Passionate Wellness Coach and Chef Tess Challis

Ever meet someone who seems to absolutely radiate passion and positive energy? Vegan chef, cookbook author, and wellness coach Tess Challis is one of those individuals. Tess focuses on becoming the best version of herself, and it's clear her life's work is helping others thrive too. I'm thrilled I had the opportunity to interview Tess!

Allison Rivers Samson: Since 1991, you’ve been vegan. How did you get started, and what did your own personal journey to health look like?

Tess Challis: I became vegan because I started feeling like a hypocrite, to be absolutely honest! I knew what it took to put animal foods on my plate but I was struggling with my desire to eat what I was accustomed to. Back then, there were no Gardein chicken nuggets or Daiya cheese! I had to completely relearn food. It forced me to learn to cook—which I can now see was a blessing!

I grew up mainly on a standard American diet, and had a plethora of health problems all through my youth. I had just given in to the idea that I’d be a sicko for the rest of my life. When I gave up all animal foods 25 years ago, I was blown away. I hadn’t made the decision based on my health, but I sure did reap the benefits. My chronic acne cleared up immediately, I stopped getting constant colds and bouts of strep throat, I was no longer anemic, and my energy levels skyrocketed.

ARS: It so true that once we're willing to look at the truth, everything shifts. Every chef has her own method for creating recipes. What’s yours?

TC: Ooh, I love this question! OK, so here’s the truth—I have two methods. One is when the heavens align and magic is in my fingertips, and everything just comes together perfectly on the first try. That’s always nice. The other way, is that I’ll have an idea for a recipe and know exactly how I want it to taste. From there, I spend countless times testing the recipe until it’s perfect.

My vegan pad Thai was like that. It took me years to get it right!! Same with my hummus. And the ideas for recipes come from anywhere—a great meal I once had, a beautiful piece of produce at the farmer’s market, you name it. My cookbooks have a mixture of all kinds of recipes—but since I’m such a perfectionist, they all have to be just so before they end up in print!

ARS: What do you focus on in the classes and workshops you teach? And how can someone find your upcoming classes?

TC: I’m all about empowering my students. I want them to feel like it’s easy to make delicious, vegan food in their own kitchens. As far as what I teach, it’s a range—anything from Indian to Thai to a class specifically for a type of group (say, all kids or couples). My classes are on my events page.

My workshops are another story. I’m very holistic, so I like to teach all kinds of things. In my Be Radiant group, we work on losing weight and gaining health using empowerment tools, and overcoming emotional blocks. It’s really amazing to see how much the inner side affects us externally! And what’s also fun about my Be Radiant group is that it’s not local—I have members from all over the country.

ARS: As a wellness coach, there are so many opportunities and ways to help others. What is your specialty?

TC: So true!! I’m very passionate about wellness coaching. There’s nothing like working with someone one-on-one to help her overcome obstacles and reach her goals. My specialty is seeing the whole person, and really discovering what has kept her from achieving what she wants. We work together to be very real about what’s happening so that positive change can occur through doable, achievable steps. I’m very tuned in to what will and won’t work for each person.

ARS: How do you guide people to overhaul and/or revitalize their health, and what is generally the first step you advise someone to take?

TC: It depends on the client. In my Be Radiant group, the first step I have each lady take is to look at her beliefs, and do the work to turn around what’s holding her back. What are the thoughts, beliefs, and patterns that get in her way and have made her unsuccessful in the past?

If I’m working with a client strictly on their diet (for example, helping them transition from a standard American diet to healthy veganism), we start by assessing what will work for them. What do they like to eat? How much time will they realistically devote to food prep? Basic stuff. Then, we overhaul their kitchen and reorganize it according to the new healthy lifestyle they’re adopting. We also shop together and cook together, so they have all the skills and tools they’ll need to be a healthy vegan for life. SO fun!!

ARS: What are you most passionate about in your life, and what sustains your passion?

TC: Allison, you ask the best questions! Wow. OK, what I’m most passionate about is being the absolute best I can be—and then sharing with others. Helping them to have the tools they need to be their best as well. Life is so amazing when we’re in the flow, and nothing gives me greater happiness than knowing I’ve helped others live better and healthier. That’s definitely what sustains my passion—knowing I’ve made a difference. It sounds trite, but it’s ever-so-true!

ARS: Tess, you and I just might be sisters! Do you have a self-care practice? If so, please share!

TC: Oh you betcha! This is SO important. My work involves helping others, coaching others, leading my Be Radiant group—and if I don’t take care of myself, I won’t have as much to offer others. I’d say my self-care practice is an all-day effort. It includes eating fresh organic plant-based food, yoga, meditation, visualization, and a daily walk. Oh, and having some fun!

Thanks so much for visiting with me Tess, and sharing your fabulous self with our readers.


Find out how to make room for yourself in your own life, turn workouts into personal playdates, and make healthy eating feel indulgent.