2018 VegFest Speakers:  

Speaker biographies are below presentation times.  


Presentation Room #1

11:15-11:25: Introduction to VegMichigan Sheena Monnin, TV Host, Reporter ,and VegFest Master of Ceremonies 

11:30-12:15: Preventing, Managing, and Reversing Diabetes with Diet Caroline Trapp, Nurse Practitioner 

12:30-1:15: A Heart Doctor’s Tips for Good Health Dr. Joel Kahn, Clinical Professor of Medicine, WSU (with Paul Chatlin, founder of Plant Based Nutrition Support Group)

1:45-2:30: Improving Your Game with a Plant-Based Diet Theo Riddick, Detroit Lions’ Starting Running Back

3:00-4:00: Eating for Health and Longevity Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Board Certified Family Physician, and Nutritional Researcher

Presentation Room #2

Noon-12:45: Ahimsa: The Connection Between Yoga and Veganism Abby Bechek Hoot, Co-Director at House of Yoga and Certified Jivamukti Teacher

1:00-1:45: Transitioning to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet 101 Debby Knight Jones and Denise Kling-Pelto

2:00: The Humane Cowboy: Navigating the Road to Compassion from an Animal Agriculture Background Brece Clark Humane Educator and Sasha Farm Animal Caretaker

3:00: Eating to Live! Discussing the Keys to Successfully Tackle Weight Loss Nicole Braxton founder of Around the World in 7 Days! LLC & Director of the Non-profit R.O.C.K.

Cooking Demo Rooms 3 & 4

11:30-12:15: Room #3 Overnight breakfast oats with granola and  chickpea vegetable roll-ups Chef Debra Walter, Graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York

12:30-1:15: Room #4 Creamy kale soup and raw apple-oat crumble  (both gluten, soy, & oil free) Amber Poupore, Owner of The Clean Plate and Cacao Tree Cafe 

1:30-2:15: Room #3 Turning 1 Meal into 3! Open Face Enchiladas, Lettuce Rolls, & Quesadillas Quiana Broden from Cooking With Que

2:30-3:15: Room #4 Breakfast/Brunch Scramble with Seasonal Vegetables and a Chimichurri Sauce  Suzy Silvestre, Owner of Chive Kitchen in Downtown Farmington

Interpreters will be provided for the deaf & HOH


Theo Riddick is a starting running back for the Detroit Lions and is on pace to have his best season as a pro. He is in his 5th season in the NFL and was drafted by the Lions in 2013. He played college football at Notre Dame, where he was an integral piece to the Irish’s 2012 undefeated season. Head coach Brian Kelly referred to him as the “definition of a Notre Dame Football player”.  At 5’10” and about 200 pounds, Riddick has tried to find a delicate balance between strength and speed, as one of the ascending pass-catching running backs in the league. In a Detroit News article, Theo Riddick stated that “I turned vegan over the summer. I’ve noticed a difference just with my energy level,” and went on to say, “I’m not a junk-food type of eater. I’m like a smoothie guy; I do a lot of fruit and throw my kale and all my protein in there and that’s how I get everything.” Theo will be discussing how his diet has been an important factor in this success.


Dr. Joel Kahn serves as Clinical Professor of Medicine, Wayne State University School of Medicine. He has authored 5 books, the latest of which is the Plant Based Solution. He is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Michigan School of Medicine. He writes health articles, is a commentator on Fox 2 News, has a national public TV show, The Whole Heart Solution, and has been seen on The Doctors and Dr. Phil show. Dr. Kahn has treated thousands of acute heart attacks during his career but he’d like to prevent them from happening in the first place. Dr. Kahn and his family are the owners of the very successful GreenSpace Cafe, a plant-based restaurant in downtown Ferndale, where they prove that healthy food can also taste great! He has been plant-based for over 40 years and lectures across the country on optimal health and diet. He can be found at



Dr. Joel Fuhrman is a board-certified family physician, six-time New York Times best-selling author and internationally recognized expert on nutrition and natural healing, who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional methods. Dr. Fuhrman coined the term “Nutritarian” to describe his eating style, which is built on a diet of nutrient-dense, plant-rich foods. Dr. Fuhrman has authored numerous research articles published in medical journals and is on the faculty of Northern Arizona University, Health Science Division. He serves as President of the Nutritional Research Foundation. For over 25 years, Dr. Fuhrman has shown that it is possible to achieve sustainable weight loss and reverse heart disease, diabetes and many other illnesses using smart nutrition. In his medical practice, and through his books and television specials, he continues to bring this life-saving message to hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Dr. Fuhrman created the Nutritarian diet, an eating plan that incorporates the latest advances in nutritional science. At the center of the Nutritarian diet is the simple health equation, H=N/C. This equation expresses the concept that your health (H) is predicted by your nutrient intake (N) divided by your calorie intake (C). His ANDI scoring system (featured in Whole Foods Market), which measures the relative nutrient density of common foods, has directed millions of consumers to eat an anti-cancer diet-style.  


Dr. Caroline Trapp is director of diabetes education and care with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC. She is also a nurse practitioner specializing in the care of people with diabetes at Premier Internists, a division of the Millennium Medical Group, P.C., Farmington Hills.  Dr. Trapp has traveled around the globe and is excited to bring lessons from near and far about diabetes prevention and reversal to VegFest 2018!  She oversees a variety of diabetes prevention and reversal initiatives, including the development and distribution of resources for consumers and healthcare providers that teach that “Food IS medicine!”. She has collaborated with Native American organizations to address the food-related epidemic of type 2 diabetes (see Trapp was awarded Oakland University’s Nightingale Award for Education and Research in 2012 and inducted as a Fellow of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners in 2013. Dr. Trapp received her Bachelor of Science in nursing from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, her Masters of Science in community health nursing from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and Doctor of Nursing Practice from Madonna University in Livonia, MI. She can be reached at


Sheena Monnin is a TV host, reporter, and actor, and is a twice-published author of self-help books that have received acclaim with readers across the country. She has been interviewed by CNN’s AC360, Inside Edition, Today Show, USA Today, Guardian, BBC, Buzz Feed, and many other media outlets. Sheena won the title of Miss Pennsylvania USA 2012 and competed at Miss USA in 2012. She is the CEO of Custom Life Design Consulting and uses her Masters in Psychology to speak to groups of young adults on the importance of purpose, kindness, and potential in their lives. Sheena is a Toastmaster and will serve as the Master of Ceremonies at VegFest.


Nicole Braxton is the founder of Around the World in 7 Days! LLC, a wellness organization focused on sharing a message of health and restoration with the community. She specializes in providing wellness workshops along with cooking classes, pop up restaurants and support groups to a variety of organizations in the Metro-Detroit area. Nicole was also featured on the television network, 3ABN’s Dare to Dream, where she recorded 12 episodes on “Creative Cooking”, which is scheduled to air on April 1st, 2018. After studying Cross Cultural business at Hong Kong Baptist University and receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Bowling Green State University, Nicole started pursing her passion for good health cuisine. On her journey learning more about plant-based cooking, she trained with a French Chef gaining priceless knowledge about nutrition, medicinal properties of food as well as the fine science of herbs and spices. It was her desire to empower communities to make smarter health choices, address health concerns and teach the benefits of eating a plant-based diet. It is her belief that health is a journey that can be liberating when equipped with principles and practical steps. 


Paul Chatlin was born in Detroit and has lived in West Bloomfield since 1958. In May of 2013, he was diagnosed with Severe Coronary Heart Disease. His cardiologist gave him two options: bypass surgery or try a Whole Food/Plant Based Diet.  After meeting with Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, he decided to try “Plant Based Nutrition”. After just 3 weeks his angina disappeared. His cholesterol levels dropped from 350 to 100 and he lost 65 pounds. And, he felt great!  Paul promised himself that when he felt better he would put together a support group to help others in our community, so he contacted Dr. Joel Kahn who agreed to assist him on the journey. In February of 2014, he held his first Plant Based Nutrition Support Group (PBNSG) meeting and 123 people attended! Today PBNSG has 4803 members and 65 volunteers. They have started multiple outreach programs and has relationships with the owners of 25 local restaurants. PBNSG has completed working on curriculum change with Medical Students at Wayne State, Eastern Michigan , Oakland University, Michigan State Universities and the University of Michigan medical schools. Held classes for local doctors to learn about the benefits of nutrition before pills or procedures called Doctors Teaching Doctors. PBNSG has over 25 small groups around the state. In 2018 PBNSG will be holding over 46 health and culinary education classes and just finished an 80+ page manual called “Healthier Together” which helps people around the world start their own Plant Based Nutrition Support Group.


Brece Clark is a field educator and animal caretaker at SASHA Farm Animal Sanctuary. He has dedicated his life’s mission to learning and caring for animals. Brece comes from a long line of dairy farmers and grew up on a dairy farm in mid-Michigan. He began training horses at the age of six, ultimately developing a career in professional horsemanship. He also spent time as a zookeeper at Binder Park Zoological Society in Battle Creek, MI. As his views regarding animals began to change, in 2016 Brece joined Animal Equality where he traveled the country speaking out for animals on the iAnimal campaign tour. He now focuses his activism at the local level, speaking to audiences on the subjects of animal ethics, environmental sustainability, and human health. Brece also helps care for the over 250 rescued farmed animals at SASHA Farm Animal Sanctuary.  


Debby Knight Jones; BAS/CHES and Denise Kling-Pelto; CHNC are teachers and presenters for the Plant Based Support Group and Plant-Healthy Gals.   Debby holds a Bachelor’s degree in Health Education from the University of Michigan, a Certification in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University, a national certification as a Health Education Specialist, and she is a Registered Yoga teacher. Denise has completed a degree in Holistic Nutrition Consulting, a Certification in Plant-Based Nutrition and Healthy Heart from Cornell, and vegan chef training through the Natural Cooking School.  She is also a Food for Life Instructor for the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine. Using their lively banter to teach whole plant-based science and culinary support, to those wanting to transition into a whole plant-based lifestyle.  Debby and Denise unravel obstacles to healthy eating with practical strategies and connections to PBNSG’s speakers, small groups, resources, hundreds of delicious recipes and comradery. 


Suzy Silvestre, Chef and owner of the popular Chive Kitchen in downtown Farmington was originally born in California’s Central Valley to Portuguese immigrant parents who worked across the valley’s dairy farms.   Both of her parents were innate gardeners, organizers, cleaners and cooks.  With her roots starting off in the Central Valley she grew up with an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. She eventually moved to the San Francisco area where she enjoyed a successful marketing career. Suzy came to Michigan in 2013 and she enjoyed exploring an entirely new path and she came back to the world of food. Although Metro Detroit was entering boom times for good food she still felt like there was a dining experience that she loved but was missing from it all.  From this need to reconnect to her roots Chive Kitchen was born, a vegan restaurant with flavors from Suzy’s formative years, cooked in her personal style, in a chill environment where customers could learn to enjoy good food without meat or dairy.  Suzy focused on vegan food that had the texture and flavor with portions that could satisfy the hardiest meat eater and the public has embraced Chive Kitchen with open arms.


Debra Kleiman Walter is a personal chef with 15 years experience cooking for Detroit’s elite sports figures.  Her journey to veganism began after she married in 1986.  Debra also owns Max’s Granola where she specializes in vegan and vegan, gluten free granola, donuts and other baked goods that are both vegan and gluten free. She is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and the Natural Gourmet Cooking School’s Vegan Baking Boot Camp. Debra teaches cooking and baking in Huntington Woods to children and adults and anyone else who is looking to learn the joys of healthy, clean eating. You can find Debra at or


Abby Bechek Hoot, (Durga Devi) is a practitioner and teacher of yoga. She co-directs House Of Yoga in Berkley with her partner, Dave Tomaszewski, (Shiva Das), where they are celebrating the studio’s 13th year. Her journey to veganism began as a teenager and has solidified through her practice of yoga. She is a certified Jivamukti Yoga teacher, trained by Jivamukti founders and animal rights activists, David Life and Sharon Gannon. At the foundation of yoga is the practice of Ahimsa, to cause no harm. Not only an activist for animals but for the environment as well, Durga Devi is the Founder of the group “Team Lorax” in Royal Oak. She is leading the movement to preserve the grandmother and grandfather trees in the city where she lives. Durga Devi teaches daily yoga classes at House Of Yoga. Together with her partner, she leads teacher trainings and offers Life Style coaching through House Of Yoga’s LIFE OS programs. Durga Devi and Shiva Das, have been presenters at Festivals such as Yoga Fest, and Bhakti Fest Midwest. They also travel and offer devotional music events (know as kirtan), with their band Vishnu Blue. “Yoga inspires us to be our best Self, living a compassionate life is at the heart of a true yogi.” You can find Durga Devi’s schedule at

Amber Poupore is synonymous with vegetarian cuisine in southeastern Michigan, having worked over a decade at the premier plant-based restaurant Inn Season Cafe; opening her own plant-based establishments, Cacao Tree Cafe, The Clean Plate and a catering business.  Her passion for providing well balanced, enriching and nourishing foods is representative through her involvement and commitment to her clientele and the community.  Amber is involved with educational and instructional classes throughout southeastern MI, including the medical students at prestigious universities and corporations as reputable as GM.  She has recently been featured in the full-length documentary “Eating You Alive” and has appeared frequently on Fox 2 News, Channels 4 and 7, as well as numerous articles in local publications. 

Quiana “Que” Broden, is a renowned vegan food blogger that has 15 years of experience in the food service and entertainment industries, as a personal chef, and food connoisseur, respectively. With existing relationships with local, social and community groups, ongoing relationships with specialty grocers, and her elite clientele, she has pushed forward her mission to teach people how to EAT TO LIVE, by introducing more plant-based meals into everyday lives. Cooking with Que has become the space to allow Vegans and Meat-eaters to coexist. With live demonstrations and living recipes, Cooking with Que satisfies every appetite at the table.