Reading Time: 12 minutes

THE VEGAN TRANSFORMATION
WITH WIL YEUNG

Wil Yeung

IT’S WORLD FREE MEAT WEEK FROM 15-TO 21 JUNE 2020, AND ADVOCATES ALL OVER THE WORLD ARE SPEAKING OUT TO RAISE AWARENESS AND ON WHAT IT MEANS TO EAT SUSTAINABLY AND THE IMPACT OF NUTRITIONAL CHOICES ON THE ENVIRONMENT. STAIY HAD THE CHANCE TO INTERVIEW YOUTUBE CHEF WIL YEUNG TO DISCOVER HOW TO STEP UP YOUR VEGAN PLATE GAME BY ADDING A CHIC TWIST TO IT.

Words By Alessandra di Perna

The Vegan Transformation

Veganism is a proper lifestyle which involves not only nutritional choices, rather it has relevant implications on the basic routine of individuals who define themselves in that way – from what to (not) wear, how to behave and attitudes towards other Earth’s inhabitants.

While vegetarianism is a matter of what to exclude from your dietary choices, excluding meat but still including derived elements as dairy products, veganism might be considered a further step where the approach is completely different and effortful.

 

From ancient texts to modern documentaries

Despite being defined as a trend, going vegan must be a conscious, strategic choice. Historically, the discussion on this topic dates back to the ancient philosopher Pythagoras, whose doctrine promoted a culture of respect and protection towards living beings at any level. He was a source of inspiration for many literates and nowadays is considered the godfather of such discipline.

Coming back to the twentieth century, the vegan movement was rendered official by the Vegetarian Society and later gained its spot in the Pop culture as an open list of celebrities worldwide decided to embrace this lifestyle. Globalization and the new media available have rendered knowledge much more accessible. Veganism became a matter of formal research and the main themes for TV series and documentaries such as Netflix’s Cowspiracy and Game Changers.

 

vegan dishes

Picture taken from The Vegan Ramen Cookbook

The vegan alternative

It is becoming easier and easier to find vegan alternatives at local supermarkets and grocery stores, not to mention the countless sources of inspiration that can be found on the web for vegan recipes. Staiy has had the chance to ask a few questions to one of them, the Canadian-based YouTube Chef and author of “The Vegan Ramen Cookbook”, Wil Yeung.

His personality is reflected through his image: simple yet sophisticated. A basic, smart black t-shirt and confident smile are what may attract his fifty thousand subscribers. True though, his life is everything but ordinary. In defining himself, although being straightforward, Yeung appears to be a multi-talented person.

Distinctive yet classy personality, he does not prefer to define himself if not by his entrepreneurial profession, which involves working as a commercial photographer, documentary filmmaker, and YouTube chef. Mesmerized by how a single human being can manage all those aspects in twenty-four hours?

“This is a funny one. I have colleagues that swear by certain mantra affirmations such as “I am’s.” Perhaps it is how my brain is wired, I find it personally counter-intuitive to make personal statements. Rather, I ask “how.”

Despite holding periodic cooking episodes on plant-based cuisine, Yeung does not define himself as a sinless vegan. Perhaps he would neither define his show as primarily vegan, rather he focuses on cooking where the basic ingredient is creativity.

Yeung started his YouTube cooking show around five years ago to have a place where to store recipes to look back onto and mainly for fun and personal purposes. What he did was combine his passion with his main job at the time – “I also ran a nut milk food product business in the Greater Toronto Area and I would film some how-to recipes using the product. I don’t run that business anymore.” However, the great interest from the audience towards his channel changed his perspective.

Over time the goal of the show evolved and matured, being now two-folded. On the one hand, it still preserves some of its initial characteristics as it’s an open source for inspiration both for plant-based individuals and as well as curious watchers. The solid ground of his hard work and commitment throughout the years reflect on the ultimate goal of the show: the creation of a safe and inclusive community, where to help each other and learn how to make food. From this comes the name of the show: “Cook with Confidence”.

 

“The goal of the show is to create an inclusive safe community where everyone can learn how to make food.”

His aptitude relays on being active and, with an entrepreneurial mindset, split the overall workload into tasks and focus on completing them. What seems extremely important for Yeung is the response of his audience, which up to now, was overwhelming. “How you do anything is how you do everything. I’m a perfectionist, but I’m not perfect. Your mindset and mood definitely translate into what you cook. After all, ingredients don’t cook themselves – it is each individual that makes it happen.”

And what is the next step for a social (vegan) cook if not a (vegan) publication? The Vegan Ramen Cookbook takes readers step-by-step in the realization of more than eighty recipes which seem just came out of a high-quality (Asian) cuisine. The hand-made ramen recipe, such as the spicy tan tan, together with the numerous soups are only two of the most successful ones. And for each recipe, you might learn how to pair it with drinks, such as Asian-style vegan milk teas.

When talking about the cookbook, Yeung states that it required over a year of research, trials and production – from recipes to photography and layout, it’s all under Wil Yeung’s signature – and it was built solely for his audience without any idea of the final result or whether it would have gained the approval of the digital-based public. “I think there is equally as much interest and curiosity from both the younger and more mature audiences. Plant-based foods can mean something different for everyone.”

He believes that plant-based cuisine shows should gain a greater spot on traditional TV and not only as it is a matter of extreme creativity and “the love for creativity is something we all have in common.”

vegan ramen

The Vegan Ramen Cookbook

“How you do anything is how you do everything. I’m a perfectionist, but I’m not perfect. Your mindset and mood definitely translate into what you cook. After all, ingredients don’t cook themselves – it is each individual that makes it happen.”

And if Staiy would have been a dish, what would it be? We can all taste it. “As we approach the warmer weather, I personally crave a lot of delicious salads. It would have to be a dish with locally sourced sustainable ingredients and the final plating should look clean, modern, and stylish.” Therefore, if you want to have a gustatory taste of Staiy, here he provides the recipe. “Perhaps a chopped watercress base with mint, basil, green onion, cilantro and tossed with some wafer thinly sliced radish, carrots, cucumber, crispy baked tofu, and served with a side of a nutty citrusy sesame lime dressing and crushed roasted peanuts.” We can’t wait to taste that.

Looking ahead, what is in the future of the multitalented chef? Maintaining its forward-thinking approach, Yeung surely has some delicious news cooking in the oven – as he would probably state – but he prefers to keep them secret at the moment. One thing is for sure, his approach is paving the way for the modernization of cooking. Genuine ingredients, creativity, interactive spirit and inclusive community are the perfect recipe to drive forward the new age of lifestyle-based cuisine, upon which we keep a close eye – and fork.

 

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