The small screen is calling local chef Danielle Arsenault, who’s on a mission to discover and prepare healthy, plant-based cuisine from coast to coast.
Arsenault’s camper van will be packed and ready for a summer’s worth of adventure and kilometres on the odometer when her vision for Heal and Ignite Across Canada, a vegan culinary television series, hits the road.
“It’s light, it’s positive, it’s going to showcase how you can eat a plant-based diet and be super strong, fit and feel amazing,” said Arsenault, founder of Pachavega Living Foods Education. “The idea is to the show the food and how delicious it can be.”
Arsenault, who’s authored five cookbooks and teaches raw-food culinary courses, will travel to every province and territory and uncover its best-kept secrets in plant-based cuisine.
She hopes the series inspires how people look at food.
“My background is teaching and education; this is education for life,” she said.
Heal and Ignite Across Canada begins filming in summer 2018 and plans are to produce 14 episodes to fit a one-hour time slot. Arsenault says a broadcaster in British Columbia is lined up to air the episodes on television, likely in spring 2019.
Each episode will begin by welcoming viewers to a location in Canada and introducing a local food expert, including dietitians, athletes, chefs and authors, then discuss the health benefits of the raw food being featured.
“I’ll meet with nutrition experts and talk about the nutrition of food and break myths like you need (meat) for your protein,” she said. “I want to show it through science with a caring heart and positive way.”
The next step is acquiring the food, either from foraging on the land, or purchasing items at local farmers markets/grocery stores.
“I want to show how people can make an impact in their small community even when there’s snow on the ground for 10 months of the year,” she said. “Then we’ll go into the kitchen and make the food delicious.”
Once the plant-based food is prepared, the meal will be served to a group ready to indulge in the vegan cuisine.
The Great White North offers a diverse landscape and, while travelling across the country, Arsenault will go on outdoor recreational excursions. The final aspect of Heal and Ignite Across Canada episodes will have some form of an adventure sport included, such as rock-climbing in B.C., kayaking on the Yukon River and, for the Alberta episode, there will be caving inside Rat’s Nest Cave near Canmore.
It’s not a new thing for Arsenault to create innovative dishes to delight taste buds or launch a brand new cookbook, but moving over to the television side of things is a first bite into the unknown for the chef.
“It’s a very difficult process because you have an idea (and) I don’t have a lot of financial support,” said Arsenault. “So I’m coming from this grassroots idea and trying to sell my idea without being a salesperson, but I don’t want to come across that way. I believe the message I’m sharing will help people and it’s important. I want to show that.”
A crowd-funding webpage on Indiegogo has been started by Arsenault in hopes of gathering $35,000 toward the project, which is 10 per cent of the $350,000 budget. The other 90 per cent is coming from various grants she’s applied for.
There are perks involved with some of the donations, such as being featured on the show or receiving a copy of her newest cookbook Heal and Ignite 55 raw, plant-based, whole-food recipes to heal your body and ignite your spirit.
“It’s bigger than me. The message I have to share, I know, could help hundreds of thousands of people if they hear it,” said the chef. “When my students come through my doors, it inspires them, it changes them, it’s students who were meat and potatoes (people) and maybe they’re not going to stop eating it, but they are going to start eating more vegetables and things more specific for them.”
Arsenault has an upcoming raw-food culinary course starting this Friday (Nov. 10) in Canmore, and is offering special drop-in rates for the classes.
Her next culinary courses in Canmore are from April 27 to May 6 and Oct. 13-22.
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