In each issue Vegetarians in Paradise presents the 24 Carrot Award to an outstanding person or organization that endeavors to practice or promote education, natural health, wholesome nutrition, and ecology techniques for the mutual benefit of humans, animals, and the earth.
With great pleasure we present this month's 24 Carrot Award to Randy Ellis for his endeavor to promote vegetarianism through his diligence in creating, organizing, and overseeing the successful Vegetarian Dining Club.
After attending two Vegetarian Dining Club monthly events where we enjoyed delicious vegan dinners and heard outstanding speakers, we quickly perceived that the club's founder was someone who was deserving of our highest recognition--our 24 Carrot Award.
The Vegetarian Dining Club, started by Randy Ellis in 1996, hosts dinners in the Los Angeles and Orange County area at vegetarian restaurants that provide vegan meals to groups of thirty to two hundred diners.
At a typical dinner the evening begins with a social hour with each guest receiving an ice-breaker questionnaire card. Each question must be answered by a different person. When the card is full it's entered into a drawing where the lucky winner receives a vegetarian diner coupon book. The cards provide a pleasant way for people to meet each other, network, and form friendships. These Sunday night events are also enhanced with speakers in all areas of health and vegetarian enlightenment.
Randy was not always a vegan, but today he is a man with a mission. He told us, "My goal is to promote the concept of a healthful vegan diet and support vegetarian restaurants so they can grow and afford to advertise. I'm trying to get as high a profile as I can for vegetarian restaurants as possible. That way they can bring in people to change to a healthy vegan diet--people who need to lower their blood pressure, lower their cholesterol. . . and learn that a vegan diet can bring health." His ultimate goal is to have vegetarian dining clubs across the nation, a project that is presently in the works.
In 1982, Randy developed a strong interest in improving his overall health as well as improving his deteriorating eyesight. He took a dramatic step and went from a Standard American Diet to a vegan regimen. An article in Prevention Magazine connecting a meat-based diet to deteriorating eyesight convinced him he had taken the right path.
Now he enjoys shopping at farmers' markets where he buys a healthy supply of organic fruits and vegetables. Asked if he cooks, Randy says, "I don't actually cook. I just eat fruits and vegetables throughout the day and salads with sunflower seeds and that sort of thing for dinner." Randy is also deeply committed to a fulfilling three or four hour daily routine of yoga which includes classes and practice at home.
His evenings are devoted to receiving dinner reservations and making personal phone calls along with his ten helpers to invite people to Vegetarian Dining Club events. Each month he holds two dinners in the Los Angeles area and one in the Orange County area. In the past he sent out flyers, post cards, and e-mails but found the personal contact by telephone to be the most effective way to reach the more than 3,000 people on his calling list.
When he first began the club, he sought out a speaker every two or three months. Now speakers contact him and he's acquired a list of speakers in each county. Speakers are treated to a complimentary dinner, and some receive an honorarium.
Randy Ellis is a man who has recreated himself several times. Twenty-five years of experience in his full service real estate and property management company gave way to ownership of two vegetarian restaurants and a health food store between the years 1985 to 1992. His businesses were hard hit by the recession in 1991, and he had to close Kingsley Garden and Sprout Garden and sell the property. His contacts in the restaurants and health food store created the base for his dining club project. Now he focuses on property management for survival and yoga and the Vegetarian Dining Club for personal fulfillment.
Anyone interested in information on upcoming events on the Vegetarian Dining Club's calendar can call Randy at 323-953-0543.