Having always been quite the foodie, with a love for concocting delicious new vegan creations, you can imagine my excitement when presented with the opportunity to interview one of the world’s most up and coming vegan chefs – Jay Astafa.
Just a few of the amazing dishes created by Jay include cashew milk mozzarella, beet tartare and smoked cauliflower steak…
Jay has been vegan since the age of 15 and, at 23, is one of the world’s most famous young vegan chefs.
As a young boy he was immersed in the restaurant world through his father’s family owned pizza restaurant 3 Brothers Pizza Cafe. After going vegan, Jay opened himself to an entirely new world of flavours and culinary possibilities and now operates a 100% vegan version of 3 Brothers Vegan Cafe.
Firstly, hello and thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed by Vilda Magazine. You have such an inspiring story and have achieved so much already. I’d love to start by asking how you first heard about veganism and why, at 15 years old, you decided it was the lifestyle for you?
I was curious how meat got to my plate, so I googled it and came across a video by PETA called “Meet Your Meat.” I stopped eating meat after that. A couple months later I went fully vegan, because I felt guilty consuming dairy and eggs. For me, the main reason I’m vegan is that I put myself in the animals’ shoes. If I were in their place, I would not want to be used for food. A few months after going vegan, I knew I wanted to become a vegan chef.
It sounds like you have an incredibly supportive family, but going vegan so young, were they supportive from day one?
No one in my family even knew what vegan was. But they were supportive by buying all the vegan ingredients I needed to cook.
Did you ever imagine the vegan menu at 3 Brothers Pizza Cafe would be so successful?
I started the menu mainly because there were no vegan options for me on Long Island. I’m an optimist, so I always knew that one day it would be successful. Within four months of launching the menu in 2009, the New York Times wrote about it. From there, people found out through word of mouth. We did no advertising and I didn’t use social media at that time.
Opening up a vegan version of your father’s pizza restaurant 3 Brothers must have been an amazing step for you. Who’s idea was it to branch off to a 100% vegan establishment?
This was actually my dad’s idea! He found a location and incorporated the name 3 Brothers Vegan Cafe. I didn’t know he was serious until I found out he signed the lease. I was at first hesitant to be on board, because I wasn’t planning a Long Island restaurant. Then I realized there was a need for a 100% vegan establishment, for all the vegan and vegan-friendly individuals on Long Island. It’s been really great. We even make our own cheese. I think we’re one of the few plant-based restaurants — if not the only restaurant — that does this.
I read that your mother, Sue, is your sous-chef! Who is the better cook?
She is! I’m better with creating recipes and concepts. My mom is a lot better than I am at cooking on the line. For me, I get bored cooking the same things over and over.
Must ask, what is your favorite food?
I love pasta in any form!
What are your plans/hopes for the future of 3 Brothers and your catering business?
I hope to open a NYC version of 3 Brothers. I would also like to continue to grow my catering company. And I would like to write a cookbook and launch a cheese line. My long-term goal is to start a multi-concept plant-based restaurant group.
Thank you so much Jay for taking the time to chat with me and Vilda Magazine. I certainly hope you launch that cheese line and send us some cashew milk mozzarella!
Photo credits – Susan Shek