Saturday, February 9, 2013

BRAVO! An Interview and Giveaway

I’m very excited to be introducing Chef Ramses Bravo. Chef Bravo is the Executive Chef at TrueNorth Health Center. For over 30 years, TrueNorth has helped over 10,000 people regain their health through water fasting, plant-based vegan diets, and plant-based nutrition education. In 2007, Chef Bravo joined the team and has since then been demonstrating on a daily basis that one does not have to sacrifice taste for optimum health. 

His book, appropriately titled, BRAVO! was released about 6 months ago. With a Forward from Dr. T. Collin Campbell and an introduction from Dr. Alan Goldhamer this book is stocked full of helpful tid-bits of proper nutrition.

Unlike many other vegan and plant-based cookbooks, BRAVO! is an SOS-free, or recipes without added Salt, Oil, or Sugar. In the book, Chef Bravo has included tips for cooking without oil, basic recipes such as a vegetable broth which he says is the building block of healthy cooking, as well as a full, two-week meal plan for someone who wants to completely immerse themselves into the diet. 

Most of the recipes are pretty simply to make and use easy-to-find and inexpensive ingredients. Besides the large collection of delicious and nutritious recipes, each recipe has nutritional information, including calories per serving, protein, carbohydrates, and even Omega-3. If there is a single flaw with the work, it is that there are only a dozen or so colored photographs; however, the content more than makes up for this.

After having tried several of the recipes, including the breakfast potatoes, the banana-kale breakfast smoothie and polenta pizza, I reached out to Chef Bravo and he agreed to do an interview with me and to giveaway  a copy of his book to one of my readers!


Before arriving at TrueNorth Health, you worked as a more traditional chef making Standard American Diet (SAD) dishes. How did you first learn about True North Health and whole-food vegan diet?

I learned about TN through a friend of the family.  Once she knew I was no longer working at my previous job, she called me and put me in touch with Alan (my boss) and we began talking about me joining the staff here.  Once I got here I was then introduced to the whole-food vegan diet.

You say in your cookbook’s Introduction that you yourself were not in great health when you first arrived at TrueNorth.  Can you describe your personal transformation? Has your experience changed your relationship with food? Do you now identify as a vegan or eat mostly plant-based? 

I’m 30 lbs lighter compared to what I weighed at my previous job.  My energy level is much higher than it used to be.  I do identify myself as mostly plant-based vegan, except on holidays.

Were you surprised that you got the job at TrueNorth even though you didn’t have experience in creating plant-based foods? Was it a challenge switching from creating and preparing traditional SAD food to vegan food?

No one has actually asked this before, but I actually was surprised to be offered this job.  I really did not have any experience with vegan cooking, and truthfully I didn’t expect to be here for more than 6 months to a year.  I am very glad to have made the decision to take the job because I was very close to turning it down.  Yes, it was a tremendous challenge to switch from conventional cooking to SOS free vegan cooking.  The biggest adjustment for me was to decrease my salt tolerance; that was a tough transition.

Care to share an inspiring story you’ve witnessed about the healing powers of diet? 

We see so much change and improvement everyday in our clients.  People loose weight, drop their meds, lower their blood pressure, etc.  It’s gotten to the point where it’s so normal I don’t get surprised anymore, we simply expect everyone to get better.

You use the term vegan throughout your cookbook. Recently however there is a growing trend moving away from using that term. What are your thoughts on the differences between veganism and plant-based.

I am actually not aware of this trend.  To me plant-based is a form of veganism.  Like a sub-category.  There are many forms of veganism.

The dangers of consuming animal products have been well documented, but why do you think ditching Sugar, Oil, and Salt is important? 

Ditching sugar, oil and salt is not the point.  What’s really important is to ditch the excess sugar, oil and salt.  These three ingredients are found naturally in a plant-based vegan diet.  But not consuming these three in a refined form.  By not eating any sugar, oil or salt that comes in a bag, bottle, can, jar, etc, then the objective is accomplished.

  What are some of your favorite ingredients to cook with? As always, extra credit will be given if you say lentils. What do you look for when you are picking good flavorful produce?

Well I do love lentils (see below).  But personally any fully ripe and in-season fruit is hard to beat.  I’m a fruit monkey.


Can you describe your process for when you are creating a new dish?

My process for any dish is stimulating the palate by combining  different flavor profiles, (sweet, sour, salty), different textures (soft, crunchy, chewy) and different colors to give the dish good contrast.

What do you think of water fasting that the TrueNorth Health Center is famous for? Have you done one?

I think it’s a great way to let the body heal and restore itself.  It is a great way to lower salt tolerance which is crucial to switch to a nutrient rich vegan diet.  I have done one myself here at TN and was very happy to have done it.

What is, in your opinion, the most vital kitchen tool or gadget?

Sharp knives.

Besides your own book, what are some other cookbooks that have inspired you, or that you recommend for healthy vegan food?

Forks Over Knives cookbook, Unprocessed by Chef AJ, Ingredients by Aliza Green, Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner. All of these books are a great starting point for people who are afraid of “veganism”.   I also have created an e-book which is part of a program called Switch to Nutrient Rich program.  The cookbook is designed to have 5 ingredients or less, 3 steps or less.  This is a great tool for people who want to eat healthy but don’t have a lot of time to cook.  You can find this at

If you were going to prepare a meal for President Clinton, what would it be?

I’d have to ask him what are his favorite flavors, and check if he doesn’t have any allergies.  But assuming he’d be ok with anything then I would make:
Fresh herb and strawberry salad page 58
Red Lentil loaf with bell pepper coulis page 96
Mango-Banana pie  page 129 

Chef Bravo, Thank you so much for taking the time to correspond with me. It’s been an absolute pleasure.  What is the best way for everyone to follow you and keep up with the amazing work you are doing? Are you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter ect?  

You can look up Bravo Cookbook on FB and you will find lots of pictures that are not in the book.  I do have my own website, but it’s not all about cooking.

Finally, care to share a new recipe?

Sure, here’s another lentil recipe for you.  It comes from my switch to nutrient rich program.

Yellow Lentil Curry Soup
2 cups yellow lentils, red lentils will work too
8 cups vegetable broth
2 cups sliced oyster mushrooms
1 yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2  tablespoon yellow curry powder
2 cups loose baby arugula (optional)

1.     In a dry pot sauté the onions, garlic and mushrooms for 3 minutes over medium heat
2.     Add the curry powder and vegetable broth and bring to a simmer
3.     Add the lentils and simmer until they are fully cooked stirring occasionally
Optional- Mix in the arugula right before serving


Here are the rules. First, the winner needs to live in the United States (sorry international readers, no disrespect). The contest will end on Valentines Day, February 14th at midnight. To enter, you must be a subscribed reader to BYOL. To increase your chances of winning leave a comment on this post or/and "like" BRAVO Cookbook on facebook. You will also gain a point if you "like" the new Bring Your Own Lentils facebook page. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck, and cheers! 


  1. Awesome, what a great-looking cookbook. I haven't gone SOS-free, but I agree that everything is ok in moderation. I am slowly weaning myself from sweeteners and working on the salt. I am keeping oil for now, although most of my meals are low-oil anyhow. My favourite SOS-free recipe is probably a veg stirfry.

    1. Janet, Like everything else in life, transitioning towards an optimal, nutrient-dense diet is a process. Best wishes and let me know if you have any questions!

  2. Great post!!! True North Health is an amazing facility that gives so many people a second chance at life, and Chef Bravo is a major player in helping this to happen :)

    As far as my favorite SOS-free recipes go... I don't know if I can pick! I usually really like anything made from whole, plant-based ingredients. Those maple-mustard sweet potato lentil burgers you posted a picture of last night looked absolutely delectable, though, so maybe if you post that recipe soon, it will become one of my favorites ;)

    1. hahaha! Good thing rafflecopter doesn't take flattery into account! That recipe will be posted soon... (probably next month).

  3. I would love to try more SOS free recipes. This book seems perfect. Right now, I mainly just make salads with oil free dressings or I experiment with making traditional dishes such as soups and stir fries SOS free by water-sauteing the veggies instead of sauteing them in oil.

  4. My downfall are nuts. I haven't been able to kick the need to eat them often. I've lost all my other cravings now that I'm plant strong but one I start eating almonds, of walnuts, I can't seem to stop.

    1. Hey Pam, Thanks for the message! I eat nuts pretty frequently, and in fact the scientific literature is pretty clear that moderate consumption of nuts is perfectly healthy assuming you are not suffering from cardiovascular disease.

      Whenever possible, opt for raw nuts, and soak them in warm water for a few hours before consuming to increase their digestibility.

      Thanks for the comment!

  5. I haven't gotten to try any, but hopefully that will change soon!