"I thought I had no chance," said Books-Williams, who lives in Vintage Hills. "The other chefs -- Eric Tucker of Millennium Restaurant and Philip Gelb of In The Mood for Food -- cooked, baked, grilled, sauteed and fried their foods. Everything I made was raw."
Nonetheless her Appetizer Tea Trio and Dessert Trio were awarded first place from the judges, themselves celebrities in the vegan community.
"I felt like I was transported to a spa in Bali with her gorgeous food," said Colleen Holland, associate publisher of VegNews Media, who described her creations as "genius."
Books-Williams joined the competition at the urging of the event promoter, who knew her from her catering and chefing with the San Francisco Vegetarian Society. She works all over the Bay Area, teaching cooking classes, doing culinary therapy with the Veterans Administration, working with disabled veterans on adaptive cooking, and more.
"The biggest gig I have now is teaching plant-based eating at Kaiser with a vegan MD, in Redwood City," she said.
"We are teaching not only community members but people with diabetes and high blood pressure," she said. "The MD teaches the science, and I teach how to make it delicious."
She hopes the program -- and more plant-based eating -- will come to Pleasanton.
"Most of the fan base has been in San Francisco, Marin, Berkeley and Oakland but I want people in my own neighborhood to get excited," she said. "I am hoping and I believe that there are enough people here who are interested and want to learn."
"That's my goal," she added, "to teach people how they can make healthy eating delicious -- creative and innovative ways to get the most bang for their buck, to take more nutrient-dense foods and make them delicious."
It was about 10 years ago when Books-Williams began to question the eating habits she brought from rural Pennsylvania when she moved to the Bay Area to work at UC Berkeley.
"I was getting fatter and getting sicker, and making more trips to the doctor," she said.
Two things changed her eating habits: She attended a lecture by John Robbins, author of "Diet for a New America," who asked the audience members how they could call one animal their pet while eating another, which started her thinking. Soon after that she went to a conference in Marin that talked about reducing the risk of cancer with plant-based eating.
"I became a veg in 2004," she recalled, "and ended up vegan. I've always loved preparing food and I started teaching plant-based cooking in 2005.
"I'm eating this way for health and vitality, with fruits and vegetables full of micro-nutrients, full of vitamins and minerals -- and those are everything our body really needs to thrive."
She has lost 100 pounds by eliminating processed sugar from her diet and eliminating gluten products.
"Eating foods that are not processed or minimally processed has been a big thing for me as well," she said.
She began teaching cooking classes through recreation departments in the Tri-Valley.
"Now I teach a lot more private classes, one-to-one instruction, at local businesses," she said.
"I can't make anyone become vegan or a vegetarian but my goal is to help them by making food delicious, healthy, exciting and beautiful," she said. "I know I can't get people to give up meat and ice cream but why not fill up on the healthy food?"
She is about to publish a book with her recipes for cooked and uncooked plant-based recipes.
"Lots of times people see a bunch of kale and say, 'What the heck am I going to do with this?' I can do 50 things with it to make it delicious," she said, noting that she adds kale to brownies.
She is now preparing for the World Vegetarian Festival in San Francisco in September, then she leaves for China, where she will address the World Congress of Health and Nutrition on vegan and raw foods.
But first she will be preparing her award winning recipes plus a vegan entree for a dinner at a private estate in Alameda on April 28. It will be limited to 20 people, for $50.
Next she will present "Fast, Easy and Healthy Plant-based Foods" at Juice and Java on Angela Street on Wednesday evening, May 15.
"For $50 they get lots of food and recipes," she said. "All my classes are fun. People love it."
Also, she is hoping to start a vegan supper club in Pleasanton. Anyone interested can contact her at Lisa@ThriveHolistic.com or telephone 989-1811.
"There are so many wonderful fruits and grains out there, beans and vegetables. I just feel divinely inspired to put them together in delicious and creative ways," she said. "I know how it's restored my health. I feel like it's my ministry."