Skillet beer chili mac. Clean-out-the-fridge-falafel. Spaghetti pie. This may not sound like typical vegan fare but then again the Thug Kitchen chefs and authors’ mission to prove that eating plant-based can be cool AF is anything but. Thug Kitchen 101: Fast as F*ck (Collins, $30, available today), the third book from gleefully foul-mouthed Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway, is all about time—or more specifically, making tasty, health food in as little time as possible. Here, the L.A.-based DIY duo—Matt does all the photography, Michelle creates the recipes and they share the writing—talk to FLARE about the most famous person they’ve dropped an F-bomb in front of, what vegetables to grab from the freezer section and why people need to get the f-ck over kale and turmeric.
Can you describe the new book?
Michelle Davis: We based a lot of the recipes on things that I used to cook when I’d get home after working all day, so it comes from our lifetime’s worth of experience. It’s how to eat well on a budget with a little bit of time.
Matt Holloway: This is the book that I f-cking wish I had when I was in college.
How does this book differ from your first two books?
MD: It took two other bloody books to really get our confidence up to tackle this one. If you think you’re one of those people who doesn’t know how to cook, this book is for you because you can cook all the recipes in under 40 minutes and that includes inactive cooking time, like if you’re roasting something. We’ve made it super user-friendly by adding icons so that if you know you want something that is freezer-friendly or uses pantry staples, we f-cking got you. We labelled everything head to toe so it’s really easy for someone who had never opened a cookbook to navigate through and figure out what the f-ck’s for dinner.
Tell me about the book’s road trip theme.
MD: Since it’s our book to help newbies in the kitchen, we called it Thug Kitchen 101 and we were born, raised and still live in California so I’m wasn’t going to leave a Highway 101 design concept f-cking on the table! It’s our little love letter to California too because so much of California has shaped our cuisine style.
The book revolves around time management. How do you manage your own schedules? Do you sleep?
MD: Not really! (Laughs).
MH: It depends on day-to-day but most of the time, it’s just controlled chaos. It’s something that as an adult—and we talk about this in the book—but you really have to manage your schedule especially when it comes to cooking. That’s not disposable time, that’s something that you have to consider in your schedule.
MD: I’m two seasons behind on Game of Thrones but goddammit, I make dinner! It’s really about finding that down time in your schedule that you’re just sh-tting away. But yeah, some of our friends think we’re dead. We’ve been a little bit busy.
How do you respond to people who say that plant-based food is bland?
MD: Vegetarian and vegan food is bland if it’s cooked by someone who doesn’t know what the f-ck they’re doing. Spices, salt, seasoning, that sh-t is all vegan. (Laughs). Meat doesn’t have the monopoly on flavour!
Do you think the idea that eating healthy or vegan is too expensive has changed since we last spoke?
MH: I would say that a plant-based diet is becoming more normalized. It’s not as weird to go into a restaurant and order a vegan meal even though you’re not vegan. I think sometimes people just want that option. And that’s really what we’re aiming for—I think I’d rather have 100 people eat plant-based a couple nights a week than convert five people to being vegan because that’s a bigger impact.
MD: I feel like it’s on the precipice of changing but I do think a plant-based diet still has the reputation of being expensive, albeit more accessible. But I feel like a lot of the advocates for plant-based diets are still people who have disposable time and disposable income and who spend all day doing yoga and harvesting all the herbs from their farm.
MH: And that’s not most people so it’s alienating.
What is one of the biggest challenges of writing a cookbook?
MH: One of my biggest obstacles is that when we do write a book and it does well—and we’re very in tune with our audience and we like talking to them about what they did and didn’t like and what they wish we would do next—is evolving the brand and making it fresh. We want book three to feel completely different from the previous two books but we also want to maintain that sense of confidence that the audience is used to in our brand.
MD: It is a lot of pressure to make something worth asking people for their money and we take that really seriously.
How do you guys feel if a person wants to cover one of your recipes in cheese?
MD: We really just want everyone to cook more at home and eat more vegetables. After that, that sh-t’s on you.
MH: Totally. We get people who are like ‘We know that you guys are a vegan brand but can I put cheese on your enchiladas?” and we’re like “Hey, whatever dude. You ate more vegetables and you cooked for yourself, that’s a f-cking win in our book!’ Then there’s going to be that one day you don’t have cheese and you’re still gonna make our dish and it’s still gonna be dope!
Speaking of vegetables, we love all the attention in the book given to underrated vegetables. What are your favourites?
MH: Mine is definitely parsnips. That’s something that I only found like a couple years ago, like I had no f-cking idea what a parsnip was and then once I ate it and then I learned how to cook it, oh my god I can’t get enough of it.
MD: I think celery is criminally underrated. It is cheap as hell and not only is it delicious raw, but celery seed is great in all kinds of salad dressings and pasta salad, and you can braise and roast celery and it tastes f-cking delicious and it’s SO CHEAP!
What veggie do you think is overrated?
MH: Kale! F-ck kale!
MD: This is a root but I think turmeric. Everybody adding a sprinkle of turmeric to their latte, like get the f-ck over it, that’s not going to do sh-t. It’s a trendy, hot ingredient and people are like “Oh it reduces inflammation!” and I’m like “You’re not eating a medicinal amount of f-cking turmeric!” It tastes good in curry and in some soups but turmeric on its own is not a f-cking crave-able flavour. You’re just ruining a perfectly good almond milk latte.
MH: And those are the same people who are having a kale salad for lunch and can’t stop f-cking talking about it.
What do you say to people who think all frozen ingredients are bad?
MD: That is a privileged position to take, number one. And number two, frozen vegetables have come a long way since the 1980s which is probably the last time they walked down the freezer section of their grocery store. You can get low salt, no salt, great frozen vegetables that are frozen at the peak of season. If you’re buying green beans in f-cking January at your grocery store, you should be getting them from the freezer section and not from the produce section because you’re going to get a better quality green bean.
What’s a frozen ingredient you recommend?
MD: Frozen spinach is a great thing to blend into dressings or soups, like a creamed soup, to get some more phytonutrients that you wouldn’t get otherwise.
Who is the craziest person you’ve ever dropped an F-bomb in front of?
MD: I think Rachael Ray was probably our biggest F-bomb but she was cool.
MD: I said bullsh-t in front of Dr. Oz. And was like “BS! I meant BS!”
MH: We very briefly met the head chef of the White House and he was like “Nice to meet you” and I said “Oh, we’re f-cking nobodies.”
What’s next for you?
MH: Three books in three years, we’re pretty f-cking tired. But, we’re not done, we’re only getting started.
MD: We’re tossing around the idea of doing a brick and mortar restaurant. And expanding into some more video content because people love our book trailers.
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