We chat to rising vegan star chef Gaz Oakley from Avant-Garde Vegan about how he is brining his love for vegan food to the masses…
When did you decide to go vegan?
I decided to go vegan in October 2015. For the previous year I was in the gym weight training most evenings. I thought I looked good, but on the inside I didn’t feel great. The high protein diet wasn’t good for me. After doing much research and finding more sad truths about the meat, dairy, fish etc industry, I decided the 100% right thing to do for my health, animals and the planet was to go vegan. So I did, literally overnight.
How did your cooking interest start?
For as long as I remember I have had a passion for cooking. My dad got me into it from a very young age and at 15-years-old I landed my first chef job at a hotel in Cardiff. At 16 I went full time after leaving school. I worked as a professional chef at some of the best restaurants in Cardiff.
Why did you decide to set up your new YouTube channel?
After launching my Instagram over a year ago, I have built a following of more than 80,000 people – the demand from the followers asking how I create my dishes was huge. I thought the best way of showing them is by starting a YouTube channel, although I never thought I could speak in front of cameras! So far the reaction has been great and I’m getting more and more comfortable on camera. I have now recorded three series worth of recipe videos!
What can people expect from it?
You’ll certainly find a new and exciting approach to vegan cooking. I use techniques learnt in the professional kitchens, so you’ll know what I am saying is the correct way of doing things. The dishes I create are hugely adventurous and follow on from my Instagram style.
What makes your videos stand out?
Firstly, they are beautifully produced. I managed to strike up a great working relationship with a local South Wales film crew, who in fact are also vegan! And, of course, the food. I hope to bring my audience dishes that haven’t been created on YouTube before. Hopefully this will inspire!
How do you choose what recipes to cook on each series?
It has lots to do with the seasons and series three is due out in spring/summer, so there are a few BBQ inspired dishes, salads and light desserts.
What’s your favourite episode so far?
One from series two, when I really started to feel confident on camera. It has to be the last of the series – ‘Vegan Fish and Chips’. It got 35,000 views in just 2 weeks. My audience definitely enjoyed it. I like that we started in Harbourside in beautiful Tenby for the introduction, then walked back to the kitchen to cook.
What are the ingredients you can’t live without?
I couldn’t live without butternut squash, chickpeas and smoked paprika – in fact those three work great together!
What advice do you have for anyone getting into cooking from scratch?
Definitely don’t be afraid to experiment. You may not get it right at first, but other times you could put something together that will be an absolute dream. Make sure you taste whatever you’re cooking throughout the process also. One of the most important things to do is make sure you season dishes properly with salt and pepper to bring out each ingredient’s flavours.
What’s next for you?
There are lots of exciting ventures ahead. Most recently I have launched my website (avantgardevegan.com) full of my favourite recipes, but please stay tuned to my social media – I hope to have some announcements very soon.
You can follow Gaz’s work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube channels.