2019 VegFest Speakers:  

Speaker biographies are below presentation times.  


Presentation Room #1

11:15-12:00: Give Yourself the Gift of Health  Dr. Robert Breakey, U of M Medical School, Family Medicine 20+ Years

12:30-1:15: Radiant Health and Living a Kind Life  Alicia Silverstone, Actress and Plant-Based Advocate 

1:45-2:30: Powering Pro Athletes with Plants Justin Abdelkader, Detroit Red Wings Forward and plant-based athlete, will share his story about how moving toward a plant-based diet has improved his performance on the ice and his recovery off the ice. He will join Lisa McDowell, MS, RD, CSSD, the team dietitian for the Detroit Red Wings. She also works with Olympic, collegiate, and other pro athletes and is a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.

3:00-4:00: How Not To Die Part 2  Dr. Michael Greger, Nutrition Expert and New York Times Bestselling Author

Room Host: Brece Clark, Sasha Farm field educator, and animal caretaker 

Presentation Room #2

Noon-12:45: Understanding the Lives of Farm Animals Dan McKernan, Founder and Executive Director of Barn Sanctuary

1:00-1:45: Healthy Gut, Healthy You Dr. Elizabeth Swenor, D.O. Heads the Functional and Lifestyle Medicine Department at Henry Ford Hospital System

2:00: Improving Your Advocacy Join Lainey Frydrych (Growing Your Advocacy), Molly Tamulevich (Michigan State Director, HSUS), and Adrienne Gillespie (Director of Marketing, VegMichigan) for a discussion about better advocating for the causes you believe in, finding balance, and improving outcomes by working together. 

3:00: The Last Pig Documentary and Discussion Allison Argo, Director/Producer, hopes to inspire compassion for all living beings and to repair the disconnect between humans and what we consume with her latest film. A Q&A and discussion will follow the 38-minute film.

Room Host: Kate Brindle, VegMichigan Flint Coordinator 

Presentation Room #3

11:00-12:00: Nicole Braxton will present Foodie on the Go which will show you how to make delicious, simple dishes in a flash and you will also learn how to prepare food for your busy week. 

12:30-1:30: Debra Walter is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of American in New York and will be preparing a delicious Vegan Quiche for you to sample.

2:00-3:00: Quiana Broden from the popular “Cooking with Que” blog will be making Vegan Chorizo Queso and you will be able to try some tasty samples.

3:30-4:30: Suzy Silvestre is the owner and head chef at the very popular Chive Kitchen in downtown Farmington. She will be making Shepard’s Stew.  

Room Host: Maia Anthony, Activist and VegMichigan consultant

Interpreters will be provided for the deaf & HOH in Room #1


Alicia Silverstone started acting as a child and won a role on television’s The Wonder Years. She was later cast in music videos by the band Aerosmith. Her role in Clueless shot Silverstone to fame. Her latest role was on the TV show, American Women. Outside of her acting career, Silverstone is committed to the causes of animal welfare and environmentalism. Sharing the details of her lifestyle, Silverstone penned the 2009 book The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet which is a vegan cookbook. With the success of her first book, she followed up it up with her second book, The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning. Silverstone also has her own website, The Kind Life


Dr. Michael Greger, MD A founding member and Fellow of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, MD, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues.  He has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, testified before Congress, and was invited as an expert witness in the defense of Oprah Winfrey in the infamous “meat defamation” trial. He is a graduate of Cornell University School of Agriculture and Tufts University School of Medicine. His latest books— How Not to Die and the How Not to Die Cookbook became instant New York Times Best Sellers. He has videos on more than 2,000 health topics freely available at, with new videos and articles uploaded every day.


Lisa McDowell, MS, RD, CSSD is the team dietitian for the Detroit Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins. She also works with Olympic, collegiate and other pro athletes. Lisa is the team sports performance dietitian for USA Olympic National Development Team Program. She is certified as a sports specialist and has obtained ISAK accreditation. She has a passion for fresh, nutritious, micronutrient dense food, and enjoys sharing her knowledge with professional athletes to improve performance. Lisa applies the science behind sports nutrition. and translates rigorous scientific research into optimizing meal planning for the sports teams and athletes she works with. Lisa has provided nutrition guidance to elite athletes, artists, Grammy-winning musicians, actors, and CEO’s. In addition to her work in sports nutrition, Lisa maintains her clinical expertise as the Director of Nutrition at St. Joseph Mercy Health System in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Lisa helped start a 25-acre organic farm on the hospital campus to improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables for patients and employees. Lisa was recognized as a Health Care Hero by Crain’s Detroit Business for her efforts in fighting obesity and improving access to healthy food. Lisa also was recognized as the Michigan Dietitian of the Year. Most recently, Lisa has worked with St. Joseph Mercy Health System’s partnership with the Detroit Lions, Red Wings, Tigers and Pistons to help brand healthy food choices at their stadium venues – bringing healthy nutrition into the community. You can read about fueling pro athletes on Lisa’s blog or follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @LisamcdowellRD  To learn more about Lisa’s work, listen to Detroit Red Wings podcast: or To learn more about the farm please visit the link here:


Justin Abdelkader is a plant-based athlete and Left Wing for The Detroit Red Wings. Justin is a Michigan native and former Michigan State University hockey player. He was apart of MSU’s national championship team during the 2006-07 season. 






Dr. Robert Breakey, MD is a 5th generation graduate from the University of Michigan Medical School. He completed his Family Medicine residency at the University of Wisconsin in 1984. He has practiced Lifestyle Family Medicine in Ann Arbor since 1985. He has special interests in health promotion, whole food plant-based nutrition, positive wellness and supporting the natural healing process that we all have within us. He is Chairman of the Board and Head of the Family Medicine Division for Integrated Healthcare Association  (IHA) – a multi-specialty medical group centered in and around Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Dr. Elizabeth Swenor, DO has been practicing medicine for over 18 years. She is an authority on nutrition, Lifestyle, and Functional Medicine, weight management, prevention of chronic disease, and patient-centered care.  She is board certified in Family Medicine and a certified specialist in Functional, Regenerative, Metabolic, and Lifestyle Medicine and Aesthetic Medicine.  She also is credentialed in Medical Nutrition and a certified Health Coach. Dr. Swenor leads the Functional and Lifestyle Medicine Department at Henry Ford Hospital System.  Her practice focuses on educating patients on the importance of whole food plant-based nutrition, and individualized patient care using evidence-based Lifestyle and Functional Medicine practices.  Her vision is to have all of her patients empowered to manage a healthy lifestyle and achieve optimal wellness. Formerly, Dr. Swenor was the founder and chief medical officer of a family medicine practice that focused on Functional and Lifestyle Medicine, nutrition and weight management, and chronic disease management. Prior to medicine, Dr. Swenor was a school teacher and earned a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration.  She was noted for creating a comprehensive elementary science program for rural and underserved students. Dr. Swenor attended Albion College and Michigan State University.  She earned her medical degree from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.  She completed her residency in Family Medicine in Pittsburgh, PA.  Dr. Swenor is a member of the Plant-Based Nutrition Support Group (PBNSG).  She also participates in PBNSG’s physician educational program, Doctors Teaching Doctors.  Dr. Swenor has been a guest lecturer speaking on Functional, Lifestyle, and Preventive Medicine and Whole Food Plant-Based Nutrition at numerous private and public companies, specialty organizations, and healthcare institutions.


Molly Tamulevich serves as the Michigan State Director of the Humane Society of the United States. She began working with animals in 2007 in Mérida Mexico where she became interested in the link between social status and pet ownership. For the past ten years, she has been a volunteer and consultant for numerous animal welfare agencies in Michigan, including the Animals and Society Institute and Michigan State University’s Graduate Students for Animals. She received her Master’s degree in Community Sustainability and Human-Animal Studies from Michigan State University in 2014 and currently serves on the Board of Directors for Attorneys for Animals. She is honored to be able to serve as an advocate for the animals of Michigan and looks forward to working with the veg community to help the state’s farm animals.


Adrienne Gillespie the Marketing Director for VegMichigan and is responsible for the planning, development, and implementation of the organization’s marketing strategies and communications. Her focus is on promoting the benefits of a vegan diet and compassionate lifestyle on all media platforms across the state of Michigan. Adrienne graduated from Hofstra University in 2010 and has spent the last nine years in sales, marketing, and business development. In 2015, she obtained her certification as a personal and organizational development coach form the Coach Training Alliance. From a young age, Adrienne was influenced by animal advocacy and a healthy lifestyle from both her parents and her older sister. In 2018, Adrienne completed the Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the Center for Nutrition Studies. As a vegan endurance athlete and passionate animal advocate, Adrienne’s mission is to bring empathy and wisdom to any group or individual looking to learn more about how to sustain a compassionate, healthy, plant-based lifestyle.


Lainey Frydrych is the best person to go to for staying vegan without struggling. She assists her clients with navigating their relationships with non-vegans, and her unique coaching results in successfully living the vegan lifestyle. You can discover delicious vegan finds on her EZ Vegan Facebook page. Lainey is also the founder of Grow Your Advocacy, and her CouchTo5A podcast provides expert tips on the 5 Levels of Advocacy. 
Grow Your Advocacy 


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.  


Dan McKernan is the founder and executive director of Barn Sanctuary in Chelsea, Michigan. Dan has hands-on experience with farm animals after attending Farm Sanctuary’s Farm Animal Care Conference and is still in contact and receives guidance from Susie Coston, Farm Sanctuary’s National Shelter Director. He is a passionate advocate for animal welfare, environmentalism, and a plant-based diet. Dan is also a seasoned technology and design professional who has built websites and apps for health/fitness companies, nonprofits, technology startups and more. He has worked on projects for Special Olympics International, Special Olympics Unified Relay, Mandela Kids, Boy Scouts of America, and Camp Fire USA.

Allison Argo is an award-winning director, writer, and producer of documentaries about endangered and abused animals. Her films have won six national Emmys (11 nominations), five Genesis Awards (from HSUS) and over 80 awards internationally. Among the many films she’s produced, directed and written, are: The Urban Gorilla, Chimpanzees: an Unnatural History, The Urban Elephant, and Parrot Confidential. All were broadcast by PBS and National Geographic, reaching audiences worldwide. Argo’s latest film, The Last Pig, continues her mission to speak out for the silenced.


Suzy Silvestre, Chef and Owner of Chive Kitchen 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 moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in time for elementary school and lived there until migrating to Michigan in 2013. Suzy has always been accustomed to hard work. As a child she would work janitorial and housekeeping jobs with her parents. Growing older and able to stay home alone, Suzy was left to make family dinner. Obsessing over the recipe cards that were delivered to her home monthly, Suzy would compile five-course meals for her family. Her dad would always critique the cooking, “you didn’t let the flavors build”, all words Suzy remembers today. Being gardeners, and taking advantage of California’s year-round growing climate, Suzy’s parents had every type of tree and vegetable imaginable in their backyard. Growing up in the Bay Area Suzy worked her way up through a Business Marketing career while enjoying everything San Francisco and the East Bay had to offer, especially the food.  After two kids and a garden of her own in the East Bay, Suzy needed a change of pace. She and her husband, Ron DeMarco, moved their tribe to his home state of Michigan. Suzy enjoyed ridin’ around Detroit neighborhoods and exploring an entirely new path. She was back to the world of food and although Detroit and its neighboring cities were entering boom times for good food she still felt like there was a dining experience that she loved 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. Previous attempts at vegan and vegetarian diets throughout the years taught Suzy that it wasn’t easy immersed in cultures that loved meat. This time around Suzy focused on vegan food that had texture and flavor with portions that could satisfy the hardiest meat eater. “If I was going to be meat-free, I was going to enjoy my food,” Suzy thought. No other approach was an option. She found that in a lot of food she loved the meat was not the standout ingredient but that it was actually the comprehensive combination of the textures and flavors. Suzy and Chive Kitchen are here to create those flavor alternatives for her community.


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.

Debra Kleiman Walter is a personal chef with 15 years of 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

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 within the community. She is certified in clinical wellness and trained with a French Chef. She specializes in providing wellness workshops along with cooking classes and producing plant-based cuisine to a variety of organizations in the Metro-Detroit area. Nicole also has a cooking program on 3ABN’s Dare to Dream Television network and an additional TV program coming out this Fall. 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 pursuing her passion for good health cuisine. On her journey to 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.