Richard Melville Hall, otherwise known as Moby, may have a slew of ethereal '90s hits to his name, but in recent years, he's been making headlines for his staunch support of veganism. Not only did the smooth-headed musician make his authorial debut with Gristle: From Factory Farms to Food Safety (Thinking Twice About the Meat We Eat), a collection of essays from people in the food industry ($10; amazon.com)—he founded TeaNY, a cafe with a vegan-focused menu (not to mention a lengthy list of teas) on N.Y.C.'s Lower East Side. (Though he’s since severed ties with the establishment.) Now, the budding restaurateur has taken his efforts bicoastal by opening a brand-new cruelty-free food haven, Little Pine, near his new home in L.A. In advance of the official opening, we spoke with Moby about his new project, the pros of being vegan, and what's on his Thanksgiving menu.
You've been a vocal animal-rights activist for years. What made you initially decide to become a vegan?
By being a vegan, you live longer, you reduce your chances of getting cancer by about 50 percent, you reduce your chances of getting diabetes by 75 percent, you reduce climate change by 25 percent, you reduce rainforest deforestation by 80 percent, and, in the process, you save billions of animals. But if people want to be vegan, that's great, if they don't, it's their choice. I don't judge people's personal choices. I believe that, within the next 50 years, the world is going to transition into a prominently vegan world—from a health perspective, a cost perspective, a resource perspective, and a human perspective, the way we're eating now is unsustainable.
Why open another restaurant?
It certainly wasn't about getting rich. Objectively speaking, opening a restaurant is one of the dumbest things a person could ever do. They're expensive, incredibly time-consuming, stressful, and difficult. For me, it's about satisfying a lot of my ostensibly disparate interests—organic food, veganism, architecture, community, and service—in one place. All of the stress is worth the satisfaction of creating a beautiful space that keeps with my principles and ideals.
The interior has a Scandinavian feel, with white and natural wood. What influenced the design?
The building is a post-Art Deco building from the '40s, so I wanted it to feel very unpretentious and welcoming. Taking a Scandinavian, mid-century modern approach made it feel warm and homey.
How often do you plan to be there?
It's about a mile from my house and it's running 16 hours a day, 7 days a week—we open at 7:30 a.m. and close at midnight. I plan on being there at least two or three times a day. I wouldn't go through the trouble of opening it if I didn't want to hang out there.
Will there be Moby music playing?
I have some really strict music rules, and one of them is that my music will never be played. I want the focus to be on the food. I also don't want the music to ever be louder than a conversation, because it drives me crazy when I go to a restaurant and the music is so loud that you can't talk. Also, no loud techno, hip-hop, or metal—they're not nice to listen to when you're trying to drink a glass of organic red wine and eat a nice vegan dish.
L.A. has a very large vegan population. What do you like about living there versus N.Y.C.?
To a large extent, L.A. has become the vegan capital of the world. So many animal welfare organizations have moved here, and there are so many vegan restaurants—even upscale ones like Crossroads, where Bill Clinton, Oprah, Paul McCartney, and Johnny Depp eat on a regular basis. People generally tend to be a little more open-minded when it comes to unconventional approaches to food, ecology, and spirituality. Even the non-vegans here are interested in eating healthier, looking better, and living longer. Also, we have access to produce year-round that the rest of the world has to get flown in.
What's your favorite thing on Little Pine's menu?
I'm pretty proud of our vegan cassoulet. I lived in France a long time ago, and it was one of my favorite things to eat while I was there. Traditionally, cassoulet is the heaviest, most meaty of all the French foods, so our challenge was to make a much lighter and more interesting vegan version. Ours is tomato-based and has white beans, garlic-toasted breadcrumbs, vegan sausage, roasted potatoes, and polenta cubes. It's taken months of experimentation, but we finally nailed it.
For some carnivores, becoming a vegan can seem daunting. Any tips?
The options are remarkable now versus 28 years ago when I started out. You could eat anything from spaghetti and tomato sauce with a salad to rice and beans, tacos, or Thai food. A lot of people forget that.
Thanksgiving is coming up, which is obviously very meat-centric. What do you plan to eat?
Once you replace the turkey, almost everything else can easily be made vegan. I'll be making sautéed tempeh with a rosemary-mushroom gravy, dirty mashed potatoes, and homemade cranberry sauce with a little orange peel. I'm not very good at baking, so I plan on going out and picking up an organic vegan pumpkin pie.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.