Interview Series #9: Liuba Grechen of Sweet Cheeks Vegan Bakery
Posted May 14 2010 8:01am
Below is very, very yummy interview.
Reader beware: the cupcake shots included in this interview can and will induce some into an ecstatic sugar-coma just by viewing them. The maker of these 100% delicious, 100% vegan cupcakes - Liuba Grechen - is the one to blame, so kindly take it up with her.
Seriously - blame Liuba.
Liuba Grechen is founder of Sweet Cheeks Vegan Bakery , a small company dedicated to baking rich, decadent, healthful, compassionate sweets, while advocating and raising funds for animal and human rights. As you will learn below, when Liuba isn't making mouth-watering cupcakes, she is also working as Director of Membership at the United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA), the nation's largest grassroots foreign policy organization and leading center of policy analysis and public outreach on the United Nations. Liuba really does embody the total vegan superhero persona - United Nations crusader by day, master cupcake baker (and vegan convert) by night.
Did I mention that in addition to being an awesome vegan company, Sweet Cheeks was recently mentioned in the May/June edition of Veg News ? Go Liuba!
Liuba's mission is positive, passionate, and clear - she works to improve the lives of animals and our fellow humans, all while creating super yummy vegan treats in the process. We are lucky to have young, fearless, and fun advocates out there like Liuba, and it makes me very happy (and hungry!!) to share her story with you all today!
Kiss Me, I'm Vegan: What was the turning point in your life that led you to veganism? Was it one huge moment, or a collective group of small moments that changed you? Liuba: I actually became a vegetarian when I was 10 years old. I was eating Sukiyaki, a Japanese beef dish, that my grandmother had cooked for me, and I was flipping through the T.V. channels. A graphic show on slaughterhouses came on, and I got ill. I put my fork down and started crying like a fool, and that was it – I was a vegetarian. I couldn’t reconcile loving my dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and rabbits so much, yet eating cows and chickens. It didn’t make sense to me.
I tried to become vegan in high school, but there were fewer food options back then, and I didn’t know how to cook very well. I was vegetarian until I turned 23, when I succumbed to a tuna fish sandwich. I started to eat chicken and fish again, but never went back to red meat. I felt guilty, unhealthy, and hypocritical. I had been thinking of going vegan for most of my life, but thought it would be too difficult. My cousin became vegan and spent a summer interning at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY. We went to brunch the weekend before my 27th birthday and had a long talk about her vegan transition, and I became vegan for my 27th birthday. I’ll be 29 next month, and it’s been the best two years of my life.
KMIV: What have been the greatest rewards of your vegan lifestyle? What have been the greatest challenges?
Liuba: There are so many rewards to being vegan. I feel healthy, happy, peaceful and calm. I made a choice to live by my values. Every vegan saves more than 100 animals a year from horrible abuse. I lost fifteen pounds in the first few months and felt better than I had in years. I visited Farm Sanctuary twice last year and hung out with the animals. They’re so beautiful and intelligent, and I can’t imagine contributing to any more animal suffering.
The environmental benefits are incredible as well:
If everyone went vegetarian for just one day, the U.S. would save:
● 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months; ● 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock, enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year; ● 70 million gallons of gas -- enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined with plenty to spare; ● 3 million acres of land, an area more than twice the size of Delaware; ● 33 tons of antibiotics.
If everyone went vegetarian for just one day, the U.S. would prevent:
● Greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 1.2 million tons of CO2, as much as produced by all of France; ● 3 million tons of soil erosion and $70 million in resulting economic damages; ● 4.5 million tons of animal excrement; ● Almost 7 tons of ammonia emissions, a major air pollutant.
The only real challenge I faced when I became vegan was delicious dessert withdrawal. I love brownies and ice cream and couldn’t find anything that was as creamy or chocolatey as their dairy counterparts. This has changed drastically over the past two years though. Silk Chocolate Milk is amazing. Soy Delicious's Purely Decadent Coconut Milk Ice Cream tastes better than any ice cream I remember. Peace Food Cafe and Blossom opened up in my neighborhood and have delicious snacks, and I created a part-time vegan cupcake catering business, called Sweet Cheeks Vegan Bakery !
KMIV: I've been to your website, and boy, do you know how to make a yummy vegan cupcake! What inspired you to start Sweet Cheeks Bakery?
Liuba: Haha! Thank you Lindsay. When I’m not baking delicious vegan sweets, I’m the Director of Membership at the United Nations Association of the USA . I actually baked my first vegan cupcakes for two of my favorite interns at UNA-USA. It was their birthday, and I wanted to surprise them with cupcakes, but my first batch didn’t particularly come out as planned. After a number of recipe experiments I baked some pretty delicious cupcakes and decided to open Sweet Cheeks Vegan Bakery .
KMIV: What advice would you give someone who is interested in veganism, but afraid of taking the leap?
Liuba: Take the leap! Don’t be afraid! I took my boyfriend (a South African who ate a lot of meat) up to Farm Sanctuary two years ago and asked him to eat vegan for the weekend. He did, and, after playing with the animals and learning about factory farming, he stayed vegan permanently. He lost 40 lbs, got into shape, and learned to cook amazing vegan food!
For anyone interested in veganism, I recommend the following books:
These are amazing books that will help you with your transition!
KMIV: Thanks for those recommendations Liuba! Okay - you're stuck on a deserted island with three vegan food items - what are they?
1) Sweet Cheeks Vegan Cupcakes – Chocolate Strawberry – I love these! They remind me of chocolate strawberry carvel sundaes at the beach when I was a little kid, 2) My vegan lasagna, and 3) Cucumber avocado sushi rolls and avocado salad!
In addition to her work at Sweet Cheeks Vegan Bakery and the UNA-USA, Liuba also directs all UNA-USA membership programs nationwide, including 130 chapters and divisions, the Young Professionals for International Cooperation (YPIC) and Student Alliance programs. Liuba has also worked for the Carpathian Foundation, International House and the EastWest Institute, and she holds a Bachelors of Arts in Politics and Russian from New York University.
Special thanks to Liuba for this mouth-watering interview! To learn more about Sweet Cheeks Vegan Bakery, please visit www.sweetcheeksvb.com.
One more big P.S.:
For New Yorkers who haven't bought their tickets yet (don't worry - you can still purchase them!):
Get your veggie-lovin' butts to Veggie Prom 2010 ! Tonight in Park Slope, Brooklyn! Be there or be square!