Max La Manna is a zero-waste, vegan chef from New York. He created his online platform, Eating With Max, to educate others on sustainable living, and wellbeing.
On the run-up to Vevolution Festival 2018 I got in touch with Max, and asked him a few questions. We’re super excited to have him as a speaker this year, so let’s dive in and learn a bit more about this inspiring, passionate chef.
Were you always so conscious about the environment, or was it a sudden realisation later in life?
I think ever since I was young I’ve been conscious of the environment. As a young child I would go into our family garden, plant seeds, harvest what we grew, that summer, that fall. There were also times where we would go to the beach and clean it up. It wasn’t like that all of the time, but I had a very outspoken mother who had her thoughts about the environment so it kind of passed onto me.
“I think the term ‘zero-waste’ is mishandled”
Veganism is all about ‘doing your best’, but when you think of zero-waste is it the same? Or is it literally no waste at all.
Oh my gosh, I’m wasteful! Just being here, talking to you right now is wasteful. I’m on a phone, that’s made up of plastic, which I have to charge in a socket. I’m about to get on a train, that uses energy. I think the term zero-waste is mishandled, and it’s not the appropriate term. I think low waste is the mission. There’s no perfection. I’m not perfect in doing what I do.
Were you a self-taught chef? Or is there a surprising amount of vegan cooking classes out there?
There are classes, but I was self-taught. My father was a self-taught chef. We had restaurants when I was growing up, and I would always find myself in the kitchen. It was the only way to survive, as we didn’t go out to eat often. So meal time was an opportunity for us to come together as a family, sit down, and eat. It was always fun. So I got to enjoy cooking and enjoy food.
Does anyone inspire you? If so, why?
Great question. I think just… You. People. Everyone inspires me. I want to do the best that I can, so if I see someone doing something that is good I’m inspired to do something better. It’s not a competition, but it’s more like “Oh if they’re able to do that, then I’m definitely able to do it, and maybe I can be better. Maybe I’m able to inspire, encourage other people.” So I think that people in general inspire me, whether they know it or not.
Do you think that online activism works? Do you have anything to say to people that don’t think it’s as effective as in-person activism?
I definitely think it works. I try to split my time up as much as possible to do active work, and also putting my voice out there on social media as much as I can. I think that’s very important. I believe that people should be more thoughtful about what they say, and do, because it can impact millions, possibly billions of people. You know, it could just impact one person, but that one person has the power to then inspire other people based off what they’ve heard and learned. So I think that it is important, but I think people should be more mindful of what they do and how they say it.
Do you have any advice for people that want to follow in your footsteps? E.g. create an online platform that educates and inspires others.
First, find out why you want to do what you want to do. Why is it that you want to raise your voice? Why do you want to stand up, and speak up? Find a reason why, and create that foundation. It’s like a tree, you know? The roots are grounded in the earth. As that tree grows, the branches and the leaves may fall and break off due to disturbances of what people may say, but you are grounded in why you’re doing what you’re doing. So, find that foundation, I think it’s probably the most important thing, and then nothing can deter you away from doing what you want to do, and how you want to raise your voice and speak up.
“I feel like Vevolution is the Mecca of all vegan festivals.”
What are your plans for the future?
I want to open up a school for children around the world. The school would teach children about food and sustainability. That’s just one big project that’s long term. Others would be, vegan cafés and restaurants… If I’m out there actively doing what I’m doing, you know, going to a beach clean up etc. I think the possibilities are endless. We’re just now picking up the pieces - the garbage that people have created. I think the future is to just, keep cleaning, and making the world a better place.
Finally, are you excited for Vevolution?!
Really excited! I’m so excited, but quite nervous too. I feel like Vevolution is the Mecca of all vegan festivals. So, to have everyone come together and share their message, their mission and their awareness to help other people become better people, I’m really grateful to be a speaker.
SEE MAX LA MANNA AT VEVOLUTION FESTIVAL THIS NOVEMBER
JOIN PLANT-POWERED INNOVATORS THIS NOVEMBER AT VEVOLUTION FESTIVAL AT THE BFI
This year at Vevolution Festival we will be discussing low-waste, sustainability, and everything in between. Come join the conversation, and learn from some of the most inspiring people in the movement! Tickets available here.