Culinary publication Bon Appétit has recently hired its first vegan chef, Chrissy Tracey to be a part of the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen, the famed publication’s popular online channel featuring instructional recipe videos, which in 2020 came under fire for its lack of onscreen and chef talent diversity.
Take a look at the recent Bon Appétit digital pages and you will find a fresh and plant-based perspective, in large part thanks to Chef Chrissy Tracey. After the recent backlash, the Conde Nast publication made a commitment to increase diversity not only in their writing and office team but also across their content. Bringing Chef Tracey on board was a key part of this plan, though her first ‘job introduction’ was fairly unusual.
In an interview with Connecticut Magazine, Tracey shared how she caught Bon Appétit’s attention. after the George Floyd incident, companies were on social media doing racial audits. Some were posting apologies or saying ‘here’s what we want to do differently.’ “There was a lot of hate and hostility rather than an open mind and a willingness to learn and grow with the company and move forward. I’ve always been a fan of Bon Appétit and taken recipes from their website and veganised them. So all I did was comment on the post.”
Chef Tracey wrote that it is important to understand where one has gone wrong and learn from mistakes. The comment caught Bon Appétit’s attention and they subsequently contacted her to work with them. “It was a big decision for them. I wouldn’t say it was a big decision for me.”
In an introductory video on her website, Tracey shared that her love for cooking started at around the age of six years old, when she realised that food was an art form. As a little girl, she was running a mud pie factory in her backyard, pretending to cook even before she was old enough to be in the kitchen.
“There was a three-month period where I decided to experiment with meat and it showed me something that was really interesting: It’s really hard to recreate the flavors of meat. You’re dealing with something that’s its own animal. When I look at my weekly meal-prep clients that I have, 95 percent of them are omnivores. It’s not vegan people buying my plant-based service. That’s what I initially thought it would be. It’s just meat-eaters trying to eat a little bit less meat.Chef Chrissy Tracey
Speaking to The Vegan Review, Tracey mentioned that she has always looked at food from a sustainable perspective and that climate change was a huge part of her becoming vegan.
The young chef also shared that her parents raised all seven kids on a vegetarian diet. She herself became vegan a year and a half ago. “It’s always been a part of me, eating a plant-based diet. It’s been ingrained. There was a three-month period of my life where I decided, you know what, I’m gonna try meat and see what those flavours are like. It was like an experimental thing that I did. I know that’s not great, but I’m actually glad I did that because I think it allowed me to learn how to recreate certain textures and flavors that would be more appealing to non-vegans.”
Tracey explains that the meat-eating experiment taught her a valuable lesson about flavour. “It’s really hard to recreate the flavors of meat. You’re dealing with something that’s its own animal. When I look at my weekly meal-prep clients that I have, 95 percent of them are omnivores. It’s not vegan people buying my plant-based service. That’s what I initially thought it would be. It’s just meat-eaters trying to eat a little bit less meat.“
Before she turned plant-based, she started her own company, Chrissys, a vegetarian and vegan catering business in Connecticut, which also offers a meal delivery service called Vegan Vibes Meal Prep. Sustainability is a key part of the company’s ethos-even the containers used for the meals are made of compostable materials derived from plant matter. Giving back too: every week, Vegan Vibes donates dozens of meals to food-insecure families in their community, underlining her commitment to making plant-based food accessible to all people, regardless of budget level.
In a conversation with Veg News, Tracey mentioned that most of what she learned is from her mom and dad cooking Jamaican-style food at home. “I also learned a great deal from my best friend’s mother who lived next door and was from Argentina. Culinary school wasn’t an option I was willing to explore due to the fact that it would mean I’d have to cook meat, and that’s something I really didn’t want to do. I went to school for business and technology instead.”
While Tracey was confident in how how to bring out the flavours in her food and make plant-based food taste really good, to master techniques and cooking processes, she enrolled in the Food Future Institute by plant-based chef and restaurateur Matthew Kenney.
When it comes to meat alternatives, Tracey works a lot with seitan, made of vital wheat gluten (VWG) and chickpeas. VWG is a protein that is sourced from the berry of the wheat plant. When it is mixed with wet components like water, a meat-like texture forms when kneaded. On her website, the company claims that each seitan serving averages 26 grams of protein per serving. Most of her other plant-based alternatives are created using tofu, chickpeas, and other beans. She mixes these with nutritional yeast for a higher protein value and the essential B vitamins that can be hard for vegans to source.
In a recent interview with Veg News, Chef Tracey discusses her hopes for the future of Bon Appétit and how her presence will bring the deserved attention to vegan cuisine. “The future may not be 100 percent vegan, but it’s going to include more plant-based recipes and I’m excited to be a part of that. I’m really hoping that with such a large platform, I will be able to revolutionise the way people think of vegan food. I’m really passionate about encouraging those in my community to eat more healthy, plant-based food.”
Slowly but steadily she is determined to bring change in the mainstream media regarding vegan cuisine by raising awareness and providing tasty plant-based recipes and meal plans.
All images are courtesy of Chrissy Tracey’s Facebook page.