Gaz Oakley, known online as Avant Garde Vegan, has stormed the internet since he first started posting pictures of his vegan creations on Instagram in 2016.
“I’m being labelled as an author, influencer, YouTuber – I’ve got two cookbooks which seems crazy to me! I guess you could call me an influencer because I post stuff and influence people.”
We sat down with Gaz and AdeZ, the dairy-free and vegan smoothie company, to hear about how the talented chef went from big meat-eater to vegan sensation and how he converted his parents in the process, too.
How did the Avant Garde Vegan brand start?
“Before I was vegan, I worked in a professional kitchen as a trained chef. I started working in that environment at a very young age, which took its toll on me after a while. I decided to take a few years out of the industry, and then it wasn’t until I turned vegan that I rediscovered my passion for cooking and got creative in the kitchen again.
"I went vegan for three main reasons: I watched a few documentaries about the movement, and that's what planted the seed in my head. The main thing for me was, and remains, animal welfare. I wanted to stop the cruelty that goes on, so the best thing for me to do was to go vegan. The environmental impact of animal agriculture was also a huge driving factor in my decision. And thirdly, for my own health and wellbeing.
“I started posting on Instagram because I wanted to show people how exciting my food was looking without using any meat, dairy or eggs. I suppose my background in the kitchen helped my profile gather momentum because I'm good at dressing food up to look great. The numbers started to grow and grow from there, and so I looked into branching out onto YouTube. The rest has been a whirlwind!”
Tell us about your books?
“My first cookbook is called Vegan100 and it’s the sort of cookbook that I wish I had when I first went vegan. It’s a collection of recipes that I was testing and experimenting with in my parents’ kitchen for a while and I’m really pleased with it and it’s doing really well.
“The second book is a completely vegan Christmas recipe book that will be out later this year… Watch this space!”
Christmas 2018 is going to be LIT ���� pre order now, link in bio. Over the moon to be releasing my 2nd book. Out September/October 2018. Full of show stopping Holiday recipes. I want people to have a cruelty free Christmas this year �� thanks for the support @gazoakley ������ ps. See bts of making this book on my YouTube. Also sorry for mention Christmas in May �� • • • • • • #vegan #vegans #vegano #veganfood #vegeansofinstagram #veganlife #vegansfoodshare #vegganlifestyle #veganism #veganfoodporn #foodporn #foodie #food #cardiffvegans #welshvegans #cardiff #wales #vegetarian #avocado #vegancake #avocado #vegancommunity #bestofvegan #letscookvegan #veganguy #avantgardevegan #vegan100
What’s your favourite recipe from Vegan100?
“It’s hard to choose between them, they’re all like my children in that sense.
“There is one recipe which is on the back page of the book: my sriracha meatballs. They’re made from tofu which has got a bit of a bad rep for being bland, but I jazz it up and make it really exciting. They’re filled with spring onion, ginger, garlic and chilli so they’re really aromatic and flavoursome and you serve them with noodles, more sriracha and grilled veg.”
What are some simple vegan swaps people can make at home to test the waters with veganism?
“The basics would be replacing your milk with non-dairy milk. There’s such an array out there now - and some of them have great health benefits, too.
“You can replace scrambled eggs with tofu, which you can crumble and gently fry with some seasoning and it tastes and looks the same.
What about vegan power snacks?
“Fruits, bananas, nuts and seeds all make brilliant power snacks. You can get really great, convenient bars made out of nuts and seeds and oats and things like that. Dates are great sources of energy too.
“There are loads of brilliant snacks now – especially in Asda. There’s a whole Free From aisle where you can go and grab little snacks, sauces, desserts – anything.”
How do you sway meat eaters into trying vegan food?
“I was a big meat-eater before going vegan and so were my parents who are both vegans now (my dad’s 90% vegan - he often eats out with work and sometimes has to eat what’s available).
“I suppose something that really helped to turn my mum vegan was when I discovered seitan. It’s a protein-rich meat substitute made from gluten. It takes well to seasoning, meaning you can flavour it however you like, and it’s got a really satisfying, meaty texture.
“Not only did it help to replace meat in lots of family dishes, but it was very exciting for me too from an experimental standpoint. I could make vegan chicken, including guilty pleasures like fast-food-style fried chicken, fillet steak, Wellington, sausages, all sorts. You can make some really good meat replacements with seitan and - it's easy to make at home, really tasty and surprising in texture – so it’s really good for introducing meat-free options to meat eaters.”
Did your parents turn vegan because of your influence?
“I guess if I couldn’t persuade them with my cooking then I’d have no hope! But luckily it did the job and they eat vegan all the time now so that’s great.
“I have a sister too and I’m trying to persuade her, I think she’s on the verge!”
Interested in giving veganism a go? Find our 7-day vegan meal plan here, and our full range of Free From products, including a wide range of vegan products, here.
To find some of Gaz’s delicious vegan recipes, check out his YouTube channel here. Make sure to stock up on everything you need to make his creations at home, including Gaz's favourite, tofu, online or pop into your local store.