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Plant-Based Chef Nina Hayes

Mats, Mix-ins, and Spirituality: Chatting with a Plant-Based Chef & Yoga Maven Nina Hayes

What happens when you mix a love for health, wellness, plant-based cookies, and yoga? Well, I’ll tell you – you get Nina Hayes. One of the best things about running a plant-based ice cream business is all the amazing people we get to meet and Nina is certainly one of them. Since we started collaborating on flavors Nina has been someone we have really wanted to work with.

Banoffee PB Cup Swirl

Banana PB Cup Swirl

In May 2024 we collaborated to create a Banoffee PB Cup Swirl which we offered for a limited time at our Montana Ave store. First, some housekeeping, “Banoffee” is not a mixture of Banana and Coffee. It is a delicious dessert banana-based dessert combining banana, whipped cream, and caramel (usually on a pie crust).

To give Bananoffee Pie the FFC treatment we worked hard with Nina to create something that could surpass this classic dessert and stand on its own as a delicious plant-based ice cream. The result was a combination of a banana pudding ice cream base (made from coconut cream, fresh bananas, and sweetened with organic date) then topped off with chunks of chopped-up house-made peanut butter cups, and finally finished with a salted maple caramel. Plant-based and sweetened with only organic date and in the maple caramel (organic coconut sugar, and organic maple syrup). This flavor was the perfect combination.

Join us as we delve into a conversation with Nina on what makes her tick, her favorite plant-based foods, her personal recommendations for moving into a more plant-based lifestyle, and of course, what’s her favorite ice cream flavor.

On a personal note, I am a big fan of Nina so being able to work with her and talk to her about the topics was a pure pleasure.

Plant-Based Chef Nina Hayes

Tell everyone a bit about you.

I am a plant-based chef, yoga teacher, and health and wellness facilitator. My greatest joy lies in transforming what might seem ordinary, like a simple meal, into a magical experience. I also find fulfillment in using the body (through dance and yoga) to transmute challenging emotions into focused energy, which can then uplift both ourselves and others. Sharing these transformative tools and experiences brings me immeasurable delight.

Through initiatives like the “Enlightened Supper Club” – a spiritually grounded community dinner event, leading international wellness retreats, and offering private chef and yoga instruction sessions, I spread these practices. Additionally, I freelance as a copywriter, specializing in all things related to health and wellness.

The world is teeming with spiritual mysteries, a spectrum of emotions, and profound human experiences. I feel compelled to view all of these as opportunities for deeper understanding. For me, comprehension comes through tasting and gracefully navigating the whirlwind we call life.

What are 5 things people don’t know about you?

  1. My favorite novel is “Anna Karenina” so naturally, I named my miniature Mexican Hairless pup, Tolstoy who is a pescatarian. 
  2. I founded a nonprofit, Blossom Ostomy, to educate and empower individuals with ostomies (a life-saving surgical procedure for those with severe digestive disease).
  3. I went to Mexico during the pandemic to visit for one month and ended up living there for three years.
  4. I’m classically trained in ballet, but performed as a hip-hop dancer for over a decade and I still dance for fun. 
  5. I recently traveled to Singapore and can’t stop singing its praises; I think it’s fantastic that littering, and being noisy in public are finable offenses. 

How and why did you get into plant-based food?

I stopped eating meat when I was in my teens, primarily because, as a dancer, I was interested in eating healthfully. Although I cared for animals and felt uncomfortable with the idea of humans eating them, I continued to eat fish for many years, largely due to my obsession with spicy salmon rolls and sushi in general.

I remember precisely when I shifted to a vegan diet. It was 2009 in Sydney, Australia, and I was in the midst of an intensive yoga teacher training. One evening, I ordered Salmon curry at a Thai restaurant, but when I picked up my fork to eat, I suddenly felt physically weak, and a palpable sense of unease washed over me—an unusual cellular experience I had never felt before. Despite my hunger, I explained to the server that while nothing was wrong with the fish curry, I had changed my mind and wanted to order the tofu curry. They might have thought I was a bit odd, but they obliged and brought the tofu curry.

As soon as it arrived, the odd feeling of weakness disappeared, and I fully enjoyed my delicious meal. The following night, I had a similar experience. I ordered sushi, but again, when I tried to eat it, my arms felt weak, and I had to reorder something vegetarian.

This time, I understood the message my body was sending. Perhaps due to the intensity of my yoga, meditation, and spiritual practices, I could no longer ignore the discomfort of unconsciously eating another animal.

a person holding a book

What is your favorite plant-based recipe to make?

That’s like asking a mom with a large brood to choose her favorite child. I’d have to go with my Yokohama-inspired tofu and cauliflower curry. Most people are familiar with Thai and Indian curries, which I love, but there is something about a Japanese curry that satisfies the palate unlike any other.

It’s simultaneously sweet, umami, and piquant, and as a roux-based curry, it’s thicker and creamier than other Asian curries. I use coconut milk and mirin in mine along with a laundry list of secret ingredients. When I do pop-up dining events, I inspect the dishes to determine which dishes are most loved, and the curry bowls always come back as if they were licked clean so I know others like this as much as I do. 

Can you share some insights into how becoming a plant-based vegan chef has influenced my lifestyle?

Being a plant-based chef has become a profound outlet for my creativity. I find myself dreaming of flavor combinations, plating ideas, and preparation techniques, and bringing them to life is essential for my sense of fulfillment. I’m deeply grateful for my clients, as they not only provide the means for me to manifest these culinary dreams but also offer valuable feedback. Without diners to appreciate and enjoy my creations, the role of the chef would lose its essence.

Transitioning into the realm of plant-based cuisine has also enabled me to step away from vegan advocacy, a path I pursued earlier in life. While I hold organizations like PETA in high regard for their commendable work, I’ve come to realize that dictating food choices by appealing to a standard of “right” and “wrong” doesn’t resonate with me. I believe that each person’s dietary preferences are shaped by their unique life experiences, and I aim to honor this diversity.

As a chef, I prefer to demonstrate rather than preach. If I can craft dishes that captivate people’s taste buds and happen to be plant-based, I feel I’ve made a meaningful contribution to fostering a more compassionate world. My goal is to invite others into the realm of plant-based eating through the pleasure of their senses, rather than through intellectual persuasion.

How can beginners integrate plant-based vegan cooking into their daily lives?

Start by considering the plant-based elements already present in your diet. You might be surprised to discover that many of your regular meals are predominantly plant-based without necessarily being labeled as “vegan.” With a few simple adjustments, these meals can easily become entirely plant-based.

Take, for instance, a classic bowl of oatmeal. By substituting almond milk for cow’s milk in its preparation, you effortlessly transform it into a vegan dish. Similarly, dishes like chili can be made plant-based by omitting the meat and increasing the quantity of beans. As a fun alternative, try swapping beans for raw cashews; you might be pleasantly surprised by the result.

Exploring cuisines from around the world also unveils a wealth of naturally plant-based options. Middle Eastern cuisine, for example, offers an array of delightful dishes. You can easily assemble a Meze spread featuring vegetarian stuffed grape leaves, hummus, baba ganoush, pita bread, and a marinated vegetable salad.

For beginners, I recommend steering clear of highly processed foods marketed specifically to vegans. While they may align with ethical principles, they often lack nutritional value, come with a hefty price tag, and can taste artificial. Instead, focus on whole, minimally processed plant foods for optimal health and satisfaction.

Remember, even small steps toward eating more plant-based food deserve acknowledgment. Whether it’s swapping meat for plants a few times a week or embracing fully plant-based meals, every effort counts. And feel free to discard the labels like “vegan” if they don’t resonate with you. Eating should be a source of nourishment, both physically and spiritually, devoid of divisiveness or competition. Prioritize what feels right for you and aligns with your well-being.

How do you stay energized and fueled throughout your day-what are your favorite things to eat and cook?

I kickstart my mornings with a cold-brew latte crafted from freshly pressed coconut milk, raw honey, and a blend of adaptogenic herbs and powdered medicinal mushrooms. The healthy fats from the coconut effectively balance out the caffeine, ensuring I remain energized without experiencing any jitters or subsequent crashes. In my view, when consumed mindfully, caffeine can indeed be a beneficial component of one’s diet.

As for snacking, I tend to keep it light during the afternoons. Multiple green juices and pureed vegetable soups often grace my palate, reflecting my preference for nourishing, refreshing options. Each day brings a unique rhythm, and I make it a point to listen attentively to my body’s cues to discern its needs.

My true culinary passion lies in crafting elaborate main meals, particularly dinners featuring multiple courses. This provides me with the perfect opportunity to experiment with recipe concepts for clients and events alike. Picture a meal like this: a soothing kelp-based broth served with simmered yuba (tofu skin) as a starter, followed by a vibrant rice noodle and vegetable stir-fry as the main course, accompanied by a medley of braised root vegetables drizzled with a luscious tahini sauce on the side.

And when it comes to dessert, Frozen Fruit Co., as a healthy treat to complete any meal. 

What are 5 ingredients you can’t live without?

  1. Mirin (a sweet Japanese rice wine used in cooking)
  2. Coconut oil 
  3. Liquid Aminos (classic “Braggs”, of course)
  4. Coconut Milk 
  5. Tofu (I prefer fresh, organic silken, but depending on the texture and flavor I’m seeking, I employ many varieties of tofu preparations…God is in the details!

What’s your favorite flavor of plant-based ice cream from Frozen Fruit Co.?

Vanilla Peanut Butter Salted Caramel, the Friday Special. 

Plant-Based Chef Nina Hayes 2

Where can people find you online and get in contact with you?

For the most direct communication, reach out via email at ninitahayes@gmail.com or find me on Instagram @ninahayesmission. Additionally, curious individuals can explore further on my website: ninahayesmission.com.

As a special treat for Frozen Fruit Co. customers, I’m extending a generous 20% discount on most services. Just mention Frozen Fruit Co. in your direct message or email. Currently, I’m excited to present the “Spring into Summer” pantry makeover, designed to facilitate a seamless transition toward a healthier diet. During this service, I meticulously clean and organize cupboards and refrigerators, replenishing them with wholesome essentials. It’s a comprehensive approach to ensure my clients are fully equipped for success on their wellness journey!


Sculpt Yoga

Yoga Sculpt: What Is It and 5 Movements You Can Try At Home

Confession: I am a yoga teacher who used to hate yoga. And then I found yoga sculpt.

Growing up as a competitive athlete (playing soccer from the age of four through college), I never viewed yoga as a workout. I figured it was basically a fancy word for stretching. (Never mind I was always very self-conscious over my tight hips and severe lack of flexibility.)

When I moved to LA, I really tried to get into yoga, but I found myself often getting frustrated; I was annoyed with the slow pace, angry the people next to be were bending like pretzels with ease and restless in Savasana. Lying still for two minutes and focusing on my breath? I’ll just nama-stay-away.

But then I tried a yoga sculpt class at Corepower Yoga. Not really by choice but because my company was offering a free class and hey, if it’s free it’s for me. Still, I didn’t expect to be challenged and went in with little to no expectations. But 60 minutes later, I was transformed, having never experienced a workout quite like it.

What is Yoga Sculpt?

You see, yoga sculpt is a 60-minute class in a heated environment (usually about 93-95 degrees) that incorporates hand weights, cardio bursts and signature yoga postures. First you flow, then you go. One minute you are doing burpees or bicep curls and the next you are bowing your head to seal in your practice.

Sculpt is the perfect blend of mind and body, providing a calorie and fat-burning workout and the many mental benefits of yoga. Plus, it’s set to the beat, so you can do squats along to Lizzo’s latest bop. What’s not to love?

Two years after trying that first class, I am now a Yoga Sculpt teacher, something my teenage self would’ve refused to believe.

Given my background as an athlete, my classes are all about muscle engagement and compound movements, which work out two or more muscle groups at once. The best thing about compound movements if you can customize and modify based on your fitness level, whether you have never done a down-dog in your life or are a regular at Cross Fit.

Five Yoga Sculpt Movements You Can Try At Home

Here are five (customizable) compound movements you can try at home to give you a small sampling of what a yoga sculpt class can look like.

1. Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, Adult Version

We all remember that game we played as a kid, right? Well, this is the workout version of it that is a great way to shake up your normal plank game and seriously test your core’s stability and strength.

Starting in a high plank (shoulders stacked over your wrists, hips in line with your shoulders and the sides of your neck lengthened with your chin off your chest), slowly tap your head with your right hand then place it down; then tap it with your left hand. Your right hand will then tap your left shoulder, with your left taping your right. From there, your right hand taps your left knee as your drive it in toward your chest, repeat on the opposite side. Finally—you guessed it!—your right hand taps your left toe without driving your tailbone up towards the sky, repeat on the other side.

The key here is to go slow and control the movement, resisting the urge to swing your hips; they should remain stable thanks to your core. Repeat five times and feel free to sing the song as you do it.

2. Squats With a Controlled Pulse

Any sculpt class will contain a lot of squat variations as you are looking to engage your glutes, one of the largest muscles in your body, and leg muscles in different ways to always keep them guessing. That’s why I love adding pulses into the mix, which restricts the blood flow to your muscles, shocking them when you release the small controlled motion and go into the bigger movement.

For this one, start with your feet hips-width distance apart with a slight bend in your knees and your core engaged, with the option to hold one heavy weight at chest-level.

Squat down, keeping your knees stacked over your ankles, like you are sitting your hips down into a chair with your chest lifted. After a milli-second hold, pulse your hips up one inch and down one inch, slow and controlled, before standing back up. You really want to feel the burn in your quads here, especially controlling that small pulse up and down, keeping that controlled movement in your hips and not bouncing from your knees.

You can even add in a shoulder press here too, lifting the weight above your head as you rise in your full squat.

3. Crescent Lunge Lunges

Another lower body exercise, begin in a crescent lunge position, with your right knee stacked over your right ankle and your hips square and even with one another (think of the headlights on your car). With your shoulders stacked over your hips and your belly button pulled to your spine to fire up your core, lower your back knee to hover one to two inches off of the mat, hold for about a half-second before rising.

You can make this a compound movement (aka get even more bang for your buck!) by holding onto your weights and/or adding in a hammer curl (palms face one another, elbows glued to your side body), lifting and lowering your weights as you lift and lower your back knee.

Repeat on the other side, and it’s super important here to keep your front knee stacked over your front ankle; it should never jut out over as this movement is all about your back knee. You can also add in pulses (Can you tell I like pulses?) after your set of lunges by hovering your back knee one to two inches off of your mat and pulsing up one inch and down one inch, slow and controlled.

4. Glute Bridges With a Chest Press

Again, another compound movement possibility, as this can turn into a full-body workout if you are pressed on time or looking for an added challenge.

Lying on your back, bring your feet a little wide than hips-width distance apart and walk your heels close to your glutes. If you just want to focus on your booty, you can bring a set of weights to your hips, one in each hand to add a bit more weight to your glute bridges.

If you want to add in the chest press, bring your elbows out to a T by your sides with a weight in each hand. Throughout this exercise, keep your head and neck on the mat with your gaze straight up and no tuck of your chin to your chest.

Press through your heels to drive your hips up toward the sky, and if you are adding the chest, lift your weights to meet (but not touch) directly in front of your chest. As you lower down, hover your elbows and lower back one-to-two inches off the mat, resisting the urge to rest them down.

5. Obliques Twists in Horse Squat

This pose seems super easy. But it’s also super easy to mess up as many people end up working their arms and shoulders over those tiny oblique muscles by our rib cage. Just know that’s where we are targeting with this one.

Bring your feet farther than hips-width distance apart, with your heels in and toes pointing out. Sink down into a squat with your chest lifted, shoulders stacked over your hips and your tailbone down. Your knees should be tracking in line with your toes. You there? Great, now sit down another two inches.

Now grab your weights (one weight or two, it’s up to you!) and glue it into your chest. DO NOT LET THEM MOVE SERIOUSLY, DO NOT. PRETEND IT IS A PINT OF FROZEN FRUIT CO.’S SALTED CHOCOLATE AND DON’T LET IT GO. Now, using your left side oblique, twist your upper-body to the right before twisting back to center. Repeat on the other side, never letting your weights leave your chest. It’s a tiny, tiny, tiny movement but it is far more effective than just swinging your weights from side to side using your arms and shoulders. Also, your hips and legs aren’t moving here, so hold down in that horse squat!

Ready for more?

You can sculpt with me Saturdays at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Corepower’s Studio City location and Mondays at 6 p.m. at the Hollywood location. And your first week of classes is free if you are a new student.


Tierney Bricker

This was a Guest Blog written by Tierney Bricker. Follow Tierney on Instagram at @tbrick2 or message her on Instagram if you have any questions on Yoga Sculpt. Big Love.