Taylor Mae Dean was raised on a diet of pork chops, steak and potatoes. But as the Solvang, California, native started meeting people who didn’t eat meat and learned more about animal cruelty, she adopted a plant-based diet at age 14 in 2006.

“I wanted to minimize unnecessary suffering and acts of cruelty that are imposed upon animals everyday”.

As a teenager, she felt like it was a rebellious act as there wasn’t anyone in her town she knew of who was vegan or vegetarian. From there Taylor had to teach herself how to cook, to make herself vegan meals at home.

But her culinary roots run deep. Her mother has been a waitress for three decades. One of her first jobs? Scooping tapioca while her mom worked at the age of 4.

Following years working in California restaurants, Taylor relocated to Hawaii to study hands-on sustainable organic farming and eco-friendly living. Taylor worked on several farms on the Big Island over the course of 3 years. One is the Johnson Family Farm, which is the largest organic commercial farm on Hilo on the Big Island. Taylor returned to the mainland to work at Lotus Garden Meditation Center in Sacramento where she taught cooking classes and assisted with the meditation and mindfulness practices/ classes/ programs taught at the studio. Taylor decided to open her first business after moving to Sedona in 2017.

Since 2017 Taylor has solely run and operated Cooking with love Personal Vegan Chef Services in Sedona. Taylor is also a photographer, recipe developer, and shares her vegan recipes and healthy living tips and recipes on her website Taylormaedean.com and on Youtube. On her site she offers her chef services and free recipes. Services include: Private dinners, Retreat cooking, Food Photography and Recipe Development for Vegan Companies.

“My mission is to really give people a good sense that vegan food can be really delicious. Transitioning my diet, learning about where food comes from, connecting with animals and the land and finding a meditation practice has transformed my life in indescribable ways. I hope my food and recipes can inspire others to make those changes, and I can help others to discover the inner happiness that comes with these small changes”.

She says one of the common misconceptions about vegan food is that it’s unbalanced or lacking protein. But she’s here to let people know that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“When you compose a dish as a chef, you want to make sure foremost, if you’re being a responsible chef, that the meal is balanced nutritionally. Not only is it balanced, but it is also tasty. But I think it’s more important to make a balanced dish, flavor-wise and nutritionally-wise,” says Taylor. “Food is just pure nourishment. And it should just assist people in their life, and make them feel good.”