Maggie Wescott is a plant-based chef in Stillwater, Minnesota. She has drifted in and out of veganism her entire life: vegetarian at birth, raised on chicken nuggets, a teenage vegan junk-foodie, then a 20-something “lean chicken breast” dieter. Her food choices were often the result of the environment around her. Always a people-pleaser, she consumed meat even when it seemed wrong on a visceral level.
No more. Five years ago, she decided to take control of her own life. She jumped back into a plant-based diet and hasn’t looked back.
Now she’s making waves as a chef, spreading the powerful message of plant-based diet. She is no longer just trying to make other people happy. She is pushing back, for the sake of her health, her family’s health, and the wellness of her community. She even left her job when it didn’t match her personal values.
A chef who is empowered with a gift for teaching, she hopes to inspire others to take control of their own lives. I am so excited to share her story with you. I can speak from experience that her recipes are legit. Her Stretchy Vegan Mozzarella beat all of the store-bought alternatives with my lactose-free friends. Her story and her recipes inspire me to become a better chef. I hope they also inspire you to take control of your own health and to choose your wellness.
Born to Vegetarians, Raised on Chicken Nuggets
Maggie was born and raised in Stillwater, Minnesota. Her parents were “ever-loving hippies”, determined to raise her as a vegetarian. However, with the limited resources of the time, they lost the battle with the convenience food revolution. As two full-time working adults raising three children, they turned to processed chicken nuggets and fish sticks for quick weeknight dinners. Even as a child, Maggie felt it was unnatural to be eating meat, “something that had once been a living creature”. Yet, she obliged to please her parents.
At age 12, she revolted, claiming “NO MORE MEAT.”
The texture, the flavor, everything about meat was wrong. But, what was really hard for me was that it was an animal. It just never felt natural to me to eat. Like many teenage vegans who adopt a cruelty-free approach to eating, she became a junk food vegetarian. Her diet consistent primarily of “bread, cheese, pasta, french fries, quesadillas…well, you get the picture”. It was hardly healthy…or plant-based.
Meat as “Healthy”
During college, her junk food eating habits led to 20 extra pounds. Determined to lose the weight, she joined Weight Watchers. Many of the recipes there emphasized lean chicken breast as a healthy way to lose weight. Maggie conceded and began eating meat again.
Her family and friends were thrilled – finally it was easy to cook for her again! Yet, she felt morally torn. This didn’t feel right to her. She never really cared for the taste or texture of meat. Even though she “couldn’t stand it and could barely gag it down”, she stayed with this for years. This diet program and the people she loved told her it was a good thing. She obliged to what the world around her wanted her to do.
Standing Up for Herself
Then, five years ago, Maggie and her husband Mace watched the movie Forks Over Knives. That night, she reclaimed vegetarianism. She eventually removed the eggs and dairy, and now she’s 100% plant-based.
During her meat-eating days, she struggled with chronic sinutis. Every few months she took antibiotics that her doctor told her would be necessary the rest of her life. However, since removing dairy, she has ”never had another sinus infection. Literally life changing.”
In addition, she’s faced a life-long struggle with anxiety. Yet, after removing processed foods, dairy, and excessive alcohol, her anxiety has almost completely subsided. The absence of anxiety has been “one of the biggest gifts of all”. The movie Forks Over Knives begins with the quote “Let food be thy medicine”. How true this is.
Finding Her Voice as a Chef
In her professional culinary life, Maggie left her job as an accountant to work at Great Harvest Bakery for a couple of years. Eventually, she landed at the upscale Rivertown Inn Bed and Breakfast in Stillwater. She was the back-up chef. Yet, when the head chef abruptly left just before a cooking class, she was pushed to take over. She had never even taken a cooking class!
Yet, that impetus led her to become the head chef. Not only did she nail the cooking class, but she excelled as the lead in the kitchen. As a self-taught chef with no formal culinary training, her self-doubt loomed. Yet, each experience there empowered her. She taught cooking classes, developed recipes, vied in cooking competitions, and judged local charity events. Her boss and colleagues believed in her and pushed her. She grew both professionally and personally.
As the head chef, she was charged with determining the breakfast menu every day. Staying true to herself, she ditched the bacon and sausage, serving her customers an all-vegetarian menu. No one felt deprived or complained , wanting more. In fact, many of them faced other food restrictions. With food sensitivities like gluten and dairy, they implored Maggie for help. These clients were thrilled to have recipes that were safe, and Maggie heard a calling for guidance. She began to gain her voice as a plant-forward, allergey-sensitive chef.
Spreading Her Message
Eventually this dream job stopped serving her. It asked her to cook meat for special events, pushing against the strong moral voice she had found. It also meant lots of weekends away from her beloved daughters, Claire and Anna. While the head chef, she saw how life-changing it could be for someone to have simple recipes that accounted for their dietary needs. Food is powerful. She quit her job to focus on spreading her healthy-eating message.
Currently, she is focused on learning more and sharing that knowledge. She is expanding into holistic nutrition and health coaching. She hopes to combine education and passion to empower people. By standing up for herself, her mission has evolved into something bigger. It will have a ripple effect, creating a community that is stronger, healthier, and inspired.
Follow Maggie and Get Her Recipes
Maggie’s website, Alternative Dish, has a collection of healthy, plant-based, gluten-free recipes. The recipes are tested, simple, and inspired by the craftsmanship of a chef. She offers substitutions for the top 8 allergens whenever possible, so it is truly “a recipe site for everyone”.
Some Quick Tips for Plant-Based, Gluten-Free Eating from Chef Maggie:
- Meal-Prep to keep staples on hand for quick salad bowls: roasted veggies, nuts, seeds, dressings, beans, cooked grains, washed greens, etc.
- You can roast any vegetable and it will be delicious. Use them on top of a grain and pour a cashew sauce over it, put them on a salad or just eat them straight off the pan for a healthy snack.
- Keep a few key sauces on-hand. Salad dressings and pestos go a long way in jazzing up a simple meal. Some of her favorite sauces:
For her latest creations, follow Chef Maggie on Instagram.
Do you relate to Chef Maggie’s struggles and plant-based journey?
There are many parts of Maggie’s story that I relate to. Her struggle with eating and weight-loss reminds me of my own struggle to break free of the “chicken breast is healthy” mindset. It can be challenging to navigate the many dieting options out there. However, like others, Maggie has discovered a plant-based lifestyle to be the best option for her.
Maybe you’re 100% on the plant-based, whole foods vegan track. Or, maybe you’re still trying to find what works best for you and your life. Please share your comments below: Your struggles, your successes, and what resonates with you.