There are so many fabulous food bloggers out there that I adore because they constantly inspire me with their original recipes, beautiful instagram feeds and diy creations. I love keeping up with their lives through their blogs, and getting a better understanding of the way they think as well as what drives them to constantly create. My most favorite bloggers are those that I want to sit down with over a good vegan meal after reading their blogs and get to know better. Since that’s not always possible, I came up with a column on Olives for Dinner called Why I Cook that virtually allows both me and you the chance to get to know great bloggers better.
In this column, I’ll ask some of my favorite bloggers questions around, well … why they cook! If you don’t already know about these noteworthy bloggers, you’ll be introduced to some great ones and, if you are already fans, you’ll learn something new about them here! This week, I’m excited to feature Timothy Pakron (aka Mississippi Vegan), who is a chef, forager and artist with a massive instagram following and a cookbook due out next year.
The first thing that drew me to Timothy’s work was of course his stunning, plant-focused photography, but what keeps me coming back is his completely approachable style and infectious enthusiasm for using beautiful, whole food ingredients. From these Happy Crab Cakes to this Loaded Potato Salad and his Corn Chowder, Timothy takes me back to and reminds me of some of the sensory memories I associate with from growing up in the southeast. I love how he pays homage to southern traditions while also managing to inject his unique style and viewpoint into each finished dish. The passion and care that Timothy’s pours into his cooking always shines through, leaving me curious about what he’ll do next.
When did you start to cook and what about the process itself kept you interested in it?
I began cooking when I was 13. It was a lot of baked goods like cookies. I had my mother show me how to make gumbo when I was about 15 and then I became interested in cooking one-pot meals like a good marinara, soups, and stews. That led to things like meatloaf and casseroles. I always had a knack for it and I always enjoyed it. Once I was in boarding school, I became friends with the day students that attended my school. On the weekends, I would stay with them and cook for their families. That is when I realized I liked cooking for groups of people.
(Timothy’s shot of vegetables before they were put into a gumbo.)
Describe your process of recipe development. How do you come up with fresh and new ideas on a regular basis?
Coming up with fresh ideas is very easy for me. That’s not the hard part at all. Sitting down, organizing my thoughts, and documenting it correctly so that it is approachable and correct is what is difficult for me. But I am definitely getting the hang out if now that I am doing it more often. My key goals with recipe development are to truly create recipes that I myself eat, would want to eat, and that are approachable while also being original.
What influenced your love of cooking?
Well, I have always been a creative person and therefore have always loved keeping my hands busy. As an artist, I am constantly playing with ideas, organizing compositions, utilizing colors and textures. It just so happens that cooking utilizes all of these ideas … with the result being edible! Using nature by harvesting produce and sourcing wild ingredients is very much a part of the process with the style of cooking that I do, so it ends up being incredibly dynamic and meaningful.
(Red Walnuts shot by Timothy)
Define your own style of cooking.
So here are some characteristics of my cooking: being connected with where the ingredients come, telling a story with the recipe, highlighting what is plant or mushroom based about traditional non-vegan recipes, pushing simple recipes to the fullest by emphasizing texture and flavor combinations. I would say my cooking style is personal and passionate.
(Rosemary Pecan Bars, shot by Timothy)
Describe the best dish you’ve ever made.
Hmm, that’s tough. I would say some of my finest work is a good homemade batch of gumbo. I’ve also made a tri-layered cheese grit parfait with heirloom corn grits, smoked macadamia cheese, slow roasted cherry tomato jam, topped with shiitake bacon and green onions. They were outrageous!
(Timothy’s Cheese Grit Parfait)
If your current self could give your past self one piece of sage cooking advice, what would it be and why?
Write down a detailed recipe of what you are making and document it. That would be so helpful at this point while writing my book. Haha!
Do you have any culinary heroes?
I love Nigella Lawson. Her demeanor and approach to cooking is so, well, fabulous. She makes cooking and eating so sexy and fun, I just adore her. I love Jamie Oliver because of his energy and passion—the amount of work that he has done in the food world is so epic as well, and very admirable. Of course, Julia Child is just the most endearing chefs to have ever lived. I could watch her cook for hours. In the vegan world, Isa Chandra (who I am lucky to call my best friend!) is prolific in the fact that she has over 10 cookbooks, all vegan, and owns two different vegan restaurants. She inspires me daily. In regards to respect of ingredients, Amy Chaplin, who also is a friend, has one of the most lovely cookbooks out there. Her connection to using high-quality and healthy ingredients is outstanding and very inspirational.
If you could choose anyone to cook with in the kitchen, who would it be?
If you could throw a party for anyone, who would be there and what would the menu look like?
I’ve been wanting to cook for my gang of foodie Instagram girlfriends for some time now! This list includes @tastyasheck, @bettinas_kitchen, @shisodelicious, @ritaserano, and @adelasterfoodtextures. I think it would be so special to have them all together in the same room. I’d make my delicious cucumber salad, heirloom corn grit parfait, wild mushroom gumbo, and bananas fosters for dessert!