From five-minute recipe tutorials to full-blown kitchen dance parties, Laura Miller, the quirky chef with food and travel video network Tastemade, is taking the culinary world by storm. Hell-bent on proving that her titular catchphrase "raw, vegan, not gross" does indeed ring true, the 32-year-old personality makes veganism approachable with her dry wit and hilarious gags—so much so that she's already attracted more than 100,000 followers on social media. We caught up with the rising Internet sensation and got the low-down on her debut cookbook, Raw. Vegan. Not Gross ($17; available for pre-order on amazon.com), her kitchen essentials, and the book that changed her life. Here's an excerpt from our conversation.
How did you first get involved with Tastemade?
Eric Slatkin, a director, had profiled me and my business [Sidesaddle Kitchen], to help promote the farmers' stand I was working at [Underground Market in San Francisco]. He ended up working for Tastemade and asked me to come do a series for them. It turned into four seasons.
Most of your recipes are raw vegan. Are you a raw vegan yourself?
Not exclusively. My diet is strictly vegetarian and gluten-free. I eat a lot of raw vegan food, but if my niece hands me a cheese stick, I'm going to take a bite of it.
So how did you fall into veganism?
I got into it when I was about 20. I was eating junk food and felt really crappy—my metabolism was all messed up. I had never even heard of raw food until I discovered Raw Food/Real World by Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis ($27; amazon.com). It really changed my whole mindset about food and made eating a much more positive experience.
What's your go-to raw vegan meal?
Basically anything wrapped in a chard leaf. For breakfast, you can make a banana and almond butter in a chard leaf, which is actually a recipe that's in my cookbook. It sounds like it would be really gross, but for some reason, the combination of flavors is really good, and it's super portable. You can hold it while you’re driving or on the subway. And then for lunch you can put avocado and veggies in there and you’re good to go.
What are three kitchen tools you can't live without?
I only make simple stuff, so I just need sharp knives (like these by Victorinox, $56; osograndeknives.com), a microplane grater ($12; amazon.com) because I like to zest a lot of lemons, and, I really love a good spiralizer (OXO, $40; amazon.com). Also, cheesecloth (Pure, $7; amazon.com) is perfect for making almond milk and raw vegan cheese, or even a big batch of herbal iced tea.
You've become known for modeling wearable fruit pieces on the show. When did that start and why?
I started taking weird photos on Instagram, then it turned into this really great art project that I've continued doing for a couple years now. I spend 10 hours at my computer and if I get really frustrated or stuck, I go and make a necklace out of strawberries and take pictures. What’s cool is once I started doing it, I got to make them bigger and more obnoxious than usual.
You also have your own YouTube channel, Raw. Vegan. Not Gross. What can we expect from this upcoming season?
This season is very recipe-focused. I felt like I had to deliver on that since there’s been a bit of a hiatus and a lot of people have been emailing me, so I was able to use the feedback to come up with recipes for this season, which has been really fun. The first episode we put up was a chocolate and raspberry mousse birthday cake which was one of the most popular requests.