Gaz Oakley (AKA Avant-Garde Vegan) is a chef who is at the forefront of breaking down the barriers between veganism and the mainstream. His recipes are classy, sophisticated and experimental. With a huge social media following and hit YouTube channel already under his belt, Gaz is now ready to release his first cookbook — a collection of over 100 of his recipes.
We were lucky enough to be invited to the Knightsbridge flagship of London department store Harvey Nichols for a 5 course taste-testing session by Gaz. Showing off recipes from his book including ‘fish’ and chips and ‘fillet steak’ wellington, the food was delicious and we were excited to catch up with the man himself afterwards to find out more about the launch of Vegan 100.
Congratulations on the release of your first cookbook. What has the experience been like?
I had tight deadlines creating it, however, the recipes that I created I believe are very innovative. I called on the experience I gained during my time working in professional kitchens to try and come up with a well-rounded book that has something for everyone.
What has been the most challenging part?
I have been dreaming for years of having the opportunity to create my own cookbook so it was mostly a pleasure. The most difficult part has definitely been narrowing down all of my recipes and making sure that I had covered all angles was challenging. I’m saving the ones I didn’t use for book two…
Where do you take inspiration from for your recipes?
My inspiration often stems from the tastes that I became accustomed to before going vegan. Often I will veganise classics, such as my ‘Steak and Peppercorn Sauce’ and ‘KFC Burger’. Veganising dishes is how I convince a lot of people to go vegan and when I taste veganised versions they always taste better too! I also draw inspiration from seasonal ingredients.
How important are social media platforms for showing off vegan food?
These platforms have been great for the movement as people can upload well-made ‘pro vegan’ content that is easy to consume and even easier to share between people. Social media has been incredible for me and I wouldn’t be in the position I am now without it.
What is the best thing about what you do?
The reason I work so hard to put out recipe videos weekly and do what I do on social media is to try and show people how good vegan food can be. I started out wanting to get just one other person to go vegan. I am now sharing my recipes with over 400,000 people.
Is there still a stigma around being male within the vegan food industry?
I think this has already been tackled and I don’t think it should even matter — we are all human and there are some incredible vegan men out there spreading the message through amazing food. We have the likes of the Wicked Healthy brothers, the Happy Pear brothers, the BOSH! boys and so many more flying the flag for amazing vegan food. I hope I get to work with all these guys one day.
What are your top tips for Instagram-ready food photography?
I learnt how to present my food during my time working in professional kitchens. In terms of the photography, this is something I have had to quickly learn with lots of testing and practice — I also watched lots of YouTube photography lessons.
My top tips for somebody starting a foodie Instagram page would be:
- Invest in a decent DSLR camera and a tripod
- Make sure your backgrounds, crockery and props are aesthetically-pleasing
- The food has to be bold, bright and colourful
- Shoot your pictures using natural light
- Don’t over-edit your pictures (I did this when I first started)
- Don’t get stressed if you don’t get the picture right the first time, keep trying and you will get that money shot
What have you got planned after the cookbook is released?
I feel I have found my calling on YouTube, I love it. I love producing high quality videos and I enjoy looking back and watching how much I have improved in just a year. But more importantly I just hope I am still able to use these platforms to continue to inspire people to go vegan. Perhaps one day I will be ready for my own television show — fingers crossed!
I would also love to thank everyone who has supported me since I started Avant-Garde Vegan. I feel so grateful that I do what I do and that I am able to help people.
- Vegan 100 is out in the UK on 25th January 2018