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Hey, it’s Marie Forleo and you are watching MarieTV, the place to be to create a business and life you love. Now, if you know anything about me you know that I love food and I’m also Italian. And today I want you to meet one of my favorite chefs. I cook out of her cookbooks more than any other. But don’t get me wrong, this episode is not just about food, it’s about taking risks and going against the grain and doing whatever it takes to make your dreams come true.
Breaking onto the culinary scene as the first vegan chef to capture the top prize on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, Chloe Coscarelli has since been turning heads bringing mouthwatering vegan dishes to the mainstream. Chloe is the author of two bestselling books, “Chloe’s Kitchen: 125 Easy, Delicious Recipes for Making the Food You Love the Vegan Way” and “Chloe’s Vegan Desserts: Over 100 Exciting, New Recipes for Cookies and Pies, Tarts and Cobblers, Cupcakes and Cakes, and More.” And now her new book, “Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen.” Chloe honed her culinary skill at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City and holds a plant based nutrition degree from Cornell University. Chloe has appeared on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, the Today Show, CNN, has been featured in the New York Times, the Oprah Magazine, Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart’s Whole Living, Star Magazine, and Shape.
Chloe. I’m so excited to have you on MarieTV.
Yay, happy to be here.
So you, in my opinion, are one of the best vegan chefs out there and one of the things I so admire about you is that you said your goal isn’t necessarily to convert people to veganism, but just to show them that you can eat healthfully and eat whole foods and it can be incredibly delicious. Tell us a little bit about your philosophy that way.
Well, I obviously love vegan food. I think it’s delicious. So it’s my goal to show people that, hey, this food is actually good and it can make you feel satisfied and it’s not something that you have to commit to 100% of the time if you’re interested in it. So I like to think of it not as an all or nothing. You’re either an extreme vegan or you’re nothing. I like to think that you can eat vegan once in a while, maybe once a week start incorporating it into your dinner table, and you can start getting used to it and maybe you start to like it.
Yeah. I love that and I love that nonjudgmental approach because it really does invite people in to try new things and to not feel bad if they can’t maintain something 100% of the time.
Right. I can’t tell you how many times people say to me, “Oh, you’re vegan. I could be vegan, but I love bacon too much, so I could never do it.” I’m like, “Well, you can still eat bacon if you want. Try eating vegan a little and see how it makes you feel.”
Yeah. So when I learned that you were the first vegan chef to win a major food network competition, it was Cupcake Wars, and you did that when you were all of 22. I was like, this chick is amazing. So tell me, how did you even learn about that competition? And what was that thought process like for you to go, “You know? I want to throw my hat in the ring. Should I do this? Shouldn’t I do this?” How’d that whole thing go?
So I was fresh out of culinary school and I was just browsing Twitter and I saw a casting call for Cupcake Wars and so I was like, “Oh, I’ll go try out. Why not?” And then they cast me on the show and I was kind of taken by surprise, so I actually called the producers back and I was like, “I just wanna remind you that my cupcakes were vegan. Did you catch that? Is that still ok? Can I still come on the show?” And they were like, “Yeah, it’s totally fine. Come on down.” So it was definitely surprising for me but it just kind of all happened, all worked out.
Now, did you have in your mind when you thought, you know, you saw that casting call, did you think, “Oh my God, this is my chance to get my brand out there,” or was it more about the actual challenge of being in a cooking competition? Because those things can be really intense. I love watching those shows, so I know it’s reality TV so they increase the drama factor a bit. But what was that inner drive for you about wanting to go for this?
Yeah. I’m, like I said, I graduated culinary school and I really didn’t know what I was doing at all. I felt like I had zero direction. I… when I graduated college I decided to go to culinary school because I wasn’t really sure what else I wanted to do, but I knew I liked to cook. And then when I was in culinary school I was like, “Ok, well, if anything, I’ll learn how to cook,” but I didn’t really have any strong ambitions for afterwards. So I was just looking for ways to get my food out there. I knew what I loved, but I didn’t know what I could do with it. So it was like… it was a journey to get to this place, but I think that Cupcake Wars was a great opportunity because I was like, “If I can show people that vegan cupcakes taste better than regular stuff,” it’s always about, “Oh, does it taste as good as the ‘real thing,’” but I’m like, “No. This is my chance to show people that it can actually taste better.” So it was really exciting.
That’s awesome. When I was watching the bit where you won Cupcake Wars, it was so fascinating to me because I feel like you can learn a lot about how people behave in situations, especially when they’re under pressure. And I was so impressed that you kept your composure and that the person that I’ve known from afar through your cookbooks and your videos and online, you were still so kind and you were still so sweet, but you were very, very focused on getting things done. And then I know there was those other clips where, you know, where people, they talk a little smack, and I’m sure sometimes the producers help to make that happen because they wanna, again, heighten that drama factor. Did you feel intimidated by the other chefs? Again, because there was the issue, of course, vegan was different at that time. And, of course, your age. You were much younger than a lot of the other contestants. Did that feel like you were on unequal footing? Or what was that experience like?
I did hear people talking behind the scenes saying like, “Oh, you know, she’s doing vegan cupcakes so she’ll be out in the first round.” And I remember just thinking, “How can you say that when you haven’t even tasted it?”
Yeah. So, I don’t know. It was good I think because sometimes when you hear a lot of naysayers, it… it makes you really reach into a place inside of you that knows you can do it.
So sometimes when people are really encouraging, I’ll be the one to start being like, “No, I can’t do it. I can’t do it.” But then when someone else starts saying, “You can’t do it,” that’s when I’m like, “Ok, I think I can do this.” You know? So it helped me really just stay focused and do my thing and realize I’m not gonna listen to any negativity around me. Just gonna make cupcakes.
That was awesome. And when you won I just thought it was so brilliant. You did such a killer job.
For your journey after that, so that was this big win, it was amazing. Have you found yourself finding other hurdles or difficult parts and continuing to build your career as a vegan chef?
Mmhm. Well, I think, as you know, for any entrepreneur it’s always like what’s next? So this was great, but where am I going from here? And I feel like at every point in my career I never really know the answer to that question. So that unknown is something that’s so unsettling that can creep up on me in the middle of the night and I’m like, you know, “So I’m turning in this book. What’s my next book?” But it’s just something you have to learn to deal with and, yeah. There’s so much to learn. I think I’ve also learned a lot about, like, a lot of people say being an entrepreneur is… the hardest part about it is that you have to have so much self discipline because you don’t have a boss standing over you. But I think for me actually I have the reverse problem where I’m, like, too much of a boss on myself sometimes, so I need to learn when to, like, chill out.
I have that problem.
I think there’s many of us, especially when you love what you do.
And you really, really love it, you know, it becomes an obsession, it becomes the thing that you wanna do all the time.
I think you had an interesting experience, right, working on this book.
Yeah. When I was… when I was working on the final manuscript for my latest book I was like, “I have 300 pages to get through and I’m on a flight, international flight, home from Italy. Let me try to finish all of this on the flight.” And then my mom… I was with my mom at the time. She was like, “Why don’t you just relax and sleep? You know, we’re on a flight, it’s dark.” My light thing wasn’t working. I was like, you know, “I don’t care, my light thing’s not working. I’m gonna get this done.” And we hit a little bit of turbulence and the next thing I knew I blinked and my entire 300 page manuscript went flying, like making it rain, all over the cabin and I was like, “Is this actually happening to me?” And I just stormed up and down the aisles, like, trying to reorder it and collect it and I was so upset. And my mom was like, “Ok, now will you just take a nap?” and, you know, like, forget about it. I’m like, “Yeah.” So I think something that I learned is, like, if I don’t give myself breaks, then the entrepreneur gods will step in and give them to me for me. So I try to build in breaks to my daily routine.
It’s important. I mean, I try and do the same thing but it doesn’t always work.
And there’s oftentimes when my body has just said, “You know what? You’re gonna get sick right now.”
“And you’re just gonna…”
So that you can just stay in bed and relax.
I’m like, “Alright, I’ll take it.”
So the reason that I became obsessed with you in the first place was I got, I believe it was your first book, Vegan’s… Chloe’s Vegan Kitchen. And you have your avocado pesto pasta, which is one of my favorite things ever and it’s now… Josh is obsessed with it.
So I’ve made it a million times and when you and I got together a few months ago and I learned about your obsessive nature with testing your recipes, I was just so impressed. So tell me what that’s about for you. Why are you so committed to having these recipes be just ideal?
So writing a cookbook is so much more than having good food. It’s about allowing your food to make it to somebody else’s table who lives across the country exactly as you wanted it to be. So it’s all about making it accessible and easy and inviting so that people can try it and they’re gonna have good results. I had an experience when I was younger with my mom. We were cooking out of a book and she let me, you know, “Pick out anything you wanna make.” So you look at the pictures and I’m like, “Ok, I want this one.” It was this chocolate cake tower that was beautiful. I was like, “I wanna make this.” And me and my mom set out to make it and by the time we were done it was, like, the picture was this beautiful chocolate cake tower and ours was like this pile of, like, broken cake crumbs. It was, like, dirt. Like something that you would find in the trash. And I remember just feeling so tricked by the book. I was like, “This is what it’s supposed to look like. We followed the directions. What happened?” And so I knew I never wanted people to feel that way when they’re cooking out of my book. I want them to feel a sense of accomplishment. So I work really hard on testing the recipes, like, at least 50 times each recipe to make sure that it’s perfect and that it’s easy to recreate.
Yeah. That’s the thing, that’s why your cookbook is actually the one I cook out of nearly the most because even if I’ve never tried that one before, I know it’s gonna be a home run. And I think the other thing that you do so well is you make it accessible. There’s not a million ingredients. And almost all the time I have everything in my pantry or I can run out to the farmstand or run out to the grocery store and get a few of the fresh ingredients and whip it all up. Was that something that frustrated you when you were younger? Like, just these wild ingredients in cookbooks?
Yeah, all the time. When I’m writing a cookbook, usually the first step is I’ll cook all my recipes and have, like, a taste testing party. And I invite friends and family and I make everything. And if there’s a dish that people say, “This is delicious, it’s perfect,” that is actually where the process begins for me because I’m like, “Ok, we know it tastes good. Check. Now, how can I work with this recipe and cut out some ingredients that maybe don’t need to be in there? How can… do I really have to steam the tempeh first? Can I cut out a step?” Because I know if the recipes aren’t easy, easy to shop for, inexpensive, and easy to make, busy people are not gonna have time to make them. So that’s usually a big process of trial and error and it… I can test each recipe up to 50 times just testing it once, making a change, testing it again, making another change. So it’s actually a very scientific process.
That’s so awesome. Thank you for doing it, because it really does pay off. Now I wanna talk about your new book, which is, y’all, this is… check this out. I was so excited. When your mom told me that this was your next book, Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen, I was like, “How is she gonna do this? How is she gonna make Italian food vegan and delicious?” 150 pizzas, pastas, pestos, risottos, and lots of creamy, Italian classics. This, I’ve already started cooking out of it. I’ve done at least 3 recipes and they’re killer. What inspired you to write this book?
So with a last name like Coscarelli I thought it was a natural fit. I love pasta, I just love carbs in general in any form, so this was a book that was very close to my heart and I have so many great family recipes. My dad’s family has a ton of Italian heritage and culture and it was just wonderful to be able to take some of those family heirloom recipes and be like, “I’m gonna veganize them.” Because they’re original at that point. So I also think that I get a lot of people that say, “Oh, you can’t eat Italian food because you’re vegan. What do you do about the cheese?” And so I really wanted to show people that, actually, you can eat delicious, authentic Italian food veganized.
That’s awesome. So I know, which I’m so excited about, I’ve been dreaming about this. You’ve brought some things from the cookbook for us to taste today. And, by the way, y’all, we have recipes from Chloe’s book below so you can try some of these at home. So ladies?
Oh my God. Ok, so, Chloe, tell us a little bit about what we are about to taste.
Oh my goodness. Ok, now this is what I couldn’t wait to see.
Do you guys… can you see this? Oh my God. Ok, I’m gonna shut up and let you talk.
Ok, we’ve got meatball sliders, vegan meatball sliders. So these are not like the frozen meatballs that you can buy in the grocery store that have no vegetarian. These are handmade meatballs and they’re so easy. They’re made out of mushrooms and brown rice as the base and then just like a ton of spices and garlic and onion and flavorings and delicious. And we’ve got them on a tomato sauce with a little bit of cashew mozzarella on top so it’s like no cholesterol, no animal fat, easy and healthy. And then we’ve got vegan raspberry tiramisu cupcakes, and these are actually my winning cupcakes from Cupcake Wars that I featured in my book.
Yay! Oh my God.
This has been the thing that I’ve been so wanting to try. Oh, Zachy. Thank you so much. So, sorry guys. I know sometimes it’s not fun to watch people eat, but you’ll probably see our expressions when we eat the actual vegan meatball sliders. Oh, my goodness. Oh my God. Sorry. You guys, recipe is below. This is absolutely delicious.
Good, I’m so glad you like it.
These are perfect for a party.
You could probably do these with spaghetti and meatballs as well.
Yes, you can use the meatballs, you can make sub sandwiches, you can top it on any kind of pasta. And this is just one of, like, so many different ways that you can do Italian food vegan.
Ok, I’m going right for dessert. Is that terrible? Am I horrible? And, you guys, don’t think I’m torturing my team here, because they’re actually gonna get to taste some right after. So this is our tiramisu…
Raspberry tiramisu cupcakes.
Oh my God.
And these can be done gluten free as well.
Which we have. Yup, we’ve got some gluten free ones over there.
Oh my God, this is vegan? Now I see why this is the winning cupcake.
Chloe, this is amazing. Ok, so I’m not gonna chomp in everyone’s faces anymore. Anything that you wanna leave us with before we wrap up today?
If there’s something that you believe in and something that you wanna put out into the world, even if it’s a little bit different, just go do it.
You’re amazing. Thank you so much for being so generous and bringing such beauty onto our show and, of course, into the world for everybody to enjoy. I really am happy that you came on.
Thank you. Today is my dream come true.
Yay! Party time!
Now Chloe and I would love to hear from you. What’s the biggest insight that you’re taking away from this video today? Let us know in the comments below. And if you like this video, subscribe to our channel and, of course, share it with all of your friends. And if you want even more great resources to create a business and life that you love, plus some personal insights from me that I only talk about in email, come on over to MarieForleo.com and sign up for email updates. Stay on your game and keep going for your dreams because the world needs that special gift that only you have. Thank you so much for watching and we’ll catch you next time on MarieTV.