By Lora O’Brien
If you’re hot on the vegan community than you’ve probably already heard of hot for food. Vegan couple Lauren Toyota and John Diemer are passionate about food, so long as it’s vegan. Together they cook up a storm in the kitchen to bring a little vegan lovin’ to the growing numbers of vegans around the globe. If you thought going vegan meant never tasting foods like mac and cheese, burgers and even bacon ever again, then think again! These two have crafted well- loved comfort foods into ones that are not only vegan, but dare we say it, better than the original versions.
A lot of people are under the illusion that a plant based, vegan diet
is low on flavour, but think again! hot for food became the first and only vegan bloggers to contribute delicious and exclusive recipes for Canada’s Food Network, where they crafted winning recipes for ‘Meatless Monday
‘. Lauren is a former television host and producer whose ten years of TV experience is evident on her own YouTube channel
, where you can watch the duo bring ingredients to life in the form of vegan deliciousness.
We caught up with this dynamic couple to quiz them on their absolute favourite recipes, foods they could never live without and of course, the ultimate question: who’s really the better cook?
Explain hot for food in just five words.
Lauren: OMG amazing vegan comfort food!
When did you both transition to a vegan lifestyle?
Lauren: I went vegan starting in January 1, 2010 and that was just my diet. Adopting the total vegan lifestyle has been a constant evolution since then and now I do adhere to all of the aspects of a full vegan lifestyle, like buying vegan beauty products, clothing etc.
John: I went vegan when I met Lauren. She opened my eyes to the whole thing. Even though I had tried it for 3 months prior to meeting her I didn’t stick with it. I loved the way her food looked on instagram so I was willing to give it another shot and wanted to impress her with the dishes I had learned to cook when I tried going vegan! I was also excited to have someone to cook with and really found adopting the vegan lifestyle very easy.
What does being vegan mean to you both?
Lauren: We both believe that we’re living a more whole, centered, balanced, and spiritual life. Something just clicks when you go vegan and it’s affected every aspect of our lives in such a positive way.
Who is the better cook?
John: Lauren. But she just actually cooks more. I think the more you cook the better you get.
Honestly: are you both competitive in the kitchen when the cameras aren’t rolling?
Lauren: Have you watched our videos? We’re competitive on camera! Some people like it and understand the humour behind it. Others just think I’m a total wench. But it’s all an act…I think. Or John just gets me, that’s what it
John: We’re both competitive by nature and it definitely comes out in the kitchen. But I think that’s why we’re both so good and what we do! It’s the reason we decided to create these challenges as a series on our YouTube channel and they’ve been quite successful. We both compete to make the same dish like burgers, salads, or pizza and the viewers decide who made the better version. I just broke our tie with the last big salad challenge! So right now I’m actually the better cook!
You have such great camera chemistry together, but do you ever annoy one another in the kitchen?
Lauren: Yes! John annoys me all the time but obviously we edit it out! I like being in control, and in all honesty, and I have a hard time letting others do things their way. I’m sure lots of people can relate to this. But I love him so much and I know it’s just happening that way to make me learn more about our relationship and myself. It’s a good thing. Every relationship is like this. It’s not perfect 100% of the time and I wouldn’t want it to be either. We challenge each other and thankfully he also knows how to just ignore me or roll with the punches and never takes it personally.
John: It wouldn’t do anyone much use to see all the nitty gritty of our relationship when they’re coming to see a recipe video but those annoyances or challenges are all part of the process and in the end we get really great videos! It’s like anything creative, it’s not always easy and there’s bumps in the road, but it’s still so much fun and we always laugh about everything afterward.
If you could only eat three foods for the rest of your life, what would those be?
John: Vegan pizza, tacos, black coffee.
Lauren: Avocados, popcorn, vegan pad thai.
What recipe have you both enjoyed making the most?
John: We both agreed that we liked making our buffalo cauliflower sandwich the most. It just looked so epic and biting into it is exactly like eating a fast food chicken sandwich, but obviously better and more compassionate!
Most challenging recipe you’ve created?
Lauren: I would stay I’m still challenged by aqua faba or bean water turned into meringue. It’s so amazing to me but I can’t master a finished recipe with it! My lemon meringue pie must be conquered this year!
Do either of you have any guilty food pleasures?
Lauren: I would say no, because now that we’re vegan we don’t feel guilty eating anything.
Confess: Have you had any kitchen disasters?
Lauren: Once I thought we were going to have a grease fire. We were watching the deep fryer oil bubble and spill over the pot onto the burner and the camera was rolling. I grabbed the baking soda and just stood there. Nothing happened, thank god! That is my absolute worst fear.
Absolutely favourite, go-to meal that never gets old?
John: We both love this Toronto restaurant Hogtown Vegan and we both get the same thing every time and crave it constantly. I get the breaded vegan chik’un sandwich which is like a McChicken, and the Fries Supremacy, which is a knock off of Taco Bell’s fries supreme. Lauren get’s the southern combo, which is breaded vegan chik’un fingers, mac and cheese, and collard greens. It is life!
Any vegan brands you absolutely love?
Lauren: We love Earth Balance buttery spread, Silk Almond Milk, Gardein anything, Miyoko’s Kitchen gourmet nut cheeses, Wildwood tofu and garlic aioli, coconut bliss ice cream, and anything from Fieldroast.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out as vegan?
Lauren: My advice is to make it a transition and take small steps toward being full vegan. There’s no sense in trying to change everything all at once in your life because you’ll get overwhelmed and probably not stick with it. Also don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be “perfect” either. I think that pressure or that expectation floating around the community is a little intense sometimes and new vegans can become intimidated. Intimidation, aggression, and guilt are not a tactics we ever use to influence people to become vegan!
Is there anything you wish you had more time to do?
Lauren: Watch all of the TV shows!
Dream dinner party guests?
Lauren: Oprah, Ellen, author Marianne Williamson.
John: and Barack Obama!
What do you hope to achieve by 2017?
This duo make some pretty mean vegan fare. Why not try it for yourself? Here’s our pick of some of their greatest hits.
This Mexican classic is tomato based, but not usually vegan friendly as it comes with loads of sour cream, cheese and/or chicken. Of course, hot for food’s version is totally animal-products free!
Strawberry ‘Cheesecake’ Bites
These sound and look pretty decadent, right? But that’s quite deceptive: they’re actually vegan, gluten-free and raw!
Get the recipe here.
Ok, vegans, how many times have you heard this: ‘But…how can you live without BACON?!’ Well, now you can answer that with a grin – this cassava ‘bacon’ recipe is just as tasty, without all the grease and nitrates.
Get the recipe here.
Pumpkin Spice Pancakes
Who doesn’t love a pancake? If, like me, you’ve struggled to find a vegan friendly recipe that still produces delicious, fluffy pancakes, then you’ll thank heavens for this recipe! And they’re pumpkin spice flavoured, too. Can it get any better?
Get the recipe here.
Chickpea “Tuna” Sandwich
Tuna smells, let’s face it. You can’t get away from that fishy odor once you’ve cracked open the tin. So what better way to enjoy tuna without eating tuna? Chickpea tuna! Oh, and did I mention that unlike tuna, it’s also mercury (and cruelty!) free?
Get the recipe here.