Chip Lopez fires up a food revolution
By Fiona Patricia S. Escandor
IT’S hardly a fairy tale, Chip Lopez confesses. There’s no Cinderella story of how she, a meat lover all her life, transformed into a vegetarian, a practice she has since advocated through The Lazy Chef program that she founded.
Like many others who’ve heeded the call for a healthier lifestyle, her transition was gradual, crossed with challenges and cravings, and finally a deeper realization of her “why.” She said, “It’s important to always go back to your why. If you’re doing it because you were forced to or it’s a fad, then you’ll never stick to it.”
Hers stemmed from a six-month stint in the Wellness Institute of the Cleveland Clinic in the USA two years ago, where she was there initially for a teacher-training program in therapeutic yoga. On the side, Chip immersed herself in the institute’s fitness programs and met individuals who, though were neither vegetarian nor vegan, were on plant-based diets.
“I noticed their energy was so different and that they seemed to be positive, and so I challenged myself just to see how long I will last,” she said. “Then I started noticing good changes in my body. Growing up I was sickly, I would pop medicine like candy, I would get indigestion from the simplest things—and I realized that was my body rejecting something, meat.”
Chip later got her training in vegetarian food preparation in the clinic’s kitchen, where she was invited to assist their executive chef after they knew of her culinary background. The young chef had finished her studies from the Academy for International Culinary Arts and her apprenticeship in Shangri-la Mactan Resort & Spa.
“The first time I saw my mentor make cheese-less cheese sauce using sweet potato and tofu, it was an ‘aha!’ moment, like a whole new world was opened to me,” she said. Inspired, Chip began experimenting on vegetarian versions of her favorite dishes like sisig, barbecue and burger to satisfy her meat cravings. Made to look and taste like the actual sisig and whatnot, but using ingredients that are purely plant-based.
“He also introduced me to the ‘can-have’ mindset,” she said. “If you think of the things you can’t have like, say, soft drinks or meat, you will feel deprived and you want to rebel. Instead think of the things that you can have.”
Chip went home a licensed yoga instructor, and with a newfound enthusiasm to also share her knowledge on healthy cooking. “I wanted to start a food revolution, a movement, though at that time not a lot of people were interested,” she said.
Things started brewing when Chip posted a photo of some of her creations online that garnered a lot of feedback from friends. And from there, The Lazy Chef Lunch Club was born, a lunch program where she cooked and delivered crafty and creative vegetarian dishes to her clients upon order. “I did the shopping, prep work and delivery, and that was fine because people welcomed the thought of it and they were eating it.”
The Lazy Chef Lunch Club had a successful six-month run, with more and more people getting acquainted to the diet. But after looking back on her “why,” Chip realized she was moving farther away from the movement she originally envisioned. “It was becoming more of a business. Serving one meal five times a week—I don’t think I was making enough impact, since what do they eat for dinner or on weekends? I wanted to teach because without me, they can prepare for themselves.”
She let go of the lunch club early this year, and then finally pushed through to holding her first class. Chip has partnered with AICA for a series of healthy cooking workshops, and at the same time she also does home classes.
“I go to people’s houses and work with what they have. That way they would know that with minimal equipment and space, they can cook,” she said. “One of my students had a small apartment and we used an ironing board as countertop, and one knife to prepare all dishes. Anyone can cook as long as he has an open mind.”
Living in a meat-loving household—“If I don’t cook, I starve,” she said. “In parties or when going out, I usually eat ahead or bring something. I always manage to work around it. It has never been an issue. That’s why my passion is in teaching because it empowers people to be self-reliant. With our without me, they can transition to a healthier lifestyle.”
Photography: Alfred Gregory E. Bartolome | Hair & Make-up Artist: Arnauld Airraveche
Assistant:Charlyn Pepito and Judiel Dal, USJ-R Mass Comm Interns