More than 25 years later, Durso is still meat-free—and she shares her love for animals with the world. She’s been a private chef in Hollywood, a contributor to dozens of online and print publications and a guest judge on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.
Durso’s lifestyle doesn’t end in the kitchen. As a healthy living educator, she is committed to making sure no animals—or people—are harmed to maintain her self-described “eco-chic” lifestyle. So although Durso loves high fashion and name brands, she seeks out ethically produced products. She believes you don’t have to sacrifice quality when you go cruelty-free.
When she was just 8 years old, Leslie Durso learned what a vegetarian was—and promptly became one.
“I made the connection pretty early on that meat was from animals and knew that [was] something I just didn’t want part of my life,” she says.
“When people say, ‘Oh, you make vegan food,’ I say, ‘No, I just make really good food.'” And Durso says other animal-friendly entrepreneurs share that mission—to create the best products, period, not the best cruelty-free products.
Durso uses her kitchen for more than serving up delicious dishes—she also creates cruelty-free beauty solutions. With a few basic ingredients, anyone can mix up DIY concoctions like sugar scrubs and face masks. When you’re looking for gift ideas, why not put together a basket of homemade beauty treatments? It’s a gift with a personal touch, and it could inspire friends and family.
“It may sound cliché, but small ripples do become big waves,” says Durso. And encouraging people to go cruelty-free, even in small ways, has a big effect. “It’s better for them, it’s better for the environment and it’s a heck of a lot better for the animals.”
Coconut Lavender Conditioner
Not only does this conditioner smell heavenly, but the healthy fats in coconut will moisturize dry hair.
1 ½ teaspoon guar gum (purchase online or at health food stores in the gluten-free or baking section)
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 cup coconut milk (from a can)
15 drops lavender essential oil
Combine all ingredients in a bottle and shake until no clumps remain. Apply generously to the ends of your hair after shampooing. Let sit 2–4 minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Stored in the refrigerator between uses, it should stay fresh for a month.
Lemon Coconut Sugar Scrub
For silky skin, keep this sweet scrub in the shower and use it every few days to help smooth rough spots.
1 ¼ cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
½ cup coconut oil, melted
2–3 drops mint essential oil
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and then transfer to an airtight container.
Clear Skin Banana Mask
The banana in this good-enough-to-eat mask moisturizes the skin, while the lemon juice gently exfoliates.
1 ripe banana
½ teaspoon lemon juice
Mash banana and lemon juice together and apply to face immediately. Leave for 15–20 minutes and rinse.
Feeling hungry? Try two of Durso’s delicious recipes:
Asian-Style Lettuce Tacos
Heart Beet Salad