Before the cookbooks, restaurants and “Cupcake Wars”-winning sweets, Chloe Coscarelli was a teenager in California learning how to eat vegan.
“I didn’t understand why we were eating animals,” says Coscarelli, 30, who has been vegan for nearly half her life. “When I started exploring vegan cuisine with my mom, I realized how delicious it was and how much uncharted territory there was with this cuisine.”
Today, Coscarelli is a leading voice in what she calls the “vegan revolution,” bringing her cooking to food festivals across the country and esteemed culinary destinations such as the James Beard House.
“I believe every single commercialized food product, whether it’s restaurants or television or books, every type of cuisine is going to have its moment with the vegan revolution,” she says.
She has cupcakes to thank for helping launch her culinary career. In 2010, Coscarelli took first place on an episode of the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars,” beating out the competition with her vegan cupcakes, including a chocolate strawberry shortcake.
That creation is among the more than 100 recipes featured in Coscarelli’s latest cookbook, “Chloe Flavor: Saucy, Crispy, Spicy, Vegan” ($27.99, Clarkson Potter).
Her fourth cookbook in six years — and first hardcover release — has the chef “pushing my cuisine a little bit further,” she says.
“So much has changed just in terms of veganism from my first book to this book,” she says. “The home cook is a little bit more advanced now in terms of the awareness of veganism.”
With more products that cater to a vegan lifestyle on grocery shelves — as well as more restaurants offering vegan options, including chains like Burger King and Starbucks, the chef notes — it’s a different landscape from when Coscarelli first went vegan at the age of 14.
“When I went vegan, I honestly don’t think I knew what kale was,” she says. “It obviously existed, but not in a mainstream sense.”
Kale makes a few appearances in her new cookbook, from a chipotle sweet potato-kale soup to a kale pesto pasta to a peanut kale crunch salad.
There are also recipes for matcha soba (“I can’t live without matcha,” Coscarelli says) and an artichoke garlic bread inspired by NYC’s Artichoke Basille’s Pizza’s signature artichoke hearts and spinach pizza (something she’s never been able to try because it’s not vegan). One of her personal favorites: a homemade, artificial ingredient-free take on Cocoa Puffs.
“People still want really fun, nostalgic foods,” she says. “There’s definitely a movement of from-scratch cooking. I think that definitely lends itself to vegan cooking. People want to know where their food comes from at the end of the day, and know the ingredients they’re made out of.”
Coscarelli relied on a ready stable of taste testers for everything in the cookbook, from the aioli to the wings (cauliflower), that included devout meat eaters, her friends’ brutally honest children and her Manhattan doorman.
“I really wanted to make sure that the flavors and dishes appealed to the mainstream palate,” she says. “I tried to have something for everyone in this book. Sometimes I want something a little more healthful and simple, and sometimes I want something more fun and playful.”
With vegan food sometimes conjuring up images of bland tofu and basic salads, the recipes follow her theory that “vegan food can taste good,” she says. “It doesn’t matter whether it comes from an animal or not.”
That was also the idea behind By Chloe — the vegan fast food chain that Coscarelli co-founded. After first opening on Bleecker Street in 2015, drawing lines down the block for its guac burgers and air-baked sweet potato fries, the trendy spot now has five locations and counting in Manhattan and Brooklyn, as well as outposts nationwide and in London.
By Chloe is a tough subject for Coscarelli: Last year, the chain — co-founded by Samantha Wasser of Esquared Hospitality — ended ties with its namesake chef after an arbitrator found grounds that Coscarelli acted with “gross negligence” toward the growing business.
In the introduction to her new cookbook, the chef addresses the legal battle vaguely, writing, “I poured my blood, sweat and onion tears into opening my very first restaurant in New York City. While I was proud of the menu I created and from the outside it appeared to be a success, it turned out to be an incredibly difficult and disappointing experience.”
When asked about her ousting from By Chloe, Coscarelli says, “At this time there’s nothing to add there, so I’ll just leave it at that.”
She’s moved on, anyway. Last month, the chef debuted a new vegan concept in the St. Roch Market in Miami, where she lives for the time being.
“One of our best-sellers here is our butternut nachos, where the nachos are made with a cashew cheese and tons of veggies,” says the chef, who includes a recipe for nachos with cashew queso in “Chloe Flavor.” “It’s just a fun project down here. I’m creating recipes that are fun and inspired by the colors and flavors and produce here in Miami.”
As for ever opening another restaurant in New York City, that’s not necessarily off the table.
“I don’t have anything to announce yet, but I’m definitely working on cooking up some fun new ideas,” Coscarelli says. “I just want to bring vegan food to as many people as possible.”