Cleveland Rocks…Engine 2 Style!

If you’re a Drew Carey fan, you know that the theme song from his sitcom carries the message that “Cleveland Rocks!”  If you attended the 2 Forks Conference  in Cleveland this past weekend, you’ll have to agree that Cleveland really does rock.  And, I was witness to it rocking in the plant-strong sense from early Saturday morning, when the conference began, until dusk on Sunday when the conference ended.

The event was like this.  Assemble 300 attendees in a hotel ballroom, arrange a roster of the world’s most formidable health care professionals and plant-based chefs, and create an agenda that flows beautifully from the first “Good Morning, Cleveland,” to Rip’s final words of hope on Sunday evening.

What happened in between is rather amazing.  After Rip’s introduction, a lecture from Caldwell B . Esselstyn, Jr., MD (Rip’s dad)  set the tone for what would be the scaffolding needed to set a plant-strong life in place.  Not everyone who attended the event was plant-strong, many were on the fence.  Dr. Esselstyn’s talk was exactly the catalyst needed to help boost people over the wall and into the valley of eating a whole foods, plant-based, no oil diet.  After his talk, you could visibly see a sense of hope and determination on many attendees’ faces.  If you were in the hallway during breaks, conversations were hopeful and bright, “I think I can do this,” said one conference goer.

The roster of speakers was very impressive, each lecture and discussion was then followed with a live-chef demo from either Chef Del Sroufe, Chef AJ, Chef Darshana Thacker, and the duo of Ann Crile Esselstyn and Jane Esselstyn, RN.  The expertise displayed by each chef gave every participant a sense of hope in being able to master  plant-strong culinary skills in their own kitchen.  It was exciting to see people’s faces light up with excitement.  You could see the “ah-ha” moments coming to life with each chef’s demo.  The science behind the diet makes it easy to understand the mechanics of a plant-strong diet, but seeing the food prepared set those mechanics into action.

Since bountiful, plant-strong food was the backdrop to this event, it was important to have meals and snacks that were in concert with the pages of Rip’s books.  In actuality, plant-strong food was another “presenter” at the weekend event.  When a chef did a demo, each participant was given a delicious sample as the demo was taking place.  When we added up the amount of food, there were more than 5500 samples distributed.  If you’re doing the math, that means that there were 18 samples given to each attendee.

I’m not sure what my favorite element was from the weekend.  I got to spend some time in the kitchen where I worked closely with the culinary team.  When we ran out of Ann and Jane’s Kale Ceviche salad (after having already made 80 pounds), we quickly got into the “kale stripping mode” to make an additional twenty pounds of salad.  Teaching people the importance of prepping kale was key.  I answered this question a lot, “But, what about the oil and salt?”  It was fun to see the chefs’ sense of satisfaction when they were able to prepare a beautiful, plant-strong dinner.  By the end of the weekend, I do believe that the “back of the house” had some great hands-on learning experiences.  There were many teachable moments happening in the kitchen!

As the clock was ticking towards the end of the event, everyone was on board to watch the 2 Forks rendition of “CHOPPED.”  Chefs Del, AJ, Darshana, and Ann and Jane were at the ready to prepare a beautiful dish with secret ingredients.  Each chef received an ingredient box that contained an Engine 2 Pizza Crust.  When the competition began, each chef got “ into the zone” and  focused on creating a fine end product.   Talk about a variety of pizza!  From dessert pizza, to a heart healthy version (loaded with beets), each chef created a mouth watering pizza to behold.  A panel of judges selected the winner, who was Chef Darshana.

Fun aside, what grabbed me most was hearing people’s stories about recovery from a myriad of lifestyle related diseases.  Their stories about the benefits of a plant-based diet brought Rip’s message front and center.

Think you missed a great thing?  Guess what, there’s another 2 Forks Conference in November!  And, this time, it’s in California!   Click here for more info:

With Thanksgiving around the corner, the November conference will give you everything you need to prepare a delicious, bountiful, and plant-strong dinner for your family and friends.  And who knows, Chef Del Sroufe just might have an additional kitchen tip for you to make something new and delicious for your Thanksgiving guests.

Like I said at the top, CLEVELAND ROCKS, and this conference added a new tone to the expression.

Join us this November in Pasadena.  See you then!