Never before has eating your veggies looked so good. Actress, vegan chef and eco-lifestylist, Leslie Durso, refuses to compromise style for sustainability. America’s “Veggie Dreamgirl” shares her farm-to-stylish-table recipes, warmhearted sensibilities, and passion for fresh whole foods daily via her website and live appearances on the Food Network, the Discovery Channel, CNN and more.
A practicing vegetarian since 8 years old, the Southern California native attributes her early passion for cooking to growing up in a huge meat-eating Italian household. What turned out to be quite the unpopular decision as far as her family was concerned landed Durso in the kitchen at a very young age, where she learned to prepare meals for herself and pretty soon her whole family.
As she grew up, Durso leveraged her bright, sunshiny personality to break into the acting and modeling worlds. It wasn’t until she was invited to appear on the popular children’s television program, “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” that she discovered her deep-rooted passion for education. This experience sparked her lifelong journey to inspire healthy living habits across the country and around the world.
After establishing herself as a private chef for the New York and Hollywood elite, Dursoemerged as a public persona, hosting cooking segments on television and producing healthy living content online. Determined to inspire beneficial life-long eating habits for everyone, she manages to evangelize the benefits of a mindful lifestyle, with a charming girl-next-door relatability.
When asked about her key to success, Durso responded simply: “Love. Love what you do and who you are every single day, and you will find joy in everything.” Through her multimedia engagement and numerous upcoming initiatives, Durso plans to spread the love of a plant-based lifestyle to an even broader swath of fans, including mainstream omnivores and fellow millennials.
However, establishing herself a leading foodpreneur, healthy living educator and eco-lifestylist is not without its challenges. “In this business, there are so many temptations to be what 'they' are looking for. I think the biggest challenge is to maintain your sense of self and stick to the message and brand that you want to deliver,” Durso explained.
She also offered a piece of advice for emerging entrepreneurs who are working in a similar space: “Find your niche. Find what sets you apart from everyone else who is working in your space. And, most of all, follow your passion!”
As far as sustainability is concerned, it plays a huge part in Durso’s work. “Living a plant-based life is the greatest part you can play in helping save the environment. You can help reduce global warming, reduce methane production, save water, reduce your ecological footprint and so much more!”
When asked if she has any tips for reducing food waste, Durso responded: “If you buy it, eat it. Some of my favorite recipes have come from putting all the random ingredients left in my fridge on the counter and coming up with something wild and crazy. I am also big fan of reinventing leftovers. If you follow me on Instagram (@lesliedurso), you will see me reinventing dinner from the night before into something delicious for breakfast or lunch.”
Durso will share some of her favorite recipes and eco-lifestyle tips at the upcoming Green Festival in San Francisco, Nov. 13-15. The Green Festival is America’s largest and longest-running sustainability and green living event. It brings together the world’s most trusted companies, innovative brands, national and local businesses, pioneering thinkers, and conscious consumers in one place to promote the best in sustainability and green living.
“I love doing the Green Festivals!” Durso exclaimed. "I attended a festival in LA after being the guest judge on the all-vegan episode of Food Network’s 'Cupcake Wars' (the winner got a display at the festival). I fell in love with the people who run the event and with the people who attend.”
When asked about how the Green Festival is different from other expos or events, she responded: “Attendees of the Green Festival are my kind of people. They are looking for knowledge and inspiration. I love that! I love people with a passion to think beyond themselves and make the world a better place. Of course, I hope I can inspire them to add more veggies to their diets!”
As far as her vision for the future, Durso would love to have her own cooking show. “It is the perfect time for a plant-based cooking show to be introduced to mainstream audiences.” And as for the world, she would like to see people appreciate the planet and treat it with a bit more love and respect.
Durso is currently looking forward to filming episodes of "The Doctors" on CBS and embarking on a digital campaign for Dole Foods. To learn more about Leslie, be sure to follow her on Twitter or check out her website for inspiring eco-tips and vegan recipes.
Images courtesy of Leslie Durso
Joi M. Sears is the Founder and Creative Director of Free People International, a social enterprise which specializes in offering creative solutions to the world's biggest social, environmental and economic challenges through the arts, design thinking and social innovation.