Inspiring the masses with her recipes, fitness, and lifestyle, Chef Babette’s first half of life on Earth was less than spectacular. Who we now see as a world-class vegan chef and sought-after motivational speaker, came from a childhood of illness, abuse, and cruelty. Growing up in East LA, Babette’s mom worked two or three jobs at a time, leaving her with less than trustworthy caretakers, and even when Babette took care of herself financially as a young professional, she still spent her 20s and 30s leading a primarily sedentary lifestyle. Addicted to processed foods and other drugs, how did she transform into who she is today? Turns out, (self-)love really does change you.
Although her trauma-healing journey started way before that, her first date with her now husband, Ron Davis, was definitely a turning point. “The meal he cooked was so tasty and I had no reflux afterwards. I often miss-combined my food to the point that I constantly had acid reflux, gas, bloating. I didn’t know how to eat. And this particular meal just made me feel amazing afterwards!” Babette recalls. On that very same day, Ron took her to Griffith park. “It’s full of hills, inclines, and I’m walking and thinking I’m in the worst shape ever, and he’s running the whole thing backwards!” Sharing his world with her, Ron also gave Babette three books: Arnold Ehret’s Mucusless Diet Healing System, Fit for Life and Fit for Life II. Although she had her reservations, when she did read them, she saw how she’d been hurting herself through diet and lack of movement.
Long story short, her world has changed. That was the way they ate, that was their lifestyle: a lot of movement and good food, all while learning so much about the vegan lifestyle. Two years later, they were married. “We were both infants, learning everything together. I was in a play and started sharing some of the food with the cast members, and they were loving it! Then, I had an opportunity to do some singing in Japan, and I thought I was going to be a singer, and when I got over there, unlike everybody who was practicing music, I was practicing cooking.” She recalls a particularly strong motivation that revealed it to her: “When I’m getting home, I’m getting into food with my 100%.” That step first led to DIY-ing a big “hotdog” cart, selling vegan food in a parking lot for 6 years, and eventually opening a vegan restaurant in 2008 and sharing their menu with the masses. The fact that in 2023, Stuff I Eat is still standing, says a lot.
What is her bigger reason, apart from a strong desire to live a vibrant life? “All I have is this moment, so my obligation is to embrace life. Period. I can’t go back to the mistakes I’ve made; that just keeps you a victim. And within 27 years now, I’ll be 100 years old! I don’t really have a lot of time to be wallowing in some time that ain’t real. So the habit is to stay present.”
The next generations to come are on her mind, often. “We all better get onboard the plant-based movement. Or people like her (referring to the great-grandchild sitting on her lap as we interview her) won’t have a home. You can see how the weather is changing. We need to be honest. Our governments need to be honest – you can’t fund the meat and dairy industry, and then pretend like you’re fighting global warming. I’ve been on the planet for 72 years; it wasn’t like this before, but it’s like this now, and I just want the little one here to have a beautiful planet that she can call home. “I think we point our fingers too much, and we don’t dwell enough inside, and we don’t understand our particular obligations. And we don’t consider ourselves one.”
“Right now, I am on raw chopped kale. With a cashew-coconut-garlic sauce, and just mix that up, and let it be room temperature, and girl, if you put enough garlic on that, you can just sit there, and eat that kale.”
“I have a sweet tooth, so the only book I’ve written thus far is called Cash In on Cashews: 50 ways to use the cashew nut, and I make desserts out of them. It’s a great book! And Mucusless Diet Healing System by Prof. Arnold Ehret and Fit for Life by Harvey Diamond, Marilyn Diamond and other books that woke me up to life. The China Study was one of such books.”
“…my superpower would be to look great in a superhero outfit and change minds instantly. And my power would be a positive power, the loving power, and I would be able to zap you and change your mind in a hot second.”
“Hearty laughter, silliness, that just really makes me so happy. My daughter and I, we laugh so hard together – we talk everyday, and when we find something funny, it’s just hilarious to us. That brings me a lot of joy. Also, being able to move. Movement is massive.”
“When I was 20, I saw a picture in a magazine. They were showing these beautiful homes up in the hills, just really super modern for that time. I remember looking at them and telling my co-worker: ‘I’ll never be able to live in a house like that’. And she looked at me, and she goes, ‘Really?’ and I said, ‘With this little 2-dollar an hour job I have right here?’. I felt that’s where I was, and that’s where I was gonna be. I’m speaking to that Babette when I say: Sky’s the limit, baby!”
“If I could live once again, I would love to live in a place like Africa. According to ancestry, I’m 72% West-African. I’ve always had this vision of myself in the village – in a bamboo fence surrounding, and all of us being outside, being spoken to. Since I was a little kid, I’ve always seen myself in an African village. And I’d love to be that elder teacher. I just think it would be so awesome. I know it all started there; I’d like to be there.”
“It’s just a lot easier to love and to forgive than it is to hate. That really is all I have to say.”