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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Echo: Did you always want to be a
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
So, no meat products since
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.
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.