Michael Chiarello Book Signing

When I saw that Michael Chiarello was going to be singing copies of his new book, “Bottega”, at the Williams-Sonoma store in Beverly Hills, I was a little nervous about going.  If you’re familiar with my blog, then you know how much I love veganizing his recipes.  I’ve featured a handful of my favorites here, but there are plenty of others that I make all the time and have yet to post about.

His was one of the only shows I used to watch on Food Network (the other one was Jamie At Home), and I was worried that meeting him might be a let-down.  He’s by far my favorite non-vegan chef, and that’s a lot to live up to.  I’m not one of those people who likes to meet celebrities.  Maybe it’s because I have enough friends who work in the industry to know that the hero-worship of them is often misplaced.  Sometimes our ideas of who people are can be better than the real thing, and I didn’t want that ruined.

Thankfully, after some encouragement from Ryan and realizing that it was a great opportunity to meet someone I really admire, I decided to get make the trek over to Beverly Hills and check it out.  I have to say that I’m so, so glad I did!  Chef Chiarello couldn’t have been nicer, was happy to pose for photos, and really took the time to talk to each person who had come out to see him (as you can see below).

I explained that I was vegan (but that he was my favorite chef), and he asked me if I’d seen him cook for Zooey Deschanel (on Top Chef Masters).  He talked about what a challenge that was for him.  I told him that I was yelling recipes at the screen, and listed off a bunch of my favorites of his that I’ve successfully veganized.  He flipped through the book and marked a pasta recipe for me that is vegan (with the omission of the cheese garnish), and told me a few stories about how his wife, who used to be vegan.  He teased me just the teensiest bit, but also said that he knows it’s a really healthy lifestyle.

Here’s the signature from the book…

Now, since this is a vegan blog, I want to note that his books are far from vegan lest you decide to check them out and are shocked at some of the recipes.  Many of them are vegetarian, and as I’ve said, can be easily veganized.  I learned a lot from watching his cooking show, both about techniques and ingredients.  I just chose to fast forward through the segments that were only about meat.  Likewise, I tend to just skip over those sections of the books unless they have a sauce or marinade that might work with with seitan or tempeh.

I know that some people who are vegan aren’t comfortable consuming anything that isn’t 100% vegan (and by consume I’m also referring to reading, watching, etc.), and I absolutely don’t begrudge them that.  I have no interest in telling anyone else how to be vegan, and I hope that I can expect the same in return.  I do just want to make the point about the value of venturing outside of vegan circles, though.  Here’s a chef that is very far from vegan, but he’s aware of catering to a vegetarian community because of the demand he’s seen from that community.  I can probably safely bet that I was the only vegan at that book signing.  But by being there and talking to a prominent chef about my veganism, I can hope that I raised more awareness that we’re out there, and that we shouldn’t be discounted by the mainstream food industry.

Of course I have no delusions that any chefs are going to become vegan because they meet someone who is, but the more that we make our views known, the better.  It certainly can’t hurt!  And the benefit for us is getting to veganize recipes like these from “Bottega”…

“Ancient-Grain Polenta ‘Under Glass’, with Mushrooms and Balsamic Sauce”
“Cauliflower Fritto”
“Zinfandel Spaghettini with Spicy Rapini”
“Tagliatelle with Bread Crumbs, Mint, and Tomato Carpaccio”
“Five Onion-Baised Cavolo Nero”
“Roasted Branch of Brussells Sprouts with Fennel Spice”
“Zucchini Spaghettini”
“Carrot, Onion, and Eggplant Caponata”

I can’t wait to try these recipes!  Man oh man, do I love food.

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15 Responses to “Michael Chiarello Book Signing”

  1. That’s so fun! I loved watching him on Top Chef Masters. I am also very inspired by a lot of non-vegan recipe sources…I think when you love food, you can appreciate a good recipe (vegan or non) and enjoy the challenge of veganizing it. Can’t wait to see what you make from the new book!

  2. That’s fantastic! I also love venturing outside vegan circles and challenging myself to veganize something great (and which often turns into something entirely new!). I love your blog and I can’t wait to see some of your vegan versions of Michael’s recipes!

  3. I agree with you about venturing out of vegan circles, we have to make our presence known, raise awareness and remind them of a possible clientèle should they be willing to experiment more with the ingredients. Have fun with veganising his recipes! I ‘m new to your blog by the way and I LOVE it, your recipes are fantastic!!

  4. I also love reading and taking ideas from non vegan recipe books. I am a big fan of Nigel Slater and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall here in the UK. So glad meeting Michael was far from a let down:)

  5. That’s so great! I had a similar experience last August when I got to go to a book signing by Rick Bayless! I had loved him from his TV show and his role in Top Chef: Masters, and I had successfully veganized plenty of ideas from his show and books.

    I asked him how easy it would be to find something vegan at one of his restaurants and he was very supportive saying, “No problem at all. We can adapt whatever the vegetarian offering is or you let us know and the kitchen will do something about it.” He’s such a nice guy.

  6. Hi, Andy! I would LOVE to meet Rick Bayless. He seems like the nicest person, and I really liked how he handled making vegan food on Top Chef Masters.

  7. Hi, Eimear! I’ll have to check out those authors!

  8. Hi, Roselie. Totally agree about making our presence known, and thanks so much for the compliments!

  9. As much as I have huge respect for anyone who writes a vegan cookbook, I have to admit that all of my favourites are non-vegan. I think that as long as I’m not eating meat personally, then I’m still happy to support the work of someone whose recipes inspire me to make delicious vegan food. I’m also a sucker for the amazing photography and colour pictures that come with high-budget books, and unfortunately that doesn’t happen with most vegan books. But I have high hopes for the future… :)

  10. hey!
    i have no idea who this guy is, but i have many non veg cookbooks, it’s so fun to veganize em, and i agree, there’s a ton to learn about techniques and cooking within em.

    xo
    kittee

  11. that sounds like soooo much fun! Also, you look so lovely! :)

  12. Thanks for sharing such a great experience! How fun! I’ve never seen his show, but now I really want to.

  13. Hi, he really is as sweet as he was when you met him. He has a gift of charisma that other chefs I worked for don’t have. It may be years of hard work and becoming top dog in the dog-eat-dog industry, but I strongly admire his ability to stay cool when everything seems to fall apart. Send me an e-mail, and we can chat more. :)

  14. Hi, old school! That’s so good to hear! I’ll definitely shoot you an email. :)

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    [...] with Garlic and Sage a couple times now, and I think I’m finally getting the hang of this Michael Chiarello recipe.  The first time I made these I followed the recipe exactly, but I found my skillet very [...]