Q&A with Max La Manna
Max La Manna is the zero-waste vegan chef from New York. He created his former platform Eating With Max which is now maxlamanna.com to promote waste-free vegan cooking and sustainable living. He inspires his community by sharing important information, tips, tutorials, recipes and more. We had a chat with Max about his career as a zero-waste vegan chef, his transition to veganism and get all of his top tips on reducing waste.
Tell us about your journey to this career. Have you always wanted to be a chef?
Similar to other children who look up to their father and want to be just like their dad, my father was a self-taught chef. However, I don’t think that I ever embraced the idea of actually being a chef until just a few years ago. It all began when I moved to New York City 9 years ago to pursue a career in modelling and acting. I then moved to Los Angeles after acting school. I always worked in restaurants to pay the bills, but one day I decided that I wanted something different. I started baking vegan cookies for fun and later sold them to yoga studios.
Months later, I fell in love and moved to Australia where my partner had a chocolate business. My time in Australia was a time for centering and refocusing as I proceeded to figure out what my purpose in life was. “To be happy”, so I asked myself, “what can you do every day that would make you happy” as I watched the waves rolling in on Bondi Beach. I went home that night and started cooking. I was a completely different person from that moment onwards.
You went vegan in 2012, what was the biggest difficulty for you back then, and how much has the “vegan movement” grown in 6 years?
Going out to eat with friends was difficult. They didn’t understand what I was doing and why even after I explained my reasoning. It just didn’t make sense to them at the time but since then the vegan movement has grown exponentially, and those same friends are now interested in cooking vegan recipes.
Working in the food and hospitality industry, what are the biggest waste issues that the industry faces? How would/do you tackle them?
There are two main issues; food waste and plastic.
Working as a private chef and hosting monthly pop-up dinners, I am able to share with others the importance of not wasting food and our biggest issue, plastic. To reduce our waste and overconsumption, we first need to educate the consumer and of course, the restaurant.
Food should never be thrown away in the first place. We can use unwanted food by composting to bring more nutrients back to the soil and eventually back into our food for consumption. It’s a full circle. Benefits of composting and reducing plastic is obvious and you will also save money in the long-run, but more importantly you will reduce your contribution to carbon emissions and pollution of our natural resources.
What has been your biggest highlight as a zero-waste vegan chef?
Observing change in other people is the biggest highlight. It’s very inspiring to see people who thought that they would never change to actually turn around their whole viewpoint on the topic and then to begin to reduce, reuse and refuse what no longer serves them and humanity overall.
What are your top 5 tips for reducing waste?
- Compost! Your community probably has a drop-off for your food waste.
- Bring your own bag with you when you leave your home for all shopping purposes.
- Always take your own drink bottle to refill instead of using plastic water bottles.
- Eat more plants and less animal products – if you can go vegan, do it!
- Lastly, look inside your rubbish bin and see what you throw away the most and start to find ways to reduce or reuse more.