I met Courtney Hayes while I was at my last restaurant job Dirt Candy, an all vegetable restaurant here in NYC. She worked in the kitchen and was always so happy and joyous every time I saw her.

Fast forward to both of us leaving the job but still keeping in touch. Courtney was always and has been just so warm and inviting. I love her joy and her talent of making everything she cooks deliciously fabulous. It jumps out at you every time you view her photos on Instagram or when she shares her current inspo.

Courtney is also vegan, but not just any vegan… Courtney makes everything about veganism look and feel effortless.

Below, we chat fabulously about her new company From The Group Up, she tells us what is in her fridge and shares 3 tips if you are looking to transition into a fab vegan lifestyle.

-Where Did You Get Your Education?

Courtney Haynes - I received my culinary + pastry training at ICE (Institute of Culinary Education) in NYC. Before I switched career gears, I had gone to art school for fashion design. I still LOVE the arts. All of my background in design and art has greatly influenced me, and continues to do so.

-What is Your Current Position?

CH - I am the owner + executive chef (+ doer of all other duties) of my company From The Ground Up. I create and curate all recipes and menus, plate the dishes and serve my wonderful customers, mostly in their homes.

- Tell Us About Your Business, From The Ground Up.

CH - From The Ground Up is all about serving my customers with flavorful, nutritionally dense, beautifully styled food that speaks to them. I love supporting local farmers and artisans here in Sonoma County and use all organic, non-gmo produce. My services include small group catering, private chef and cooking/baking classes. My whole purpose is to enrich the lives of my customers with a celebration of powerful flavor and beauty of plant foods.


-What Are Some Essential Items You Feel A Woman Needs to Have In Her Kitchen At All Times?

CH - Dark Chocolate (ya know, to snack on when times are stressful! or not), marble pastry board, an excellent and sharp high-quality chefs knife, cast iron skillet, linen towels, a high quality olive and coconut oil, a couple different salts (Himalayan, molten + sea salt), a sturdy linen/denim or cotton apron and a positive, creative outlook!

- You Make Veganism Look Super Fabulous, What Sparked Wanting to Become Vegan?

CH - Truthfully, it was a gradual process to becoming vegan. If anything sparked me to become vegan- it was my husbands cousin. Tragically, she passed away due to cancer many years ago (she was very young). I was angry about the reason of her death by cancer at such a young age. I started researching how food affects the body and diseases, cancers, etc. This moved me to switch to all organic and non-gmo foods. The next step was to slowly take out meats and animal proteins until I was left with a whole plant based diet. And I remember at the stage of being a vegetarian (just eggs + occasional cheese aside from plants) thinking " Wow, I feel great- let's just TRY to do the vegan thing and see how it goes. If I hate it, I don't have to continue". So, here I am several years later and STILL loving it!

-What's in Your Fridge Right Now?

CH - Vegan Cultured Butter, Tahini, Almond and Peanut Butter, Maple Syrup, Dates, Almond + Hazelnut Flour, Almond + Coconut Milk, Coconut Amino Acids, Nutritional Food Yeast, Cut up garlic + onion, Swiss Chard, Kale, Mixed Greens, Micro Greens, Carrots, Celery, Beets, Zucchini, Shitake Mushrooms, BBQ Sauce, Ketchup, Horseradish Mustard, Edible Flowers, Parsley, Cilantro, Sage, Figs, Lime, Lemon and Gluten-Free Banana Cake with Chocolate Frosting.

- What Are Some Tips for Transitioning into A Vegan Lifestyle?

CH - 1.) START SMALL. People tend to get over zealous and burn themselves out by doing too much too fast. No one quits smoking cold turkey and stays that way (or very few can)! Start by going meatless for one day per week, then switch to one whole meatless week per month, then 2 weeks, then 3, etc.

2.) BE PATIENT and ENDURE. There are times it will be challenging, but if you stick to it- it will pay off!

3.) Allow yourself FREEDOM. If you have the HARDEST time giving up dairy cheese- then allow yourself some from time to time. Just make sure to give yourself the HEALTHIEST version possible- organic, grass-fed and raw. You only live once and should ENJOY this choice that is yours!!

4.) IT IS A LIFE STYLE CHOICE, NOT a DIET! There is no such in thing (in my opinion) as a plant based "diet". It is a life choice, it is how we feed our bodies and nourish them for energy and optimal health.


-What Do You Do To Have & Maintain A Fab Lifestyle?

CH - Anything I have in my life that is GOOD or is working fabulously, is from or because of God- and I am very thankful for it! On a more elementary note- rest, relaxing, exercising, and meeting up with supportive friends is vital! Therapy is also a great tool, especially in a more difficult or new season- to shed light and direction in your life and to help manage stress, pitfalls, errors and mistakes.

-What is Your Food Philosophy?

CH - Flavor. Nutrition. Style. To prepare food with organic, non-gmo, local produce and ingredients. Be bold, have fun and be creative and to inspire and empower others to do the same!

-What is Your Food Guilty Pleasure?

CH - Dark Chocolate, Kettles Chips (organic jalapeño), and a good vanilla bean ice cream.

-Where Do You Go for A No Fail Meal?

CH - My own kitchen. Usually for a quick no fail meal- I go to my pancakes of any variety or my hubby's tempeh + avocado sandwiches. SO GOOD!


-What is Your Favorite Quote at The Moment?

CH - "Let All That You Do Be Done In Love".

-Finish this sentence....." I Will Never Eat..."

CH - I will never (or most likely never) eat red meat again!

Keep Chatting w. Courtney

From The Ground Up | Instagram