The Game Changers is the most popular documentary ever sold on iTunes and was seen by millions on Netflix. You will remember Charity Morgan as the chef featured in the film, famous for feeding 19 Tennessee Titans football players vegan food and watching both their health and their performance shine. This January, Charity is releasing her first cookbook, Unbelievably Vegan: 100+ Life-Changing, Plant-Based Recipes, chock-full of recipes that you seriously will not believe are vegan. We talked with Charity about plant-based eating for beginners, the word she’s added to the English language, and how she gets her skin to radiate like that! Join us as we get to know our newest FACE of the South, Chef Charity Morgan.
“Vegan” and “plant-based” are often intimidating words for the ordinary American. Tell us about the new term you’ve coined: “Plegan.”
I saw that there was a lot of judgment in both vegan and plant-based areas. I wanted to create an inclusive space that would make people feel welcome. One day, a player with a multi-million dollar Nike contract came to me and said, “I’ve been eating your meals for a month. What do I do? What do I say? People are asking me about it.” I came up with it on the fly. I just said, “Tell them you’re plegan!” I wanted to create a space where there was no judgment and I didn’t have to meet others’ expectations. Ultimately, I wanted to inspire, encourage, and empower people by showing kindness and compassion.
I can’t help but notice how radiant your skin is. Were you born that way or is there a specific part of the plant-based diet that has had a direct impact on your skin’s radiance?
What we put into our bodies is a huge factor when it comes to how our skin looks. I can look at someone’s skin and tell them how they eat. For a while, I ran away from being a chef and trained at the Aveda Institute in New York City. I learned there that the products you use are a big part too. I baby my skin, but I really believe there are two factors that make the biggest impact: 1. What you put in: phytonutrients and chlorophyll are so important. 2. The products you use. Internal parts of your body can be inflamed and people are used to that, but they forget that your skin can become inflamed too, and that is where things like cystic acne can come in.
We read that you were really going against the grain trying to be a plant-based chef at Le Cordon Bleu. Health is certainly enough, but are there deeper convictions that have guided your choices?
It’s all health. I was waking up every morning thinking, “I’m so young. Why do I feel so bad?” My energy was low. My digestion was bad. It took a long time for me to go to sleep, and then I would wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to go back to sleep. My husband was raving about having the best sleep of his life and talking about how great he felt because he had been eating plant-based for a month at that point. I knew I needed something different, and he actually needed someone to help make his food. He was using a meal-delivery service and it was nasty. So, we helped each other and that’s how it began.
What advice do you have for the married person who would like to attempt the plant-based diet, but whose spouse is not on board?
Start with that person. Don’t make your favorite meal; make their favorite meal. When a client comes to me, I give them a questionnaire. I ask, “What is your ultimate favorite dish?” That one meal tells me a lot about what they like. Is it rich, spicy, comforting, clean, layered? That gives me a ton of information. Then, I ask, “What is your favorite dessert?” If they like chocolate, then they like rich, bold, deep notes. If they like fruity desserts, I know they skate on flavor, but they fall in the middle with desserts. If they like cheesecake, their taste is rich and creamy.
What do you think it was about The Game Changers that spoke to the modern American public?
It debunked myths and tore down marketing. It made people ask, “Why have we been buying into propaganda?” Since the ’60s and ’70s, people have believed you had to be a scrawny, skinny, Caucasian surfer guy to be vegan. They thought you had to eat hemp seed crackers and tofu. This new information comes from data collected over the last five years — it’s not just my opinion.
Which of the recipes in your book do you make most often?
Mac and cheese, because lots of people saw it on The Game Changers, so they always ask about it. A new popular one that I personally love is my Creamy Jambalaya Pasta. My favorite thing about my book is that at the bottom of each page, there’s a little slug called “Get Creative.” It gives ways to change up a traditional recipe and make it more interesting. So for my traditional jambalaya, I have taken it up a notch to make this pasta, and people just love it! It’s smokey, meaty, hearty, and creamy even though it has tomatoes in it. It’s one of the things I’m making a lot of right now.
True or False: Plant-based eating is wildly expensive.
False. I know it does get expensive when you start buying meat alternatives. I advise people to buy in bulk. One pack of two Beyond Burgers is $5. But an 8-count pack is $17. So buy the bigger pack and freeze what you need to freeze to stretch your dollar. The other thing I usually mention is that the closer to nature it is, the cheaper it is. So try to stick with things that are natural.
RELATED: 3 Easy Recipes for the New Vegan
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
When I was a child, my dad gave me the best piece of advice and it has made me unapologetically Charity. He said, “Never care about what other people think.”
Outside of family, friends, and faith, what are three things you can’t live without?
I really only have one thing: I can’t live without learning every day. I think a lot of people take their brains and learning for granted. I have a family member who is struggling with Alzheimer’s, and what they wouldn’t give to even remember their birthday … so that’s something I can’t live without.
Check out Unbelievably Vegan: 100+ Life-Changing, Plant-Based Recipes for more tips on plant-based eating and, of course, gorgeous recipes you seriously won’t believe are vegan
Thank you, Charity!
Read more interviews with our inspirational FACES in our archives!