Vegan chef opens eatery in Akron

Vegan chef opens eatery in Akron

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Spelt flour waffles are specialty of woman who lost 125 pounds, mostly with raw foods

by Lisa Abraham
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APRIL 28, 2010 — AKRON, OH

I often meet people who follow their dreams into a career in food.

In the case of Julie Costell, her career as a vegan chef came from following her God.

Costell, an Akron native and author of three vegan cookbooks, recently opened Ms. Julie's Kitchen at 1809 S. Main St., Akron.

She has been working with food for years, but it wasn't until 10 years ago that she adopted a vegan lifestyle.

Costell had worked in food service and as a caterer, previously holding jobs at Glenmoor Country Club and later as a cook at the Chapel.

All the years working with rich food had taken their toll. "I was eating party food all day long. Who throws away crescent rolls and chicken salad?" Costell asked.

Ten years ago, when Costell was just 35, she had a heart attack. She was grossly overweight — 325 pounds — and diabetic.

Her mother began following the vegan diet known as the Hallelujah Acres Diet, developed by the Rev. George Malkmus, based on the passage in Genesis 1:29: "Then God said, 'I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.'"

Malkmus' interpretation that the Bible calls for a vegan diet has been criticized by other theologians, who point out there are plenty of instances throughout the Bible that show that eating meat is permissible.

Nonetheless, Costell saw her mother's weight loss success on the diet and decided to give it a try. The switch to a vegan lifestyle helped her dramatically. "I lost 100 pounds in a year and I have kept it off," she said. "I'm not skinny by any means, but I have lost 125 pounds."

Much of the time Costell actually follows a diet of only raw foods, believing that fruits and vegetables are better for the body when eaten raw.

Costell found that people were interested in her weight loss, and she began speaking about it, combining it with talks on her own spirituality. Three books followed. She self-published Thank God for Raw in 2001. After that, Healthy for Him and Hallelujah for Kids were published by Malkmus' company.

Along with her own diet, Costell switched the way she cooks professionally to mostly vegan (she does allow some cheese).

She began selling waffles and whole-grain baked goods at local farmers markets. When her business got too large to continue out of her home, she looked for a place to set up shop. "I sold 12,000 waffles last summer at farmers markets,"she said.

At Ms. Julie's Kitchen, she offers a variety of salads, as well as her signature spelt flour waffles. She bakes whole-grain breads and makes her own granola with Ohio maple syrup. She offers flax seed crackers and vegan sandwiches. Her place is very casual, with just a few tables and chairs.

She is purchasing all of her produce from local farmers and has a wall of fame with photos of the farmers who supply her. "They are the stars of the show," she said.

Ms. Julie's Kitchen is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. Call her at 330-819-3834.

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