I met Jason through Eco-Vegan Gal at this year’s Vegan Beer Fest and was instantly amazed at how down to earth and friendly he was. Of course I knew who he was (the guy with the vegan cooking show on network TV) so part of me was afraid he would have that typical Hollywood attitude, but not even in the slightest. Jason is kind, incredibly funny and super passionate about health and veganism. I feel very lucky to call him my friend. Read on to learn a little bit more about J-Wro…
You have your own TV show and a successful YouTube channel, where does the inspiration come from for your recipes?
My inspiration comes from either necessity or boredom, honestly. I often think “what’s something that hasn’t been done yet… or hasn’t been done well… or healthy enough?” That happens almost as often as “Man, I’m sick of everything in this fridge… I’m going shopping!” Honestly, going to the Farmers Market, the natural foods store or hanging with other vegans provides a neverending wealth of inspiration in terms of new ingredients, cool products and unique food ideas. I just try to be an open channel for creativity and inspiration to flow through. I actually much prefer doing improvisational cooking than following or formulating a recipe (which may explain why it’s taken so long for me to finish my first book!) It’s coming in 2014, I promise thee.
Did you eat your veggies growing up?
Yeah. I was a good boy… most of the time. I’ve always loved fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. I never really had a horrible phase where I ate only meat, sugar and white flour (like a lot of American kids… er… adults do…) The only things I didn’t like as a child were tomatoes and olives. I even remember saying “I’ll NEVER EAT THOSE!” Little did I know that they’d become part of my love affair with all things from the garden. In fact, having a garden in the backyard of my childhood home in Detroit certainly helped to foster my love for and connection with fresh plant-based ingredients. My Mom still has an epic herb garden and a couple of fig trees.
What is your most cherished food memory?
That’s a tough one. I’d have to say the huge family Holiday dinners. Every year, the family would gather at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Detroit for an epic feast like it was going to be the last meal on Earth. I have such sweet memories of delicious home-cooked foods made with pure love. When I became a vegan in 1998, my Mom and I started the first of many vegan Thanksgiving dinners that have continued in many forms even to this day. The love, joy and excitement are still there for sure – and now we’re using amazing, healthy vegan ingredients to boot. Grams and Gramps Wrobel would be sho’ nuff’ proud.
Most difficult food to work with and why?
Irish moss. It’s finicky, inconsistent and if you use too much of it (even a smidgen) it can turn your Chocolate Mousse into a stanky seaweed disaster. It’s an amazing ingredient (and is actually whole-food seaweed) that can add a super smooth texture and “fluffiness” to a recipe, a la, mousse or pie filling. However, if you don’t prepare it correctly or use too much of it – things can get scary and out of balance really quick.
You’re asked to be on Vegan Iron Chef, who do you want to showdown with?
At first, I wanted to pick someone who I could beat the parsnips out of. But on second thought, I want a challenge. A big challenge with a rewarding opponent. I’m picking Anthony Bourdain for several reasons. Because he’s talked smack about vegan food for too damn long and needs to get schooled by a pro. In addition, he’s actually a very accomplished chef whom I respect for his wit and sense of humor. I think it would be glorious to go blade-to-blade with him in Kitchen Stadium on my terms with strictly vegan ingredients. If we are talking a vegan chef, I’m picking Matthew Kenney. He’s one of my culinary mentors and I had the pleasure of working for him in New York. I have tremendous respect and admiration for him – and would relish the challenge to have a superfood showdown with him.
What is your favorite vegan restaurant of all time?
I just can’t pick one. Impossible! So I’ll give you my top three of all time: Pure Food and Wine in New York City, Millennium in San Francisco and Shojin in Los Angeles.
Tell us a joke.
You’ve been warned. Brace yourself now.
What do you call a vegan with diarrhea? A salad shooter.
Hahaha, eeewwwwww! Thanks for taking the time to be interrogated Jason!!