Fran Joins Rouxbe Cooking School!

Mis en place tools
Mise en place

My winter was interesting and busy, and now as we move into spring, a season I much prefer, I’ve got a super exciting announcement to make about a brand new project. You may know about the vegan dessert classes I teach at very fine culinary schools, and my dessert demos at conferences, and in corporate offices—I even did a dessert demo on a cruise ship this year, as one of the guest chefs on the Vegan Cruise to Alaska! I absolutely love teaching! I feel so privileged to have meet and worked with many hundreds of wonderful individuals, of all skill levels from absolute beginner to professional, from omnivore to plant-based, and everywhere in between. Now I am thrilled to announce my I new position as the Director of Vegan Baking and Pastry at the Rouxbe Cooking School. I couldn’t be more excited as I have long admired the courses offered by the game changing Rouxbe Cooking School. Likely many of you know the brilliant chef, Chad Sarno, but did you know he was the lead chef in the Rouxbe Plant Based Professional Certificate program? (Have a look and take a free trial.)


Chocolate Torte to Live For
Chocolate Cake to Live for from my Google LA demo

A little background if I may: I started eating fully plant based in the late 90’s in hopes of ending my frequent digestive upsets, headaches and wildly fluctuating energy. Never once did I feel deprived. Instead I was excited about the abundance of foods in the plant world. By eliminating dairy, eggs, in fact all animal foods, I felt amazingly well, virtually overnight. My symptoms disappeared, simple as that. I left my position as a pastry chef in a conventional (ie: butter, sugar, eggs) kitchen, and for a short time, I was not interested in making desserts. That was until my tween age son said, “Mom, you can’t put a candle in a baked sweet potato and tell me that’s my birthday cake.” Ok, the kid had a point, so I started exploring the world of vegan sweets in the marketplace and recipes in cookbooks. What I found was dry, heavy, or gummy cakes and carob cake passed off as chocolate. The recipes I found in the few cookbooks were confusing, with directions such as, “use 1 cup of barley malt or a cup of maple sugar.” Well, for sure that’s not going work. So, I headed into the test kitchen. My intention then, as it is now, was to use real ingredients and foundational pastry technique in order to make vegan versions of favorite desserts that were as good as, or better than, their conventional counterparts. When at last my tasters were dancing around the kitchen singing, this is a chocolate cake to live for, I had my breakthrough cake. That first cake has been tweeked just a little over the years but it is still my favorite cake, and most popular recipe.

Raspberry Tart
Raspberry Tart from the Costigan Vegan Baking Boot Camp®

I continued to hone my skills as pastry chef at Luma, a hip macrobiotic restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen, and then at Angelica Kitchen. After a year or so, I moved into teaching. Seeing a lack of training options for vegan pastry chefs, I created my Vegan Baking Boot Camp®, an intensive certificate course, and I have been teaching it twice yearly at the excellent Natural Gourmet Institute. “VBBC” has been the only program of its kind, and people eager to study the foundational techniques of vegan pastry arts  have traveled from all across the United States and virtually every country in the world. While this is rewarding, a recurrent concern for me remained how to address the messages I get daily from people looking for a more flexible, less expensive, but still excellent course in vegan desserts, without having to travel to New York City, as well as from those who have been closed out of the 14-person class.


Cake made during the Costigan Vegan Baking Boot Camp®

When I first discovered Rouxbe at an IACP conference a few years ago, I was thoroughly impressed with their already existing plant-based curriculum. Lead chef Chad Sarno and I go back a very long time, and I will tell you that he is passionate about getting people back into the kitchen and a genius at recipe development and teaching. Every person on the Rouxbe team is ethical and passionate, and they’re all absolutely excited about bringing a first rate Vegan Baking and Pastry course online. Joining Rouxbe was a perfect way for me to further my goal of educating as many people as possible about modern vegan desserts.  I could not be more excited to be part of this team as the Director of Vegan Baking and Pastry. Creation of the first course is already in the works and the response to this news has been overwhelming.

If you are wondering, do desserts have a place in a healthy whole foods plant based diet, know that my positions is that there is no holy grail of sweeteners (but there are better ones), and desserts are treats, not a food group. But you bet that healthy plant-based eaters want birthday cake, go to weddings and other celebrations, and a vegan will definitely show up at your holiday table. So let’s make excellent vegan desserts together!

Initially, Rouxbe and I will work together to capture and deliver an engaging online version of the continually sold-out Vegan Baking Boot Camp Intensive®. The goal is to reach thousands, not hundreds, of home cooks and pastry professionals that want to expand their expertise in this area. Limited seating will be offered for the first course offering. If you’d like to be notified in advance of this course, please register here.

This initial course will be followed by more in-depth vegan baking and pastry modules with the longer-term goal of offering a full Professional Vegan Baking and Pastry Arts Certification Course.

Read the Rouxbe press release on their blog, to learn about Rouxbe in general and details about the Vegan Baking Boot Camp type course. Sign up at the link provideded for updates on the progress and launch. Sign up to for my newsletter and blog to keep up on this exciting development.  Interested in learning more? Register for advance notification and announcements.








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