How did you get into the business of
teaching in-home cooking classes?
I am a former biology teacher. I love
teaching! I became a plant-based chef
in 2015, to help heal myself from two
autoimmune conditions. Following that
certification, I enrolled in a plant-based
nutrition certification program through
eCornell. I knew I wanted to teach
about all of the information I learned,
so I began my business to teach people
how they can empower themselves with
cooking healthy foods. It’s been a great
You focus specifically on cooking for a
whole food, plant-based diet. Why?
Plant-based foods heal. Plants
decrease inflammation. Western diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes,
obesity, and other inflammatory disease can be largely prevented through
diet. Plant-based foods have no cholesterol. They increase the body’s ability to oxygenate the blood and decrease
inflammation, allowing better circulation in the body. I know we can prevent
and reverse most of today’s chronic disease through food. It’s a story not being
taught in medical offices and it needs to
be. Broccoli costs a lot less than having
open heart surgery.
Was this something you’ve always
wanted to do?
I’ve always taught. I’ve always
cooked. I’ve always grown a lot of what
my family eats. Now I put all of those
passions together. It inspires me when
I work with people who are recovering
from heart surgery, past cancer patients,
and people who finally realize that they
have the power to control their health.
I’ll have salad, but I rarely eat a lot of
vegetables, as in, I can’t remember the
last time I’ve had zucchini or cucumber.
What would you tell someone like me,
who feels like he barely has time to
open a prechopped salad kit to get some
I would ask how much time you have
to be sick. Being sick is time consuming. I get it. I’m a busy wife and mom of
two who both play soccer. I work. I’m
back in school to get a master’s degree
in public health. However, I plan. Planning is key. It’s a priority to me that we
eat real food. It’s important to me that
we don’t go through a drive-through.
I think we all need to get back in the
kitchen. Yes, that means you need to set
aside some time to cook. It doesn’t have
to be fancy. Come to one of my classes!
When we cook together, we eat together.
Food should be communal. It should be
a time we stop and reflect upon the day
and talk to one another.
Describe a typical class experience.
What does a client have to do to get
their house ready? What do you bring
and what do you expect will be there for
I teach both public and in-home
classes. For an in-home class, I bring
all of the food. I discuss with the host
what they’d like to learn and we create
a menu. I ask if they have various tools/
equipment, and, if they don’t, I bring it
with me. I’ve taught classes in physician
waiting rooms with nothing more than a
blender and a electric burner.
What kind of clients reach out to you?
Who is looking to improve their skills
at healthy cooking? All kinds of people.
Mostly people who’ve had health issues
and are looking for a change. Unfortunately, my classes can be too expensive
for some people. This is why I want to
create a larger medical-based program
more accessible to the general public. Nothing like this exists in Buffalo. I
am passionate about making my classes more accessible to people from all
How busy are you on a typical work-
Totally depends. I try not to do more
than two classes per week. I work for
my husband (he’s a dentist), balance
school, the kiddos, and volunteer work.
You have a culinary certification for
plant-based cooking. How did you earn
that certificate and what does it say
about your culinary skills?
I earned my certificate through a program called Rouxbe. It’s an online culinary school. I know that sounds weird,
but it was an amazing experience.
It was very challenging. Since it was
online, we had to photograph each stage
of our cooking process and plate our
dishes. While it’s not a standard learning
setting, it pushed me beyond anything I
had ever done, and it changed my family and my life for good.
Are there any recent trends in plant-
based cooking that you’ve been trying to
work into your classes?
I am trying to do more with fermentation. I feel that we have destroyed our
microbiome with our standard American diet. I also teach people how to cook
What is the most fulfilling thing about
The people I get to meet. I am so
energized after teaching a class. Seeing people realize that this food tastes
good, and they feel good after they eat
it, is powerful. Hearing stories from people about their journeys toward health
inspires me and others. The positive
energy in my classes is powerful.
Faces of Home/Jessica Meyers Altman, the Garden
BY STEVEN BRACHMANN
Western New York foodies like to wax poetic about the regional food scene at any opportunity
and, indeed, increased options for ethnic cuisine, gastropubs, and fine dining have given them
reason to rejoice—but rejoicing rarely considers nutrition. One local cooking class instructor,
Jessica Meyers Altman, who operates Garden Fresh Foodie, seeks to change that mindset, at
least some of the time. Her commitment to a whole food, plant-based diet springs from the
Hippocratic notion that food should be thy medicine. Meyers Altman creates menus for her
classes—which can take place anywhere, including your home—featuring dishes that have no
eggs, meat, or dairy, and are low in sugar and fat. Along with classes, she also provides whole
food, plant-based recipes on the Garden Fresh Foodie blog.
Steve Brachmann writes on technology, business,
and legal topics for IPWatchdog.com, a blog focused
on intellectual property law. Locally, he has also
written for the Buffalo News and the Hamburg Sun.
He lives in Allentown.