I’m so excited for the chance to virtually sit down with Chef Adam Sobel, the creative force behind The Cinnamon Snail, renowned for its significant impact on the vegan food scene. In this interview, we’ll discuss his path from operating a groundbreaking vegan food truck to cultivating his flourishing food blog. We’ll also explore his innovative recipes, his commitment to sustainability and animal rights, and the unique learning experience he brings to his online cooking classes.
In the dynamic world of vegan cooking, few have made an impact quite like Chef Adam Sobel. He first gained widespread recognition with The Cinnamon Snail, one of the pioneering vegan food trucks and a brick-and-mortar location in New York City and New Jersey. He is now also known for his innovative approach to plant-based recipes showcased on his stunning website, Cinnamon Snail.
Chef Sobel’s passion and dedication to vegan cooking have proven that expertly prepared vegan food is simply great food. This approach has resonated with a diverse array of vegan and non-vegan diners, demonstrating the power that plant-based cuisine holds.
Launching The Cinnamon Snail in 2010, Chef Sobel immediately attracted a diverse following with his globally inspired, plant-based menu that reflects his cooking philosophy. Characterized by dishes that blend creativity with organic and local ingredients when possible, he successfully showcased the true potential of vegan cuisine.
The Cinnamon Snail food truck was renowned for its eclectic and innovative menu. Among its offerings were unique doughnuts with flavors like Vanilla-Bourbon Crème Brûlée and Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache, alongside savory dishes like Spicy Creole Grilled Tofu on a Toasted Baguette, Cambodian Crispy Tofu Burger, Beastmode Burger Deluxe, Al Pastor Seitan with Beer-Battered Jalapeños, and the indulgent Gochujang Burger Deluxe.
Beyond the kitchen, Chef Sobel is a vocal advocate for animal rights and sustainability. He promotes plant-based diets not just for their health benefits but also for their positive impact on the environment. His innovative approach has garnered acclaim in the culinary world and has played a significant role in inspiring a shift towards veganism in the broader food community.
In addition to his work with Cinnamon Snail, Chef Sobel shares his expertise through virtual cooking classes and live-streamed classes designed for all skill levels. These classes are unique in that they go beyond simple recipes; they also provide a deeper understanding of vegan cooking techniques and philosophies. Marked by his enthusiasm and a focus on global flavors, his teaching style offers a hands-on experience that fosters culinary creativity with his students.
These classes cover various topics, from vegan Chinese takeout to a vegan dairy crash course. He integrates his knowledge of food sustainability and ethical choices, helping his students understand how their culinary choices impact health, animals, and the planet.
Chef Adam Sobel’s contributions to vegan cuisine have made a significant mark on the vegan world and beyond. Through his blog, his groundbreaking food truck, and engaging cooking classes, Chef Sobel continually forges new paths, proving that plant-based cooking can be as rich and varied in flavor as it is ethical and sustainable.
Today, I’m thrilled to virtually sit down with Chef Sobel to talk a bit about his approach to vegan cooking, discuss his online cooking classes, and uncover what drives him to continually redefine the possibilities of vegan cuisine. Stay tuned at the end for more details about his free vegan cooking program!
Interview With Chef Adam Sobel Of The Cinnamon Snail
With your commitment to creating delicious vegan food, what key message or stereotype about vegan cuisine do you hope to debunk through your cooking and the recipes on your site, Cinnamon Snail?
My approach to presenting vegan food has always been to break the two stereotypical styles of plant-based cooking that were around when I first got started.
Back then, vegan food was always either some seriously boring steamed veggies and brown rice macrobiotic-type food that felt like it was designed for sick people to eat, or it was hyper-processed fake meat that had no exciting flavors and wasn’t particularly digestible by the human body.
Thinking about (good) vegan food as the front line for making a big impact on moving society towards non-violence, I knew it would be essential to not just cook for vegans, but mainly focus on making vegan food accessible, understandable, not weird, and crave-able to meat eaters too. To do this, the food had to be more flavorful than most non-veg food, and at the same time had to be creative without being weird or gimmicky.
Having started in professional kitchens in 2000 and later opening The Cinnamon Snail, how have these experiences shaped your approach and philosophy towards vegan cooking? What motivates you on this culinary path?
I started working in kitchens because the girl I love (who I have since had a family with and we have adult-age kids and everything!) was vegan and I really wanted to learn to make better food for her.
Working in restaurants I went vegetarian, and then vegan shortly after that when our first child was born in 2001.
The first chef I worked under, Tom Valenti, was by no means vegan but instilled philosophies about cooking for people that helped mold my cooking style over the years. He always riffed on traditional rustic cooking techniques in a creative way that never felt like it was trying too hard to be innovative just for the sake of innovation.
After the closure of your brick-and-mortar operations in 2020, a challenging yet transformative period, you transitioned into the digital realm with a food blog and online cooking classes. What aspects of this new chapter have been particularly fulfilling for you?
OMG! Let me innumerate the friggin’ ways!
First of all, much as I loved doing it, and people really loved the Cinnamon Snail trucks and restaurant, it was stressful beyond words. The sheer complexity of the menu and our operations made for constant emergencies, problem-solving, and catastrophes behind the scenes that many of our customers never knew about. From truck breakdowns, to permit issues, to the regular food service list of staffing nightmares and issues getting ingredients reliably.
It legit took having the pandemic put the world on hold to give me time to reflect on how I basically had PTSD from ten years of dealing with constant crises. During those quiet months when the world first went on lockdown, I could finally go on long walks every day with my aging doggy Mossy (who passed away a couple of years ago now, and I still miss her every day and cry about her sometimes). I finally had the time and space to reflect on everything I had learned I did and didn’t want to be doing in my profession.
My core thing never changed, which is that I really want to make an impact on helping mainstream culture move as rapidly as possible towards non-violence. But I knew there were ways I could do that that wouldn’t put me in an early grave from the stress, and where I could also help people outside of my immediate physical environment.
Having taught at culinary schools for years, the thing that always bummed me out was that both the classes were pretty pricey for people to attend, and at the same time as an instructor, I never really got paid well for those classes either.
Offering vegan cooking training online has always been to make these classes WAY more affordable (like about 1/5th the price of in-person cooking classes), and at the same time, I actually make a reasonable living off the classes. It really is a win-win!
The Galactic Megastallion Project
I still do Cinnamon Snail pop-ups which I announce on my email list, and then this past year I launched a really cool new thing that almost no one knows about (sort of on purpose). It’s called Galactic Megastallion, and it’s a creepy celestial pony-themed weekly vegan pop-up I do at our Sunday farmers market in Red Bank NJ.
The Galactic Megastallion project takes a lot of the things our customers and I loved about the Cinnamon Snail but also took away a lot of the things that sucked about it. But Adam, you are wondering, WTF are you talking about with this Megastallion thingy?
Here’s what it is and what it isn’t:
Every year Galactic Megastallion has a different theme. Last year’s was Middle Eastern, let’s see what this year is gonna be 😉. And then what’s really exciting to me, is that within each year’s theme, every week I create a 100% new menu riffing off that year’s vibe and concept.
I built a gorgeous mobile kitchen. It is small on purpose so that I can operate it with my daughters helping me instead of needing a big staff. I do all of the prep, all of the cooking, and a great deal of the cleaning afterward.
It makes for a wonderful bonding experience with my kids, serving people together every week. I am doing it 100% because I want to, not because I think it’s gonna pay my bills, and because of that I can make it unreasonably lovely, and not hold back on anything.
We operate it less like a food truck, and more like a pop-up outdoor restaurant with seating and no takeout containers. All the food is beautifully plated and designed for people to eat right then and there while it is fresh.
It has no social media. It only has a really weird website you can only find by decoding illegally installed billboards that are written in code with a hotline that gives you a cipher to decode the billboards. If you get to the website (good luck, I mean, I really didn’t make it easy), then you get a code to get onto a hidden page of the website with GPS coordinates for where to find the pop-up. Starting to see why very few people know about this project?
But it’s really on purpose. I honestly can’t stand social media and the effects social media is having on society. Also, I sort of feel icky about the idea of as a chef having to constantly hype my own food up like that. It feels dishonest. Like, if the food is so good, other people will talk about it. I shouldn’t have to ram it down people’s throats with constant Instagram posts.
Additionally, I think the way food is objectified is pornographic and is creating a terrible new food culture, and relationship people have with eating. So I thought for this new project, fuck it, let me see if I can create something that doesn’t rely on all of that for marketing. It’s all time I can focus on making the food amazing instead of being a social media manager or whatever.
Chef Sobel’s Online Vegan Cooking Classes
How do you capture the essence and hands-on nature of your cooking in the format of online classes? What is your favorite class to teach?
I have designed my class to be helpful for all kinds of learners. Some people don’t even cook along. I encourage them to grab a yummy cup of tea, and just watch the class like a demo and they can ask questions throughout.
Some people cook along with the entire class, and some just cook one or two of the dishes. I try to pace it in a way where people can keep up, and encourage people who plan to cook along to mise en place (like have all their ingredients measured, some things pre-diced, washed etc.) in advance so that the class time is efficient and we can cover a ton of great stuff together.
Teaching all kinds of stuff is fun, but the classes my students have really freaked out about the most are my seitan masterclass, vegan cheese school, and cake donut workshop, where we cover a lot of the donuts people loved from the truck.
I include recordings of the classes for everyone who registers so that it’s no stress if they miss the class, or if they want to rewatch and review it.
I also make the recordings of all of my previous classes available for purchase on my website and offer them at a discounted rate versus the live classes.
As a chef who showcases a unique culinary perspective on your blog, could you highlight a few of the recipes you’re particularly fond of and describe what makes them special to you?
I have shared a lot of stuff both fan favorites from my food truck and restaurants, family faves, and lots of Southeast Asian, Indian, and Turkish recipes I picked up while traveling (I spend a LOT of time in India and Asia).
People really love my vegan chicken noodle soup, and I love sharing a variation of the escarole and white bean soup my mom always makes. It’s one of the few vegan dishes she makes for my family and we love the heck out of it. So to share my slight tweak on her recipe makes me really feel great.
Classics from my food truck like blue corn pancakes with piñon butter, and apple cider donuts, are a great way for me to help people who miss the food truck still get to experience the recipes they fell in love with.
One of the things that I am especially proud to share is a complete selection of Sattvic food, and prasadam which is suitable for Ekadashi. My family and I are Hare Krishnas and this is how we eat at home. It’s a super under-represented style of cooking, so to share more with folks about it, as well as the process of offering bhoga, is really satisfying for me. It gives people a tiny window into my own personal life, which is one of the things I like about having a blog like this.
As you continue to push the boundaries of vegan cuisine, what future projects or ideas are you most excited about? What culinary challenges or innovations are on the horizon for you?
I have been doing culinary consulting and vegan recipe development for other people’s food businesses all around the world. It’s a great opportunity for me to do what I love the most (creating vegan food and mentoring vegan businesses), without all the headaches of being a boss to a zillion employees, and worrying about if the price of flour goes up 20 more cents, how will I pay my bills?
I love traveling to create menus, help people open their restaurants, get their teams trained, and know that there is more vegan food being served everywhere that I KNOW KICKS ASS. Because that’s the thing. If we are going to win more people over to the vegan dark side, the vegan food we make has got to blow everything they ever ate before out of the damn water!
Upgrade Your Vegan Cooking Skills From Chef Sobel Himself!
If you’re feeling inspired by Chef Sobel’s culinary creativity as we are, here’s a little something extra. Chef Sobel has put together a vegan cooking immersion program – totally free. It’s a fantastic way to dive deeper into vegan cooking, learning new skills and ideas straight from the chef himself. It’s perfect for anyone keen on spicing up their kitchen routine, vegan or not.
Curious to see how this could transform your kitchen adventures? Access the Free Vegan Cooking Immersion Program here. 🔥 It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn from one of the best.
Connect With Chef Adam Sobel
Sign up for The Cinnamon Snail email newsletter to receive new recipes, resources, and information about upcoming pop-ups!
Hungry for more? Check out Chef Sobel’s Cookbook, Street Vegan, for amazing, creative recipes.
Want to learn more about other great vegan chefs and cooks? Check out more of my Why I Cook interviews!