Tomorrow is Chocolate day 2017!
But of course, here at Green Mo we like to make things delicious for both you and your body, so I thought I’d introduce you lovely people to our resident baker and creator of all things sweet and delicious, Maria Del Pilar Mendieta, or Pilar as she likes to be known.
It’s a gorgeous Whistler summer day, and we’re sat out on the beautiful little patio at the Function Junction juice bar, where Pilar, founder of Alternative Kitchen, comes in three days a week to bake the amazing desserts for the Mo’.
“Alternative Kitchen is plant based desserts – most of them are gluten free, being plant based they’re vegan too, and I look for unrefined types of sugar and flour.” Pilar explains, in her musical
Argentinian accent. “So I’d use maple syrup, bananas, dates- and unrefined flours like oats and almond flour and coconut. They’re a healthy desert option for people who have an intolerance or are looking for something a bit more healthy.”
A baker initially, Pilar had a professional career in Vancouver, until she began to take more notice of the effects of ingredients.
“Basically it was my health and my family’s health that totally changed my view,” she explains. She started researching, and that’s when she discovered how a whole foods, plant based diet, full of vegetables and fruits and “food that comes from the ground and not a box”, as she put it, can nourish your body.
“I found to turn to this food, there were health benefits in my day to day life. I’m a very active person, I like running and biking – I’m always moving and it was amazing the amount of energy I was getting! You don’t feel tired or sluggish, you just feel really good. I felt better in myself – You have more energy, your eyes are glowing, your skin is better – everything!”
She started reading food labels, and getting more interested in the types of ingredients in both her personal and business life.
“I thought – me working as a baker, it’s like – I don’t know if it’s good!” She laughs, remembering the fats, sugars and refined flours that defined her early career. So she began to experiment – coming up with her first plant-based, refined sugar and flour free product, an energy bar for herself and her husband to power them through their many active pursuits. This humble little bar of dates, oats, seeds, fruits and nut butters would soon change the course of her career.
“It was the first recipe I put out there, and still something I have every day with no qualms – It’s my favourite.” She says fondly. And it took off from there –
“I started selling them at the Bizarre Bazaar back in 2013, then in the stores in Whistler, and from that I began to research – Ok, I am a baker – can I make desserts that are better for us? Not only energy bars, but a tiramisu that is good for you? A salted caramel bar? I wanted a place where if you crave something sweet you could go and you know it’s good for you.”
Working with The Mo’
The partnership with The Green Moustache came around not too long afterwards, following a friendship built throughout Pilar’s own health troubles and discovering a plant-based, whole foods lifestyle –
“I met Nicolette last August, doing her Eat-To-Beat cancer and chronic disease course down here in Function. At that time I was having some problems with my thyroid so said ok, let’s give this a try. All these ideas of the plant based [diet] became a little bit stronger in my life because I realised how effective this type of food was and how amazing it was!”
Pilar lights up as she talks about her healthy desserts. The lady has done her homework – she is clearly incredibly knowledgeable, but her passion for these foods is what strikes me. Her personal experience with changing her diet is so evident, and as we talk her eyes sparkle with inspiration.
“I love creating new recipes!” She tells me. “Having the ingredients in front of me and thinking: let’s make a healthy pizza crust, or this or this… because it’s not just desserts. My favourite part is to create something totally new, even for a specific customer. I have a friend who’s child has so many allergies – egg white, flax seed, any type of wheat – So I created a muffin and a bread recipe for him and it was so amazing creating this for someone who couldn’t eat most things in the grocery store. It felt so awesome. People inspire me, food inspires me.”
I ask where she gets her many ideas.
“I love books – sometimes I don’t even read the recipe, I just love the pictures. And being in my kitchen, cooking for my family.”
Clearly happiest experimenting, Pilar can’t stand waste, so she draws a lot of inspiration from what’s left in her cupboards.
“It’s like ok I have this and that, put things together to create something – I love that! My husband always says, ‘I look in the fridge and I can’t make a meal and then you come and put 5 things together and we have a dinner!” she laughs.
She explains her daily process to me –
“I’m a morning person! I love waking up super early in the morning – I guess that’s why I became a baker! So I usually wake up at 5.30 or 6 and head to The Green Moustache or to the commercial kitchen I rent for Alternative Kitchen and create! I get the orders in and usually deliver the stuff the next day.”
And in her spare time?
“I always like to be outdoors, like I need to waste some energy go for a run or a bike ride, or sometimes to a yoga class lately, yoga classes has helped me a lot lately. Then I go back home make dinner, and just spend time with my husband and call my family.”
She has big plans for the future, too, with a holistic nutritionist course coming up in the Fall,
“because I think the combination of my career as a plant based baker, and all the information from the nutrition part is going to come together and help me to understand a little bit more about the benefits of food and health… I want to keep growing the idea everywhere that we need to start eating real food. No matter how we do it, here at The Green Moustache, at the Grocery store, in the Schools like Nicolette [Richer, Green Moustache founder] is doing, the hospitals program – it’s great. Anyone doing something like that, I want to be a part of that movement.”
Amen to that, sister.
You can get Pilar’s delicious Temptations energy bars in Nesters in Whistler and Squamish, at the Olympic park through Whistler Cooks, and at the Creekside Market and the Grocery Store in the village.
Her desserts are available through the Green Moustache juice bars and through camps, and you can contact her for specialised orders and custom creations.