Pierce Cedar Creek Institute: Spotlight on Chef Paul

With nature trails, environmental education, and beautiful vegan dishes, Pierce Cedar Creek Institute offers something for everyone. Whether a group field trip or just a visit with the family, choose to spend time getting away from the daily chaos and getting back in touch with the healing power of Mother Earth. We sat down with the institute's Communications Coordinator, Sara Edelman, to learn more.

VegOut Kalmazoo: What is Pierce Cedar Creek Institute?

Sara: Pierce Cedar Creek Institute is a nature and environmental education center.  Our mission is to inspire appreciation and stewardship of our environment.  We are situated on 742 acres and 10 miles of hiking trails in Barry County.  We are 45 minutes from Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.

VegOut Kalamazoo: What are some of the institute's offerings? 

Sara: We have a diverse event schedule.  Our Visitor Center offers dinners or brunches on the second Sunday of every month with various themes such as a barbeque, winter festival, or Valentine’s Day feast. Paul recently launched the Dinner Series where he invites local breweries and farmers to sit down with guests for a multi-course meal paired with beer – be sure to ask for the vegan option when you register! In addition, our educational programming includes bird and tree hikes, beekeeping classes, how to build and maintain a prairie, as well as monthly environmental issues forums. Paul also does cooking classes sporadically.  Recently he has done a pastry class, vegan class, and an appetizer class.

Chef Paul pictured above

Chef Paul pictured above

VegOut Kalamazoo: Tell us a little about Chef Paul. 

Sara: Paul has gained all of his culinary knowledge on-the-job. He has worked for a variety of scratch oriented restaurants and bakeries across Michigan and spent over two years on a small organic farm. Paul was vegetarian for about one and a half years before going completely vegan just over a year ago after he started working for Pierce Cedar Creek Institute. Paul has also been living with Type 1 Diabetes since he was diagnosed in 2011 – one of many factors that influenced his conversion to veganism. Paul is always looking to create new and inventive vegan dishes to serve at the Institute. As someone who once relied on animal products in his cooking, he now sees that those products held him back as a cook and chef.

VegOut: What are some of the vegan options at the institute?  

Sara: We always offer a variety of vegan options at all of our events! We recognize the connection between animal agriculture and global climate change, and as an environmental organization, we feel that it is important to reduce the use of animal products as much as possible. Paul makes his own seitan in the kitchen and is always coming up with new ways to tweak the recipe and fun ways to serve it. Paul also has a variety of baked goods that he is proud to make vegan, and from scratch, including croissants, muffins, coffee cakes, and cookies. If it is possible to make a dish vegan, Paul does so! If you’re at the institute and have any questions about whether or not something is vegan, please ask for Paul – he will be thrilled to have a fellow vegan around and to answer any questions. He’s always willing to whip up a vegan dish as needed.

VegOut: Are there opportunities to volunteer with the institute?

Sara: Many!  We need volunteers to help with every event.  Opportunities include being a greeter, preparing the kitchen and dining room for the dinner as well as helping set tables.  We also need volunteers to help rid our property of invasive species such as spotted knapweed and garlic mustard.

Pierce Cedar Creek Institute is located at 701 West Cloverdale Rd., Hastings, MI 49058. Their visitor center is open Monday-Friday from 9am to 5pm.