Cleveland VegFest 2017 Speakers


Emily Moran Barwick

The Extremism of Veganism

12:15pm - 1:15pm in Global/Junior Ballroom

Emily Moran Barwick is an animal-liberation activist, international speaker, artist, writer, and the creator of the YouTube channel and accompanying website Bite Size Vegan, where she provides free, educational videos and resources about veganism—backed by rigorous research, yet awkwardly entertaining.

From thoroughly researched academic reports, to engaging videos for kids, to moving mini-documentary style videos, Emily provides a wide range of educational approaches for diverse learning styles, and emphasizes the diversity of veganism—that it’s not about changing who you are, just what you do in relation to non-human animals.

Emily hopes to provoke an honest examination of our justifications for what we do to animals, beyond the surface of “that’s the way it’s always been”— to engender the realization that veganism, far from an extreme way of life, is simply aligning our actions with the values we already have.


Michelle Cehn

Debunking Dairy Myths & Providing Plant-Powered Solutions

11:00am - 12:00pm in Meeting Room One

Michelle Cehn is a filmmaker on a mission to make vegan living enticing, easy, and fun through gorgeous photography and visual storytelling. She is the founder of World of Vegan, co-author of The Friendly Vegan Cookbook, co-creator of The Dairy Detox, and a YouTube personality who has reached millions through her creative, relatable, and engaging vegan videos.


Paul Chappell

Why Veganism Is the Most Ambitious Movement for Justice in History

1:30pm - 2:30pm in Global/Junior Ballroom

Paul K. Chappell graduated from West Point, was deployed to Iraq, and left active duty as a Captain. He is the author of the seven-book Road to Peace series. The first five published books in this series are Will War Ever End?, The End of War, Peaceful Revolution, The Art of Waging Peace, and The Cosmic Ocean.

Chappell serves as the Peace Leadership Director for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Lecturing across the country and internationally, he also teaches courses and workshops on Peace Leadership and Peace Literacy. He grew up in Alabama, the son of a half-black and half-white father who fought in the Korean and Vietnam wars, and a Korean mother. Growing up in a violent household, Chappell has sought answers to the issues of war and peace, rage and trauma, with vision, purpose, and hope.


Jane Esselstyn RN

The Benefits of Plant-Based Eating Above and Below the Belt

4:00pm - 5:00pm in Meeting Room One

Jane Esselstyn is an avid and inventive designer of plant-strong recipes and the co-author of The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook. She created the recipe sections of #1 NYTimes bestseller, Plant-Strong and The Engine 2 Seven Day Rescue, by Rip Esselstyn. Jane is a fresh, charismatic voice bringing her perspective and passion as a nurse, researcher, mother, and teacher to her presentations, food demonstrations, and cookbooks with clarity, hilarity, and a can-do attitude.

Jane and her husband Brian Hart live in Cleveland, OH with their three plant-based children. Jane graduated from the University of Michigan, where she competed nationally as a recruited swimmer and varsity rower.


Justin Gorski, Daniel Martinez, Laura Ross

Savory & Sweet Favorites from Cleveland Vegan Catering (food demonstration)

11:30am - 12:30pm at Food Demo Stage

Justin Gorski:

Co-Owner and head chef of Cleveland Vegan Catering, Justin Gorski has numerous years of experience creating inspired vegan food. With over a dozen years of catering experience and many more years of cooking, Justin is thrilled to bring a delicious and healthy option to the Cleveland area. Justin is also a musician and has been playing piano since he was five years old. You can find him around C-town entertaining others in this mode. He also moonlights as DJ Kishka.

Daniel Martinez:

Daniel Martinez is the Head Baker at Cleveland Vegan. He has exploded the bakery department at Cleveland Vegan. Before starting his new adventures in vegan baking, he was the assistant pastry chef at Bonbon Cafe in Ohio City. His passion for baking started while working in various bars and restaurants, finally working his way back to the kitchen. His mission is to bring all the knowledge he learned while doing french style baking to the vegan world.

Laura Ross:

Co-Owner of Cleveland Vegan and behind-the-scenes extraordinaire, Laura Ross, has been involved in the vegan community for years. As a yoga instructor, she works with many individuals that have chosen veganism and plant based eating as a way of life. Laura and Co-Owner Justin created this amazing madness along with their 3 beautiful children - Eli, Simone and Hugo! She is ecstatic to create a venue for Cleveland and Northeast Ohio to come to for vegan food that is accessible and “that really does taste good.”


Robert Grillo

Farm to Fable

2:45pm - 3:45pm in Meeting Room One

Robert Grillo is the director of Free From Harm which he founded in 2009 to advocate on behalf of farmed animals and to bring awareness to how animal agriculture is connected to all other forms of exploitation. As an activist, author and speaker, Grillo draws insights from popular culture, sociology, psychology, ethics and social justice to bridge the gap between humans and other animals. As a marketing communications professional for over 20 years, Grillo worked on large food industry accounts where he acquired a behind-the-scenes perspective on food branding and marketing. His new book, Farm to Fable: The Fictions of Our Animal-Consuming Culture exposes the many ways we have all conditioned into a culture where mass animal consumption is the norm.


Lee Hall, JD LLM

Vegan Dot-Connecting: Food, Climate, and Other Animals

1:30pm - 2:30pm in Meeting Room One

Lee Hall is the author of On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberation for the 21st Century. A former airline worker, Lee was first motivated to become an activist by the plight of shipped animals. Lee has published on nonhuman personhood and gender in advocacy, taught Animal Law and Immigration and Refugee Law at Rutgers-Newark (2001-2004), and served 11 years as legal director of an animal-advocacy NGO.

Lee recently earned a specialist’s law degree (LL.M.) in Environmental Law from Vermont Law School, and developed an Environmental Law course for Widener University – Delaware Law. A columnist at CounterPunch, Lee also authored the entries on Vegetarianism and Environmental Racism for the Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice. Lee’s work is community-supported through their Art of Animal Liberation page on Patreon.


Terry Mason MD

Food: The Cause and Cure of Disease

11:00am - 12:00pm in Global/Junior Ballroom

Dr. Mason is the Chief Operating Officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health, the former Chief Medical Officer for the Cook County Health and Hospitals System and former Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health. He’s currently responsible for public health programs and services for one of the nation’s largest metropolitan health departments, serving Chicago’s urban population of 2.3 million residents.

Dr. Mason is a nationally recognized health educator and inspirational speaker who champions holistic approaches to health management and believes that real disease prevention is driven by food, policy, and the conditions where people work, live and play. He’s a seasoned health professional with 30 years of practice as a urological surgeon. Dr. Mason hosts a weekly radio health talk show, he’s a Telly award winning video producer, author and was also featured in the 2010 film Forks over Knives.


Lauren Ornelas

Food Justice: How Your Food Choices Can Change the World

12:15pm - 1:15pm in Meeting Room One

Lauren Ornelas is the founder/director of Food Empowerment Project, a vegan food justice nonprofit seeking to create a more just world by helping consumers recognize the power of their food choices. F.E.P. works in solidarity with farm workers, advocates for chocolate not sourced from child labor, and focuses on access to healthy foods in communities of color and low-income communities. While Lauren was the director of Viva!USA, she investigated factory farms and ran consumer campaigns. She served as campaign director with the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition for six years.

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Marisa DiCenso-Pelser

The Power of Raw Food

5:30pm - 6:30pm at Food Demo Stage

This spiritual gangster, raw-food mixologist, hard-core chef just loves the natural raw beauty of food that God created (if God made it, it is good). Striving to raise a family right, training for competitions, overcoming health challenges and seeking the dang holy grail of consuming real food is what sent, Marisa Pelser, Founder, on her journey to create her own method of fueling her body—RAW. What is RAW? Simple. Food from the earth the way it was intended. No garbage, fillers or preservatives. Tinkering with recipes, scouring books, meddling with flavors, dominating the kitchen (all while listening to some old school hip hop) Marisa & her new RAW discovery quickly became a tasty, bold lifestyle that fueled her to feeling fresh with boundless energy, beautiful skin, fierce at athletics and a clear mind.


Laurie Sadowski

Perfecting Gluten-Free Vegan Baking (food demonstration)

3:30pm - 4:30pm at Food Demo Stage

Laurie Sadowski is a published cookbook author, food writer, and recipe developer for multiple companies. Her books, The Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Bread (2011), The Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Cakes and Cookies (2013), and The Allergy-Free Cook Makes Pies and Desserts (2014) are devoted perfecting vegan baked goods free of gluten, dairy, egg, and soy-free. Her current creations focus on simplicity, taste, and using baking science for success. As someone with celiac disease and is a vegan, she often gets asked "what do you eat?" and her answer, usually, is "really good cake."


Brenda Sanders

Beyond the Plate: How Veganism Can Address Social Injustice

4:00pm - 5:00pm in Global/Junior Ballroom

Brenda Sanders is a food justice activist in Baltimore City who has dedicated her life to fighting for vulnerable populations. As a community organizer, Brenda has coordinated events like The Vegan Living Program, an annual 6-week vegan education program, Eating for Life, a plant-based cooking workshop, Vegan SoulFest, a festival that celebrates culture and the vegan lifestyle and she’s a founding member of PEP Foods, a vegan food collective bringing affordable plant-based foods to marginalized communities in Baltimore. Brenda promotes veganism in her social justice work because it's a lifestyle that addresses health disparities, environmental destruction and animal abuse and gives individuals the ability to effect real, positive change in the world.


Miyoko Schinner

Getting Cheesy with Miyoko (food demonstration)

1:30pm - 2:30pm at Food Demo Stage

Miyoko Schinner is Founder & CEO of Miyoko's Kitchen and has been an entrepreneur for 30+ years in the food world as a bestselling author, chef and creator of delicious, decadent, healthful plant-based food. Schinner is dedicated to pleasing the omnivore’s palate in all of us.

Inspiring the general public through her 5 cookbooks, including the best-selling and “groundbreaking” Artisan Vegan Cheese and The Homemade Vegan Pantry—the Art of Making Your Own Staples, Schinner also recognizes that not everyone will take up the cause in their own kitchens. To answer this call, in 2014, she launched Miyoko’s Kitchen, which set out to redefine the category of “cheese” with its delicious flavors of handcrafted cheeses made from nuts. Miyoko’s Kitchen currently sells nationwide to thousands of stores. Schinner also co-hosts the public television cooking show Vegan Mashup.


Marni Task

Morning Yoga Class

9:30am - 10:30am in Meeting Room Five

Marni Task, CYT/ERYT 500, stepped onto the yoga path in 1987 and began teaching in 1995. An Advanced Certified Jivamukti Teacher & Anusara Inspired instructor her classes are infused with the ancient teachings of yoga for the modern mind. While offering therapeutic and creative sequencing to heal the body and mind, class is steeped with inspirational music, poetry, humor and spoken word. Her most joyous and deepest yoga practice is the one she lives every day with her husband Rick and daughter Lila Grace.


Will Tucker

Protein Propaganda: Achieving your Fitness Goals on a Plant-Based Diet

2:45pm - 3:45pm in Global/Junior Ballroom

Will Tucker is a 4 Time Natural Bodybuilding Champion, author, certified fitness trainer, and contributor to Vegan Health and Fitness Magazine. He is a fitness expert and award winning professional vegan bodybuilder who constantly dispels the myth that large amounts of animal protein are required to build an outstanding physique. His philosophy is that all the nutrients the body requires are available in a well balanced, plant-based diet that is high in carbohydrates with minimal amounts of protein and healthy fats. He focuses on giving the body what it needs on a cellular level to obtain better health while maximizing aesthetics.

As a certified fitness trainer, he relies on his 20+ years of fitness experience to help his clients develop plant-based nutrition and exercise plans that fit their individual preferences and needs. Many of his clients have eliminated the need for prescription medications while eradicating physical ailments.


Philip Wollen

Veganism and Beyond — The Swiss Army Knife

5:30pm - 6:30pm in Global/Junior Ballroom

Philip Wollen is an Australian philanthropist and a former Vice-President of Citibank. At age 34, the Financial Press placed him in the “Top 40 Brightest and Best Executives" in Australia. He now supports 500 humanitarian projects for children, animals and the environment in 40+ countries, supporting schools, hospitals, orphanages, shelters, clinics, ambulances, bore-wells, sanctuaries, medicines, food and disaster relief. The Australia Day Council wrote: “Essentially a private man, Philip seeks no personal publicity. But he is not afraid to step into the limelight for a just cause”. Rupert Murdoch’s press described him as “reclusive”. In 2005 he received the Queen’s Birthday Honours Order of Australia, Australian of the Year Victoria 2007, Honorary Fellow -The Oxford Centre of Animal Ethics (2012) and in 2014 he received Distinguished Alumni Award University of Adelaide.