Warning: Do not read if you’re hungry. Media personality, cookbook author, and YouTuber Lauren Toyota will make you hot for food (the title of her plant-based blog). This vegan Canadian cooking maven is one to follow for her guiltless vegan photos and captivating authenticity. As the woman behind the popular hot for food brand, she’s not afraid to pose with a stray noodle protruding from her mouth or send cooking utensils accidentally flying in a video. Lauren is one hundred percent real, and her recipes are one hundred percent delicious (and easily replicated at home). She carved out time from promoting her new cookbook—hot for food all day— to chat with us.
Most vegans know your work via your blog, cookbook, and hot for food YouTube channel, but you were a national Canadian television host beforehand. How did that help you launch your own videos?
That experience was nearly 10 years of working in broadcasting. It gave me the on-camera confidence (and technical confidence) to move into creating my own show. I also got into social media by being a TV host. I had so much time to learn and experiment with the platforms, I think that helped with building another brand—which of course is hot for food— from the ground up.
You were vegetarian for a time and then returned to an omnivorous diet before attempting veganism. Can you explain this transition, and share with us what planted the vegan seed?
The seed was planted by watching the documentary Food, Inc. From there, I became intrigued with Michael Pollan. His book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, helped further my decision to go vegan. I also read Skinny Bitch. That book is great, because it gets to the point—no BS! I transitioned over a few months, eliminating one thing at a time and experimenting with new ways of creating foods I loved as an omnivore. For me, it was a physical health and well-being decision that grew into a [more-encompassing] lifestyle choice.
How has cooking—from childhood to present day—been a part of your life?
I was into baking and cooking from a young age, especially because I went vegetarian pretty [early in life]. I baked with my grandma and my mom. It came very naturally to me. Growing up, I looked at recipes in magazines and got inspiration. I think it’s always been in my bones—in my family lineage. There are no professional chefs in the family, but the idea of cooking to nourish and share was always present in my life.
What was one of the first dishes you successfully veganized?
Probably a cashew cream sauce, likely Alfredo. It’s one of the early posts on hotforfoodblog.com, created well before I published thorough recipes online!
What inspired the name hot for food?
I honestly don’t remember. It was just how I felt about food. I came up with [the name], it sounded right, and it stuck from the start.
Your second book just came out—congrats! Name one or two gateway recipes, and share another more adventurous one.
Thank you! I feel this book has a lot of good beginner recipes. The tofu or mung bean scrambles for breakfast are simple to prep ahead and [enjoy] throughout the week. Another [easy] one is the One-Pot Mac n’ Cheese. [It’s important to start with plant-based versions of familiar foods.] If mac n’ cheese is a frequent comfort food (which it is for me!), get used to the idea of making a vegan version. I also share five ways to level it up, such as Buffalo Chicken Mac n’ Cheese, Tex Mex Mac n’ Cheese, Pizza Mac n’ Cheese, and more!
One of the more adventurous recipes I’d love for people to try is the Chocolate Chip Corn Cookies. This recipe is a sophisticated twist on a chocolate chip cookie that incorporates frozen corn kernels, corn meal, and a hint of lime zest. I love them!
Give us a reason to cook (or bake) something for ourselves today.
I think cooking for yourself and sharing those creations with others is a gift for the soul. Food has so much emotion, nostalgia, joy, and pleasure attached to it. It’s important to not only nourish yourself throughout the day, but to [do] so with intention. That’s self-care. If you haven’t connected with that in a while, do it today.
Photo credit: Vanessa Heins