Isa Chandra Moskowitz: A Vegan Life In Four Courses

You think you’re busy? Well, you aren’t. Not compared to Isa Chandra Moskowitz, anyway. The (nearly) 42-year-old vegan chef (her birthday is February 3) is in the midst of writing her ninth cookbook (Save Me a Seat), updating recipes and stories for the 10th anniversary of her first cookbook (Vegan with a Vengeance), and running Modern Love Restaurant, the only all-vegan eatery in steak-friendly Omaha, Nebraska. And if that wasn’t enough, in February, Moskowitz is performing a one-woman show/cooking demonstration for five nights in four states (two in New York City) over the course of eight days. The tour, titled “Isa Live: A Vegan Life in Four Courses,” finishes at Napa’s City Winery Feb. 8.

For $75, the 300 people in attendance will receive a Caesar salad with Brussels sprouts, a tamale, chickpeas and dumplings, and a chocolate mousse cupcake with wine pairings. Sarcasm and strong opinions aren’t officially on the menu, but as we discovered in a recent email conversation with the Brooklyn native, there’s a better than average chance she’ll tell you why jackfruit tacos are this year’s tribal tattoo and how 40 degrees in Omaha is considered a nice day.

[jump] Your event costs $75. How much tofu should I expect for that price?

Close your eyes and picture heaven. Those clouds are $75 worth of tofu.

How do you prepare for a one-woman show? Will you use a hairbrush and practice into a mirror?

I guess I’ve been preparing all my life. Mostly I think of what I will say while I’m falling asleep and then I try to write it down in the morning and it sounds dumb. So I just wing it.

How did you come up with the menu? Are you looking for the courses to be related or just four awesome dishes?

The courses aren’t exactly related. I was trying to find items that in some way told my life story and were also awesome.

Your first course is Caesar salad. When you are going to do the world a favor and create a bottled vegan Caesar that doesn’t suck?

All I need is a bottle!

Can you give an example of a story you will tell and how it’s related to the corresponding dish?

Spoiler alerts? Well, the Caesar salad, for example. That was one of the first dishes I ever veganized when I was a teenager. So I want to talk about vegan translations and how food is constantly evolving. People will say things like, “Caesar salad HAS to have anchovies or it’s not Caesar!” But, you know, pizza wasn’t always cheese and tomato on thin crust. Recipes have a life of their own.

Is this tour a one-time thing? If not, how long before you’re at the state fair?

It’s a trial. If it goes awesomely hopefully we can do it again. For the state fair, I guess it depends on the state.

Is there any trepidation when creating a four-course menu knowing you aren’t doing the cooking? IE, Are you afraid these non-vegan chefs will fuck it up and make you look bad?

Well, the folks at City Winery are super excited and ready to take on the challenge. So yeah, all chefs are kind of control freaks, but we have to let go sometimes.

What is the preparation before you arrive at each venue? Have you been in talks with each chef to make sure they have everything you need and understand that “vegan” doesn’t mean “just a little bit of cheese?”

We’ve all pow wowed and they get what vegan means! I think the prep is going to be a little bit different in each place according to their space. But I don’t get into some of the cities until the night before, so they will have prepped in advance of that.

Do you plan on talking while people are eating? If so, isn’t that rude?

I’m going to be talking through some of it but also giving ample amounts of shutting up so that people can just chat and eat.

What if I’m in attendance and I want more of something? Can I get seconds or do I have to steal food from the wife-I-don't-have’s plate?

No seconds. Please don’t be difficult.

Napa is the final date of the tour. Do you think you’ll be burned out by then and if so what are the odds you’ll be wine drunk before 3 p.m.?

I have friends in the area so I plan on sticking around a few days to chill out. I don’t really get burnt out. I’m vegan.

You’ve got video screens showing your cooking demos. What sorts of things will the audience learn and, more importantly, how afraid are you of slicing off a thumb in front of 300 people?

I tried to vary the dishes and what I demo from each so that people get a pretty good range of methods. So hopefully we learn how to grill tofu perfectly and how to pipe frosting gorgeously, plus a few other things. I have no fears. I’m vegan.

You’re ending the evening with chocolate mousse cupcake. If we learn anything from your event, is it that every night should end with chocolate mousse cupcake?


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