The most surprising thing about the opening of a vegan-focused culinary school in Boulder is that one didn't exist there before. After all, Boulder is known as a city that embraces a healthy lifestyle — it was ranked third on a list of best cities for vegetarians by Apartment Guide in 2019. But not only is chef Mark Reinfeld's Vegan Fusion Culinary Academy the first of its kind in Boulder, it's among the first in the country.
"We take a lot of pride in sharing how to create plant-based food that people enjoy," Reinfeld says of the school he founded with business partners Dr. Ashley Boudet and David and Courtnay Dietz. "If you can show people that you don't have to sacrifice flavor or satiation, then it gives people the gift of taking their health back into their own hands."
Reinfeld was originally inspired to cook by his grandfather, Benjamin Bimstein, who was a renowned New York City chef and ice-carver in the ’50s. After getting a degree in holistic nutrition from the University at Albany in New York, he moved to San Diego and began working in commercial kitchens and eventually launched Blossoming Lotus Consulting Services, a company specializing in chef training and menu and recipe development.
While working on a kibbutz in Israel in 1990, Reinfeld was inspired to go vegan because of his connection and appreciation for animals. In addition to improving animal welfare, Reinfeld was also drawn in by the health and environmental benefits of a plant-based lifestyle.
In the early 2000s, Reinfeld and his partner, Boudet, vacationed in Hawaii; their two-week vacation transformed into an eight-year stay while Reinfield's passions for vegan food and business expanded, opening the Blossoming Lotus Vegan Restaurant on the island of Kaua'i in 2002, which was named Best Restaurant in Kaua'i by the Honolulu Advertiser in 2006. While in Hawaii, he began his teaching career with culinary immersions and teacher trainings. As a pioneer in plant-based culinary, Reinfeld was inducted into the Vegetarian Hall of Fame in 2017. In 2019, after moving to Boulder to be with his family, he met the Dietzes and opened the Vegan Fusion Culinary Academy in March of this year.
The Academy's Home Chef classes begin June 21 and include five days of hands-on immersion programs and weekend workshops during which students will learn how to make a wide range of vegan dishes, including plant-based cheeses and milks, summer and spring rolls, casseroles and more.
For those thinking about getting into vegan food professionally, the academy is now taking applications for the Aspiring Chef Program, which begins August 16. Graduates of the intensive four-month program, which was recently approved by the Colorado Department of Higher Education's Private Occupational School Board, will receive a Diploma of Vegan Culinary Arts along with an education in both culinary skills and business insights.
As part of the Aspiring Chef program, Reinfeld also plans to host guest lecturers JL Fields, founder of the Colorado Springs Vegan Cooking Academy, and nutrition and fitness consultant John Pierre. Only sixteen students accepted to the program, and each will have the opportunity for a one-on-one vegan cooking experience with the academy's lead chef instructor, April Stamm, and her team.
"Our programs are attracting people who are motived to help change the world for the better, starting with sharing a plant-based cuisine with others," Reinfeld says.
Vegan Fusion Culinary Academy is located at 4800 Baseline Road, Suite E-106, in Boulder. For hours, programs and other details, call 720-912-4235 or visit veganfusionculinaryacademy.com.
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