Vegan Huggs is a gorgeous food blog, full of bright, beautiful images of delicious vegan comfort food recipes. They are full of flavor, easy to make, and designed to appeal to everyone. Today I sit down with its creator, Melissa, to learn a bit more about her background and why she cooks!
Vegan Huggs is a visual feast. Melissa’s refreshing sense of light, brightness, and joy in her photography not only makes her food look enticing but also completely approachable and doable. Launched around 2016, Vegan Huggs houses a huge archive of vegan recipes that can inspire anyone, from the most novice to the experienced cook.
I specifically love the way Melissa designs her recipes: they are simple, precise, and colorful, yet—as a food blogger myself—I know how much time, effort, and attention to detail it takes behind the scenes to showcase finished dishes in this way. So I especially appreciate all of the work that has clearly gone into each and every one of her recipes.
Melissa’s signature way of making plant-based food look so good and approachable is a significant contribution to the vegan space. Read on to learn about what chef she’d like to cook with in the kitchen, the best dish she’s ever made, and the one ingredient she can’t live without!
Interview with Vegan Huggs
When did you start to cook and what about the process kept you interested in it?
I acquired basic cooking skills while growing up, which helped me when I moved out of my family home for the first time. Coupled with cookbook recipes and frequent dining out, this combination sufficed for a while.
However, everything took a significant turn in 2007 when I decided to adopt a vegan lifestyle almost overnight. This decision turned my cooking world upside down, as everything I once knew became unfamiliar.
My initial attempts at vegan cooking were rather disheartening, especially given the limited availability of vegan food products in grocery stores and restaurants at that time. Determined to stay committed to veganism, I sought out vegan cookbooks and magazines for inspiration. My culinary journey was far from an immediate success, but I persevered and gained invaluable knowledge along the way.
Looking back, I now recognize that many of my vegan creations are far more diverse and flavorful than my pre-vegan cooking endeavors.
How do you come up with fresh and new ideas on a regular basis?
Coming up with fresh and new ideas regularly can be a bit of a creative challenge, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. Many of my creations are inspired by my past favorite dishes, which I’ve transformed into vegan versions. Achieving a successful result that matches or even surpasses the original is an immensely satisfying experience.
Of course, like anyone, I sometimes encounter creative burnout. During those moments, I allow myself a well-deserved break to recharge. Fortunately, staying inspired has become more accessible in this digital age, thanks to the vibrant food community on social media, insightful food bloggers, engaging online cooking shows, and user-friendly cooking apps.
Moreover, I find endless inspiration within the pages of cookbooks, where I love exploring diverse cuisines and experimenting with unconventional ingredients.
What influenced your love of cooking?
My passion for cooking finds its roots in my deep appreciation for delicious food and the joy of sharing it with family and friends. Food has an incredible ability to unite people together while igniting laughter, evoking tears, inspiring storytelling, and creating wonderful memories.
When I transitioned to a vegan lifestyle, I felt a disconnect between vegan cuisine and traditional dishes. Dining out became challenging due to the limited vegan options, and crafting recipes that could appeal to everyone was equally challenging.
Despite these obstacles, I was determined to create dishes that would bridge the gap and bring people together. This determination fueled my culinary journey and deepened my love for cooking.
On Veganizing Classic Dishes
Describe the best dish you’ve ever made.
This is hard to narrow down to one because I have several favorites, each for its unique reasons. However, one standout creation is my Vegan Carbonara recipe.
Carbonara has always been a personal favorite before I went vegan and I enjoyed it at some of the finest restaurants around. Its simplicity and robust flavors made it memorable to me. Initially, I doubted the possibility of replicating it without its primary ingredients – meat, cheese, and eggs.
This challenge led to numerous attempts, and after much experimentation, I succeeded in creating a vegan version that boasts smoky, cheesy, and subtle ‘eggy’ flavors, all without using any animal-based ingredients. While I can’t claim that my recipe replicates a traditional carbonara exactly, I feel that it captures the essence of this beloved dish remarkably well.
Do you have any culinary heroes?
Absolutely, Gordon Ramsay is definitely one of my culinary heroes. His dedication to culinary excellence and his remarkable ability to elevate simple ingredients to gourmet levels have always inspired me. I’ve had great fun veganizing some of his popular dishes such as his Shepherd’s Pie, Bolognese Sauce, and Spicy Sausage Rice Skillet, and I’m sure he would be quite mad about it, in a playful way, of course.
I’m also greatly inspired by some incredible vegan recipe creators like Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Gaz Oakley, Jason Wyrick, and Tal Ronnen. Their passion and mastery of flavors truly shine through in their food creations, igniting my creativity and encouraging me to push the boundaries in my own kitchen.
If you could choose anyone to cook with in the kitchen, who would it be?
If I could choose anyone to cook with in the kitchen, it would undoubtedly be Gordon Ramsay, as long as he’s willing to cook a vegan recipe with me. His expertise, creativity, and passion for food are incredibly inspiring, and I believe cooking alongside him would be an unforgettable learning experience. While I hope he wouldn’t yell at me too much, I’m confident that I could handle the challenge!
If you could throw a party for anyone, who would be there and what would the menu look like?
I don’t get to throw as many parties as I would like due to busy schedules and distance. So, If I were to throw a party, I’d love to have a gathering of close friends and family. The menu would feature a vegan feast with a variety of tapas-style dishes, a hearty vegetable paella, and bite-sized treats for dessert, creating a communal dining experience. It’s all about sharing good food with good company while creating memories.
What’s one ingredient and kitchen gadget you can’t live without?
It’s challenging to pick just one, as I have several kitchen essentials, but if I had to choose one ingredient I can’t live without it would be nutritional yeast. It adds a cheesy, umami flavor to many of my dishes, including sauces, casseroles, stews, soups, and vegan cheese recipes. It’s not only versatile but also affordable and easy to find.
Stay In Touch With Melissa
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I love the opportunity to get to know vegan bloggers better through my Why I Cook interviews. Check them out to discover new bloggers or learn more about your favorites!