary, good, and natural and should never become a daily strain. He is an encouraging, energetic voice that manages to lead such a whole and sustainable lifestyle in a city as chaotic as New York. Max sources his produce seasonally at the numerous farmer's markets available year-round in the city.
However, the farmer's market is more than just a place where he can source the freshest ingredients. Max, like Lauren Singer, is becoming a pioneer in the zero-waste movement. Together they have collaborated on a series of blog posts in which they share recipes, like the butternut squash spread, and tips on how to reduce waste in the kitchen. By sourcing his produce from the farmer's market Max is able to avoid unnecessary packaging while supporting local farms that have sustainable agricultural practices. Max also collects and brings his compost to the market where it is eventually used in urban farms and gardens.
I believe that Max, even if he doesn’t know it yet, will be a huge voice in the contemporary food scene. He is inspiring young people and showing them that it is possible to eat locally and sustainably in cities while maintaining a healthy, fulfilling lifestyle. Finally, when I asked Max where he sees himself in the future his only clear response was, “continuing to cook for people.” Max’s positive energy, respect for food, and passion for sustainability will undoubtedly allow him to soar in any of his future endeavors.