Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Vegan Chef Wows with Meatless Meals

By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK, March 13 (Reuters) - For chef Chloe Coscarelli preparing vegan meals is more about being creative and adding variety with new ingredients and flavors than simply not using animal products in her recipes.

Coscarelli, who stopped eating meat while still a child, is a classically trained chef who shot to fame after winning the U.S. cooking TV competition "Cupcake Wars" in 2010, after impressing the judges with a variety of vegan cupcakes.

In her first cookbook "Chloe's Kitchen" the 24-year-old California-based chef dishes up 125 recipes and proves that vegan food can be exciting, delicious and creative, as well as healthy.

Q: What made you decide to become a vegan chef?
A: "My love for animals inspired me to choose a vegan way of eating and cooking. But once I went to college I just decided I wanted to intern in a restaurant and learn more creative ways to prepare vegan food because a lot of the old-fashioned notions are that it is dry or bland or boring. It was my mission to break those stereotypes and find delicious creative ways of eating vegan."

Q: How do you dispel the belief that a vegan diet is bland?
A: "For me as a chef, flavor is the most important thing. It is not so much about taking away ingredients and making this a restrictive diet, but instead opening it up to more creative possibilities and adding more flavors and relying on a more varied array of produce and vegetables and spices and herbs. And it is really making sure that no flavor is sacrificed when you are taking out the animal fat."

Q: How difficult is it to cook without butter and milk and cheese?
A: "It is much easier that you think. With just a couple of tricks you can veganize almost any traditional recipe. For example, when I make my cupcakes I rely on a very simple technique, and that is using just a couple teaspoons of vinegar in the batter. I know that sounds disgusting and I promise you won't taste the vinegar actually in the cupcake. It is just a chemical trick. The vinegar reacts with the baking soda and it binds the cupcake and makes it rise, so it replaces the egg. That is an extremely reliable technique."

Q: What are the main sources of protein in a vegan diet?
A: "It has been proven that vegetarians and vegans actually consume more proteins than people who follow a traditional diet because if you are following a healthful vegan diet you are eating vegetables, grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, all these different sources that you may have never consumed before and they are packed with proteins."

Q: How do you develop most of your recipes?
A: "I have been cooking for a while. My mom is the one who taught me how to cook before my whole family was vegetarian, and we took a lot of old family recipes and actually veganized them. We used some simple techniques that I developed to make them vegan. I like to get a lot of my inspiration from things that are not vegan and turn them vegan."

Q: What would you advise to someone who is thinking about switching to a vegan diet?

Read the chef's answer and the rest of the interview here

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