French Vegan Chef Sarala Terpstra

I’ve been cooking since I was a little girl, influenced by my Indian mother who was pretty much always in the kitchen. I was raised on a predominantly vegetarian diet which is normal in Indian culture. While we did eat meat and dairy, they didn’t play the starring roles in meals and my mother was very strict about eating an array of fresh vegetables. She was the queen of substituting, always trying to make classic dishes healthier. She laid a solid foundation for me so that when I was college, while working a full-time job and doing an internship, I’d still come home late and cook. 

Born into an international family with an American father and an Indian mother, my childhood was divided between India and various states in the U.S. At 29 years old, I’ve continued to chronically move, have lived in 5 different countries and have never lived in any one place longer than two years. 

But there is one place I’m deeply enchanted with. I first visited France the summer after I graduated from high school and like so many, immediately fell in love. I’d always been a dreamer and loved poetry, art, books, and style but I’d never been somewhere where those things were so truly celebrated as Paris. I felt a belonging in France that I’d never experienced. I had signed up to take German courses in university but immediately switched to French when I returned home. I would go on to study abroad in Lyon and graduated with a major in Global Studies and a minor in French.

Like many college kids, I worked an array of odd jobs through-out university and took a corporate marketing job immediately after graduating. I was extremely unhappy and decided to look for online freelance work that would allow me to travel. It was then that I started teaching English online, an opportunity that allowed me to spend a winter living in a small village in France. After a few years of teaching online while globetrotting, I had my daughter. My husband and I knew we needed more stability but didn’t want to give up our international life, so I took a physical teaching job in China. Our “stability” lasted only six months before the pandemic hit and we were forced to leave our lives in China and return home to the United States. That was exactly a year ago and we’ve been in a sort of limbo since.

During the lockdowns, to distract myself from the upheaval of our lives, I picked up a stack of French cookbooks from the library and started playing with recreating the recipes into vegan versions. We had adopted a vegan diet after my husband got a bad bout of food poisoning from meat and requested that we only eat vegan food for a month. However, we felt so good and enjoyed vegan cooking so much that we decided to adopt the plant-based lifestyle. But we did miss French food, something that we had cooked often as Francophiles. Through my lockdown project, I got to combine my passions for French culture and plant-based cooking. It was and is an adventure in a largely unexplored territory, one that allows endless creativity and opportunities to learn. I decided to start sharing my creations on Instagram through which I’ve plugged into a lovely, inspiring world of creatives and Francophiles. 

I’ve been creating vegan, French-inspired recipes for a year and am amazed at what I’ve learned in that time. While I’ve never worked so hard at anything in my life, I’ve also never felt more inspired or content. I can’t fathom ever stopping and can only feel great excitement about how much I could learn and do in this niche over a lifetime. I’ve dreamt of permanently moving to France since my first visit, a dream my husband shares with me. While we work towards a life in France, I challenge myself to daily to learn, grow and create.

Learn more here:
my instagram: @saralaterp