New Day New Chef: Jane Velez-Mitchell’s new cooking show explores plant-based eating

By Tom Reardon, April 2020 issue.

Fair warning, dear friends … You may read something in this interview

that you didn’t want to know. You may also learn some things that will change

the way you look at the world.

Jane

Velez-Mitchell wants the world to change. Not tomorrow, not next week or next

month or next year, either. Velez-Mitchell wants the world to change now

because if we don’t, there may not be any humans left to celebrate with her

when she turns 100 in 2056. Even the Rolling Stones legendary totem to

imperviousness, Keith Richards, could be long gone by then if we don’t change

our ways according to the media personality and host of the new Amazon Prime TV

show, New Day New Chef, but her message is anything but doom and gloom.

Velez-Mitchell

is all about embracing a healthy, plant-based lifestyle, and healing our planet.

The 63-year-old Los Angeles resident is about as positive as you can get.

Truth be

told, Velez-Mitchell has had an amazing life. Born in New York City,

Velez-Mitchell grew up living across the street from Carnegie Hall. Her mother,

Anita, was born in Puerto Rico and carved out a niche for herself as a dancer

and writer while her father, Pearse, was an advertising executive who, as

Velez-Mitchell tells it, had a career that mirrored the cast of AMC’s Mad

Men. For Velez-Mitchell, her youth in the Big Apple was exciting and

offered life experience that nowhere else could offer, including getting to go

to the famed Studio 54 in its heyday.

After

graduating from New York University, Velez-Mitchell became a broadcast

journalist and spent time in Fort Myers, Florida, Minneapolis (where she first

arrived in winter without a coat and wearing open-toed shoes), and Philadelphia

before landing a job in her hometown at WCBS. From there, Velez-Mitchell’s

career began to really take off. In 1990, she landed an anchor spot in Los

Angeles and, as she puts it, she thought she had “Died and gone to heaven.”

After 12 years in L.A., brighter lights came calling again and she headed back

to New York for a gig with CNN that lead to eventually hosting her own

eponymously named show on the HLN (Headline News or CNN2) network for six

years.

You may also

recognize Velez-Mitchell’s name from one of her four books, as well, including Exposed:

The Secret Life of Jodi Arias, which was a New York Times best

seller and allowed her to spend more than her fair share of quality time in the

Valley of the Sun. Velez-Mitchell worked extensively in the true crime world

(does the show Celebrity Justice ring a bell?) and, in addition to the

Arias case, she also spent considerable time working on the Michael Jackson

molestation trial while the controversial King of Pop was still alive.

All these

accomplishments would be more than enough for the average Jane, but

Velez-Mitchell is just getting started. She’s got her own website,

janeunchained.com, that focuses on animal rights, vegan living, and the work of

Velez-Mitchell and her team of collaborators and volunteers (It’s also part of

a 501c3.) The website is well worth a bookmark if you like keeping up to date

on these issues and Velez-Mitchell also has a daily cooking show on her

Facebook page (facebook.com/JaneVelezMitchell/) that is

also well worth checking out.

In short,

Velez-Mitchell is kicking ass, taking names, and doing her part to save the

planet. We talked over the phone a few weeks ago and here is what she had to

say:

Echo: Did you always want to be a

journalist?

Velez-Mitchell: When I was younger, I did some protests and I was

actually interviewed so that’s when I decided to check out broadcast

journalism. I had wanted to be a syndicated columnist, but after being

interviewed, I went to NYU and after I graduated, I started my career.

You have had a remarkable

career. How did you end up covering the true crime stories?

Well, after I left KCAL (in Los Angeles in 2002), I ended up going to a

show called Celebrity Justice. That was a real breakthrough for me. I

ended up covering the Michael Jackson trial and I was on Larry King Live

and filling in for Nancy Grace. Through that I ended up getting my own show on

CNN headline news in 2008. I kept my place here (in Los Angeles) because I

thought it would be short-lived.

I thought I

was just going to go there for a couple of months but the show ended up running

for six years. So that was really wonderful. I was in New York during those six

years from 2008 to 2014 and then I spent one more year because my mother was

still living at the same place across from Carnegie Hall and she was quite old.

She lived until she was 99 and a half on a primarily vegan diet.

Was your mom always vegan?

No. She started me on the journey, though. She grew up in Puerto Rico

on Vieques Island. She had a pet pig growing up, but it was actually a food

animal and she came home one day, and her pig had been slaughtered. She

literally fainted. When she woke up, she was very disillusioned by the adults

around her and she shunned meat from then on.

Oh wow. I can see how that

would have an impact on someone. 

It wasn’t as religious as calling yourself a vegan, but we didn’t have

meat in the house, and we didn’t eat it. We thought we were vegetarian, but we

weren’t. We ate fish, we ate eggs, we ate cheese and milk. After I graduated

from college and went off on my own, it was around 1980, just around the time

that PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was getting started

that I started as a journalist.

I was sent

some videos of animal cruelty and it really opened my eyes. I do feel seeing

the videos of what they actually do to these animals, as compared to the lies

that they promulgate in their advertising, you know, happy cows roaming in

grass, most of these animals are raised in concentrated animal feeding

operations where they never see the sky, they never touch grass. The only time

they see the sky is on a terrified and thirsty ride to the slaughterhouse.

Was that enough to encourage

you to go from being a vegetarian to living a plant-based lifestyle?

When I was in Los Angeles, a fourth-generation cattle rancher named

Howard Lyman came in to do an interview. He had written a book called Mad

Cowboy (1998) and he was famously on Oprah. After the interview, he and his

publicist came up to my cubicle and they said, “We hear you’re a vegetarian.” I

said, “Yes” and they said, “Do you eat dairy?”

I kind of

hung my head because he had just told me all about the horrors of the dairy

industry. (Such as) babies separated from their mothers, boy calves thrown on

dead piles or shot or put in veal crates. It’s just a horror from beginning to

end. It’s torture. It’s institutionalized torture. So I said, “Yes” to answer

his question (about) dairy and he and his publicist pointed their finger at me

and they said, right at my nose, they said, “Liquid meat” (in reference to

dairy) and that was the moment I went (vegan). That was about 22 or 23 years

ago.

So, no meat products since

then?

Or meat byproducts.

Liquid meat. That will

definitely cross my mind the next time I think about getting some ice cream.

Well, you know, now there’s all this incredible vegan ice cream. Haagen

Daaz has a vegan ice cream. Ben and Jerry’s has it. Those ice creams are just

fine. They taste great and they have the added benefit of being zero

cholesterol. So, they are healthier for you than dairy. Dairy is one of the

most undiagnosed allergies. People are not meant to drink the breast milk of

another species. When you think about it that way, it starts to seem as gross

as it really is.

There are so many new products

out there. I’ve heard some people say that they can barely tell the difference

any more between the Impossible burgers and a beef burger.

Now it’s gotten so sophisticated. You can’t tell the difference.

That’s why we

did the show (New Day New Chef). We want to make it fun. We want to

invite people into this joyous lifestyle that has been unfairly painted as some

sort of sacrifice. The truth is, it’s a sacrifice to eat animals. Only six

different species of animals are consumed primarily. Cows, pigs, chickens,

turkeys, goats, and lamb. But when it comes to vegetables, there’s tens of

thousands of vegetables. There are tens of thousands of different kinds of

fruits. There are hundreds of different kinds of grains, so you can have a lot

more variety in vegetarian and vegan cooking than you would in a meat-based

cooking. You could do more in the kitchen with it.

(L to R): Jane Elizabeth, SeykaMejeur, Brian Mejeur, Jane Velez-Mitchell, Simone Reyes, Sean Hill, and Audrey Dunham. Photo courtesy of New Day New Chef.

So, New Day New Chef has

a huge canvas to work with and it’s better for everyone, correct?

The whole world has to change because we are headed for an ecological

apocalypse based on animal agriculture, but there’s a resistance because, look

at the TV commercials, meat, dairy and pharmaceuticals. Nope. If you go to a

plant-based diet you don’t need that erectile dysfunction drug, most likely.

You don’t need that heart disease drug or the cholesterol lowering drugs. A lot

of that is going to go away. Heart disease kills one in four Americans.

The truth is there is a commonality between gay rights and animal rights. They are not mutually exclusive. When people are marching for women’s rights, human rights, gay rights, they should also march for animal rights. They complement each other. We could eliminate world hunger if we switch to a plant-based diet. We are raising and killing 70 billion land animals per year, more if you include fish, into the trillions, and farm animals are the most inefficient food source because they eat 40 times what they produce in food. We could all live in a world of natural abundance if we switched to a plant-based diet. Everyone would have enough to eat.


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