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Kay Stepkin, who has been a leader in promoting vegetarianism in Chicago for approximately 35 years, will host Chicagos first vegetarian TV cooking show. The new show, called GoVeggie! with Kay, will air Sundays at 3 p.m., from October 15 through January 7 on COMCAST 25, Comcasts professional station for broadcast quality independent productions. It is a production of Go Veggie!®, a volunteerled nonprofit member organization working for a healthier Chicago. The shows initial eightshow Americana Series features recipes and howto instruction for serving up some of Americas favorite dishes minus the meat and the fat plus interviews with health experts, a visit to a Chicago tofu making facility, and numerous tips for cooking and eating healthier. In each of the 30minute shows, Stepkin demonstrates the steps to prepare a full vegetarian meal. Following broadcast of the entire series, the first five shows will be aired a second time in the same order from December 10 to January 7 to create 13 weeks of programming.
According to Stepkin, Our Americana Series was created to give area residents lowfat vegetarian versions of dishes they already know and love so that theyll have good starting points to use to improve their familys eating habits. Among the dishes cooked during the series are burgers and fries created as veggie burgers with zesty horseradish sauce and oven baked fries; Louisiana red beans and rice with meatless sausage and cornbread; stroganoff made with a creamy, dairyfree sauce; a hearty vegetable and wheat meat stew; and Lentil Loaf and Mashed Unpotatoes, a vegetarian version of meat loaf and mashed potatoes made without meat or potatoes.
Discussing why she started the show, Stepkin said, I started out by teaching vegetarian cooking through GoVeggie! and dreamed of reaching out to people who wouldnt tend to sign up for a cooking class but who need this knowledge the most, those struggling with weight problems and with heart or cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other diseases caused by eating a diet dominated by meat and dairy products.
She added, Now that its a reality, people can learn how to cook vegetarian just by turning on the TV, and as they do, they can add to their knowledge by attending our Dine Outs and other Go Veggie! events.
Wellknown to many Chicago residents, Stepkin owned and ran the Bread Shop bakery, grocery, and restaurant for 25 years, through 1996. Something of an institution on north Halsted Street, the double storefront was the citys first vegetarian food store and the restaurantBread Shop Kitchencross the street, the first vegetarian restaurant. In 1971, when it opened, it was the first store to bring exclusively healthy, wholegrained organic and vegetarian food, produce, and various other ingredients to local consumers. The Bread Shop taught bread making and initially made the bread sold at the shop totally by hand using flour that was freshly ground by Bread Shop employees. In addition, the store never used sugar or white flour in its bakery items and offered many items that people would drive for miles to buy, including its whole wheat crusted pizza with fresh vegetables on top, various cookies, cake, and many different kinds of bread. Stepkin and other Bread Shop employees also developed many new recipes fr bakery and other items, contributing new vegetarian options to whole foods cuisine.
Stepkins influence can still be felt through two wellknown vegetarian eateries, Evanstons Blind Faith and the Chicago Diner, both of which are owned by former Bread Shop employees. Chicago Diner CoOwner and Chef Jo A. Kaucher first began making bread at the Bread Shop, which the Chicago Diner calls, Chicagos original natural food restaurant and Mickey Hornick, the other CoOwner, was a Bread Shop Kitchen employee. In other Bread Shop honors, Mayor Richard M. Daley proclaimed October 6, 1991 Bread Shop Day; a photo of the Bread Shops Produce Section was featured on the box of Kelloggs Product 19 cereal; the Bread Shop was mentioned in a May, 1990 Time magazine article on gourmet bread; and Studs Terkel included an interview with Stepkin in his acclaimed book Working (1973). In her interview in the section The Age of Charlie Blossom, she is quoted as saying: Work is an essential part of being alive. Your work is your identity. It tells you who you are. Its gotten so abstract. People dont work for the sake of working. Theyre working for a car, a new house, or a vacation. Its not the work itself thats important to them. Theres such a joy in doing work well.
A vegetarian for 36 years, Stepkin was active in the Chicago Vegetarian Society (CVS) and served as its President from 1994 through 2000, arranging for appearances for CVS by such nationally known speakers as Diet for a New America author John Robbins. In January of 2001, she founded Go Veggie! and as president, she plans a full schedule of Dine Outs, potluck dinners, and other educational and social events, including an annual TurkeyLess Thanksgiving Banquet with both a traditional and a raw food gourmet vegetarian dinner option; a nationally known speaker, and a silent auction (scheduled this year for Sunday, November 19 with Speaker Michael Greger, M.D., author of Carbophobia). In the five and a half years the organization has been in existence, she has planned and held more than 75 Dine Outs to introduce members to healthy vegetarian cuisine at various ethnic and other restaurants; more than 50 potluck dinners allowing members to enjoy vegetarian food together; and more than 65 educational events with such programs as speakers, cooking instruction, demonstrations of organic gardening practices, or the showing of relevant videos.
Her cooking classes have been held at the Chicago Childrens Museum (Petite Chefs Series), Oakton Community College (Alliance for Lifelong Learning adult education), Whole Foods Market locations, Wild Oats supermarket, and Karyns, a raw food restaurant and deli on Halsted Street near North Avenue. In addition, as a Chicago Public Schools teacher/librarian, she taught cooking to elementary school students and parents at Wolfgang A. Mozart and Graeme Stewart elementary schools.
A seemingly tireless advocate for vegetarianism, Stepkin often arises as early as 3 or 4 a.m. to work on the GoVeggie! with Kay TV show and Go Veggie! organizational work, before going on to her fulltime job at Stewart Elementary. She has been a CPS teacher for approximately nine years, since she closed The Bread Shop in 1996; at about this time, several national natural food chain stores began gaining an increasing share of a market that the Bread Shop previously had had pretty much to itself.
Stepkin wrote her own mission statement to express the raison detre of Go Veggie!: to educate people to the many benefits of vegetarianism for human health, the environment, and the well being of all life on our planet. She also is fond of calling vegetarianism the greatest lifestyle on earth.
Born and raised in Chicago, Stepkin lived in the Austin neighborhood until she was 10 years old and then moved with her family to the Budlong Woods area of the city, near Foster and California avenues. She is a graduate of Amundsen High School and gained her B.S. degree in elementary education from the University of Illinois at ChapaignUrbana. In May of 2003, she received an M.S. degree in library science from Chicago State University. She has been nominated for a 2006 Chicago Tribune Good Eating Award for her work to promote vegetarianism and vegetarian cooking in Chicago. In addition, she was honored for her years of service by the Chicago Vegetarian Society. Stepkin is a resident of the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago.
GoVeggie! with Kay was funded through a generous grant from the Colonel Stanley R. McNeil Foundation and through grants from the AHIMSA Foundation and from a third, anonymous foundation. Whole Foods Market contributed demonstration kitchen studio space for the show.
Those interested in learning more about the GoVeggie! with Kay TV cooking show, Go Veggie! events, or membership in Go Veggie! can visit the Go Veggie! website at www.goveggie.org or request a copy of Go Veggie!s bimonthly newsletter by calling the organizations hotline at 773/ 8717000.