Interviews with Chad Sarno and Fran Costigan 12/11/2012



Part I: Chad Sarno
Crazy Sexy Kitchen

Chad Sarno is a chef, consultant, speaker, and committed plant activist. He has brought his unique culinary style to projects spanning public education at some of the world’s premier wellness retreats, and culinary expos to the launch of an international boutique restaurant chain from Istanbul to London.

Chad has been contributing chef to numerous recipe books as well as featured in many national publications. He has been a guest on dozens of morning shows, and food focused programs on television and radio internationally over the years. Through the intersection of clean food and culinary education, Chad continues to share his passion for helping others achieve their health goals, starting in the kitchen.

In his most recent project, Chad has teamed up with New York Times Best Selling Author Kris Carr of Crazy Sexy Diet to write Crazy Sexy Kitchen: 150 Plant-Empowered Recipes to Ignite a Mouthwatering Revolution.

Chad is currently the senior culinary educator for Whole Foods Market’s healthy eating program, and resides with his beautiful daughter in Austin, TX.


Part II: Fran Costigan
Irresistible Chocolate Vegan Desserts

Native New Yorker Fran Costigan, the “Queen of Vegan Desserts,” is an internationally recognized culinary instructor, author, consultant, recipe developer and the pioneering vegan pastry chef who marries healthy eating with sumptuous tastes. The “Fran Factor” is her unique ability to transform traditional desserts into modern, healthful, and luscious vegan desserts that satisfy vegans and omnivores alike. In Fran’s recipes, ‘nothing is missing except the dairy, eggs, white sugar and excess fat.’ She is the authority on all things related to vegan baking and desserts.A graduate of the New York Restaurant School, the Natural Gourmet Institute, and Nick Malgeri’s Professional Pastry Intensive, today Fran teaches her unique courses at the Institute of Culinary Education, the Natural Gourmet Institute (including her always sold-out Vegan Baking Boot Camp Intensive®), and at other venues throughout the US and Canada. Fran’s second cookbook, More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts Naturally (Book Publishing Company, 2006), is designed as a complete course in vegan baking.

Fran’s recipes feature organic whole grains, fair trade natural sweeteners and chocolates, and clean seasonal ingredients. Fran’s third cookbook, Irresistible Chocolate Vegan Desserts for Everyone: Unapologetically Delicious, Decadent, Dark, Organic and Fair, will be published by Running Press, fall 2013.Fran and her decadent modern vegan dessert recipes have been featured on Discovery Health Channel Show Get Fresh with Sara Snow, on Better TV, and on ABC’s Nightline. Her work has been profiled in numerous print and online publications such as The New Yorker, VegNews, Veg Family, Vegetarian Journal, Vegetarian Voice, Café Sweets Japan, and Organic Spa Magazine. Fran is an advisory board member of New York Coalition for Healthy School Foods. She also also promotes her message through her professional affiliations,which include the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance (NYWCA), International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), Women Chefs and Restaurateurs (WCR).

LISTEN HERE to the 11/17/2010 interview with Fran Costigan on IT’S ALL ABOUT FOOD.



Hello everybody! I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Hope you’re having a very happy 11th of December 2012. And we’re in that happy holiday season. It’s Hanukkah and I want to remind you to visit We have a great food show up for Hanukkah right now: it’s my baked potato pancakes/potato latkes. I’m so in love with this recipe. And if you haven’t had a chance to watch or try them, please do. I just made up a batch on Sunday and people were really surprised. They are not fried and they are really good with that good traditional flavor. And like I like to say, “Save the oil for the lamp.” Let’s conserve energy. We don’t need to be drowning our food in barrels of oil and we really shouldn’t be using as much oil and energy as we are doing today. So that’s just a little food for thought. And everything can be just as delicious without frying. And it is holiday time and that means stress. It’s supposed to be this happy, good-to-all-humans season where we’re kind and loving and giving and generous, and is anybody feeling that? All I feel right now is all this stress going around. People are running around to stores and concerned about what they’re going to be making for all of their big holiday parties and what they’re going to be eating and all of the weight they’re going to be gaining. Anyway, I just want to wish you a great holiday season. Keep breathing. And if you’re eating this healthy plant-based diet that we’re always talking about here every week then I think you’ve got a good free pass because you’re eating all the right foods and when holidays come around you don’t really have anything to worry about. All of our treats are really…they’re treats, and you can indulge from time to time. OK, now we’re going to get sexy, alright? My guest is Chad Sarno. He’s a chef, consultant, speaker, and committed plant activist. He has brought his unique culinary style to projects spanning public education at some of the world’s premiere wellness retreats and culinary expos to the launch of an international boutique restaurant chain from Istanbul to London. He’s been a contributing chef to numerous recipe books, as well as featured in many national publications. He’s been a guest on dozens of morning shows and food-focused programs on television and radio internationally over the years. Through the intersection of clean food and culinary education, Chad continues to share his passion for helping others achieve their health goals, starting in the kitchen. In his most recent project, Chad has teamed up with New York Times bestselling author Kris Carr of Crazy, Sexy Diet to write Crazy, Sexy Kitchen: 150 Plant-Empowered Recipes to Ignite a Mouth-Watering Revolution. And he is currently the senior culinary educator for Whole Foods Markets’ Healthy Eating program and resides with his beautiful daughter in Austin, Texas. I am really excited to welcome Chad Sarno to It’s All About Food.

Caryn Hartglass: Hi Chad.

Chad Sarno: Hi Caryn. How are you? Can you hear me?

Caryn Hartglass: Yes, I can, and thank you for joining me.

Chad Sarno: Thank you very much for that warm introduction. I would go a little bit more crazy than sexy. How about that? Let’s get crazy on the holiday.

Caryn Hartglass: OK, both is good for me. It’s a good mix in the kitchen: crazy and sexy. You know, we really should let it all hang out and get, I don’t know, loose and crazy, and we can do that with plant foods.

Chad Sarno: I completely agree. You know, with our new book, Crazy, Sexy Kitchen, it actually made the New York Times bestseller list the first couple of weeks it was on the market which we’re really excited for. Having a plant-based, vegan book up there on the list is pretty amazing.

Caryn Hartglass: Woohoo! We’ve had some good presence there as vegans on the New York Times bestseller list I’m happy to say. There always seems to be one there the last year of so.

Chad Sarno: I love it.

Caryn Hartglass: Let’s get a few more up there.

Chad Sarno: I love it. So exciting. So thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

Caryn Hartglass: OK, let’s talk a little bit about this book and then we’ll talk about some other things that you’ve been involved with. What does crazy and sexy mean in the kitchen?

Chad Sarno: Well, I wrote this with Kris Carr. It’s her brand, the Crazy, Sexy Diet, and she started this many years ago and I’ve been friends with her for a number of years through a mutual friend and kind of circle so we decided to write a book together, which is great. She chose me to be the chef of her program and we put together some of our all-time favorite recipes everywhere from real basic recipes to a little bit more complex, ranging from the raw foods and very simple raw salads and dishes to a little bit more of the comforter, heavier gourmet dishes. So whether you’re a novice or a beginner or a chef in the kitchen, I think anybody can get a little bit of inspiration from the book. So we started working on it last year and it just materialized very quickly and we’ve just gotten a wonderful response. So it’s a great balance of, like I said, of a number of raw dishes, and all of them—you had mentioned oil in the beginning of the program—all of them can be completely altered to your personal diet, whether you want to minimize salt or oil in the recipes. We just tried to create a recipe book that was very simple and approachable and reached a larger audience and I think we did that with this book.

Caryn Hartglass: Now, the first time I discovered you as a chef was during my raw foods phase. I was all raw for about two years and I’m now just a regular old vegan. What do you tend to eat and what got you into the raw scene actually?

Chad Sarno: I actually just like clean foods. I stick to plant-based, personally, and whether it’s raw or cooked, and depending on the day, depending on the weather, it will depend on really what I have to eat and seasonality and all that. My whole thing is when I was into raw foods, I was into raw foods for a number of years and opening restaurants around that scene for a while. And I just joined Whole Foods Market in 2009 to head up the Health Eating education program. And one thing that I didn’t get an opportunity to do over the years is work with a number of great doctors and I started working with a number of them, being here at Whole Foods as our medical board of advisors, and I got my blood read. Part of one of our programs is offering team members some health and wellness education and you have the opportunity to look at your biometrics and further your discount, further your education. And so I got my blood read for the first time and my basic biometrics and cholesterol and all that. And I had been eating a plant-based diet for 12 years at that time and my cholesterol was high, which really blew me away. My cholesterol was high, my blood pressure was high, and I’m sure that a lot of that contributed from stress in terms of blood pressure and being over in Europe opening restaurants and running like that. But it kind of opened my eyes up a little bit and I was talking to Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Fuhrman and Dr. McDougall and a number of doctors on our board and they just said to limit the sugars and cut back on the oils and sodium and I did that and within four months my cholesterol plummeted. And I started eating more cooked foods: beans, greens, and grains, and going a little bit more Macro with my diet—Macrobiotic—and just cleaner, whole foods, and my cholesterol plummeted, my blood pressure plummeted. I witnessed it firsthand. I was just eating so many fats, so many sugars following a 100% raw diet. And a lot of that, I think, was based on the cuisine that I was showcasing in the restaurants. It was a little bit more gourmet, a little bit more comforting and concentrated and stuff like that. So, at the end of the day, my diet is greens, beans, and grains and that really sums it up. The occasional vegan comfort food I love as well but the basis of my diet focuses on those few categories now.

Caryn Hartglass: There are so many things I want to talk about, picking out little things that you just mentioned, but let’s talk about health first. It’s a funny thing. Many of us think that we get this free pass when we go vegan, that all of a sudden we’re going to be invulnerable to everything and it’s not true. There are healthy diets that are vegan and there are unhealthy diets and there are some that are in the middle of the road. You could be eating raw or vegetarian or even eating some animal products and it can be healthy or not healthy. So we’re all learning that. That cholesterol thing is a mystery because I’m somebody that does have higher than desired cholesterol and some of those vegan doctors have kind of just shrugged and said, “Don’t worry about it.” There are a lot of different things that are connected to it. I’m definitely somebody who limits oil and sugar and salts and eats tons of greens and minimally processed whole foods. OK, let’s get back to the book. One of the…I was at the Whole Foods book signing at Tribeca a few weeks ago when you and Kris Carr were there and we got to sample a few of the items in the book and they were all fabulous and I just wanted to bring up my favorite, which is the kale salad. I always like to say, “There is nothing that kale can’t do.”

Chad Sarno: That’s one of my all time favorite recipes and it’s been a favorite in that book. You know, we all have those recipes that kind of follow you around over the years that just kind of are timeless and stick with you and tend to be your staples in the kitchen and that recipe, hands down, I eat at least once a week and I have for many, many years. It’s my all time favorite. A lot of people think you that can only cook it or throw it in soups and stews and are a little bit afraid of raw kale being a little bitter and astringent and all that so it’s nice to showcase a simple salad as such with just four or five ingredients that can taste as delicious and nourishing for your body as that.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, it was funny because after that event and having…I think I grabbed maybe two or three sample cups of the kale salad and it wasn’t enough for me and I went right home and made my own giant bowl of kale salad with avocado. I threw in a little onion and I was very happy.

Chad Sarno: That’s great. So simple, so delicious, right? The nice thing about the book coming out around the holidays is we have just a ton of holiday recipes. We have some great holiday menus in the back. And don’t get me wrong, our book does have oil and salt and some fruit sugars…

Caryn Hartglass: That’s OK.

Chad Sarno: It’s a nice variation to really focus on plants being the center of the plate. We have some comforting dishes, some simple light dishes and some great sample menus in the back. And right around the holidays we have at least a dozen good holiday sides in there that can really be translated to any table at home. So I think a lot of people will find what they’re looking for.

Caryn Hartglass: It’s funny. In this food scene where we’re promoting plant foods, I find more and more we’re all so careful because people are saying, “Oh, you can’t have salt, you can’t have sugar, you can’t have oil.” And I don’t use oil often but it’s not that I don’t ever have it. I believe in treats for special occasions. And when you want to make it a little bit more elegant, it’s perfectly fine. It’s just being aware of what we’re using in our food. People very often are not. And as I mentioned, the potato pancake recipe that I’m so excited about at the beginning of the program, that is typically fried in tons of oil. I really want to get away from that. I don’t enjoy eating them and it doesn’t feel good afterwards so I was really glad when I came up with this recipe. I actually put in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. It’s not without oil but it’s just something to pay attention to. You know, we’ve read all this press about the Mediterranean diet and about how olive oil is so healthy and people really get the wrong information from that. That doesn’t mean we can drown ourselves in oil.

Chad Sarno: Exactly. Propaganda at its finest. I mean, look, 95% of the Mediterranean diet is based on whole foods, you know? Whole fruits, vegetables, grains and all that, and a teeny percentage is olive oil and red wine, and what do we run with in terms of the marketing? Olive oil and red wine are good for you. They don’t look at the whole foods that make up the diet. I think…I’m very aligned with that and I really do think it’s all about just bringing awareness to the food scene and to everyone I think. I’m just like choosing what you eat carefully and eating real food, you know? Avoiding boxed food and eating as clean as possible and as many plants being the focus of your dish. No matter what diet you follow, plants should be superior in everybody’s diet.

Caryn Hartglass: You gave us another sample at the Whole Foods event that was made with artichokes that was really amazing and I love the flavor that artichokes have and yet there’s nothing bad in an artichoke.

Chad Sarno: I think…that was one of my favorite crostinis. You spread some crostinis with artichoke pesto and garlicy mushrooms and lots of fresh horseradish on that. That was absolutely delicious. That’s one of my holiday favorite appetizers.

Caryn Hartglass: That was really good. The microplaned horseradish. Yep, it was good.

Chad Sarno: One thing that I wanted to also mention, Caryn, is I started this community with my brother called Wicked Healthy. It’s on facebook. It’s really bringing awareness to folks about how simple eating healthy is. A lot of people are so intimidated by…as soon as you start talking about eating healthy, people immediately think what they can’t have. They don’t think of the simplicity and the abundance that they can have out there. I mean, look at avocados, there are 40 varieties. Durian, there’s 20 varieties. All the beans out there. It’s just so abundant and so simple, and it’s just about taking out the mystery of healthy eating I think is the main focus of all of us. And showing people how simple and delicious it can actually be, you know?

Caryn Hartglass: We just need better marketing representation because the food is fabulous. Everybody who’s on this diet loves it. I love my food and I love it when it’s simple and clean. And I like when I give myself a treat from time to time but I love all of it and I never feel guilty about what I’m eating. We just need some better press. We’re getting some so a book like yours, Crazy, Sexy Kitchen and Wicked Healthy, we need to be marketing like this and give it some really hip images to the diet because, hello, it is hip. We look good, we feel good, and as we get older our performance in many arenas…you know, dare I say sex again when we’re talking about Crazy, Sexy Kitchen, but many men…we hear these advertisements all the time for Viagra and Cialis because men can’t perform. All they need to do is eat plants and things will be back up to normal.

Chad Sarno: Yup. You’re funny, Caryn.

Caryn Hartglass: But, you know, we have to talk about these things and make it crazy, make it sexy, make it wicked, but it’s all good.

Chad Sarno: Yes, I agree. I agree. Just make it approachable and making it easy. Showing people how absolutely simple it is to highlight veggies in a meal and highlight plants as the focus of your meal. So we try to do that with all my work that I’m doing across the board: with Wicked Healthy, with the book, with my website, with all of the culinary classes and education that we teach. And, yeah, I think we’re all doing amazing work and there are so many pioneers out there and there are so many amazing chefs.

Caryn Hartglass: What’s going on with you and Whole Foods? What have you been doing for them?

Chad Sarno: Well, I’ve been working for Whole Foods Market for a little over three years almost, four years now. And my role has evolved a lot over the years. And I’ve fit really well into my role of culinary education so now I’m developing a lot of the plant-based culinary education around our Healthy Eating program, whether they’re educational tools for in stores, for healthy eating specialists and demo specialists, or whether they’re recipes being developed for foods and perishables, or a website or what. And it’s just getting out there and helping educate, you know? Making it so simple and telling people really the versatility of plants is what it’s all about. I mean, we have such an amazing, robust program here at Whole Foods Market called Health Starts Here. People can follow our facebook site and look at Health Starts Here and at the Whole Foods Market website as well. There’s just an immense amount of information up there. Our whole goal, as well, is the same thing as what we’ve been talking about: making it simple, approachable, and delicious. And if it’s affordable, if it’s simple, and if it’s delicious, what else do you need? I mean, those are the three hangups and excuses that you hear from people all the time, “Oh, it doesn’t taste good, it’s too expensive, and it’s too difficult.” All three of those are the biggest hangups that you hear and excuses that people give for why they can’t eat a plant-based diet. We’re trying to demystify that and just take the mystery out of it and just make it simple so everybody can embrace it. And even if it’s small little techniques. I have all of these technique videos up on the website, on, of how to do a simple no-oil sauté, or how do you braise, or how do you grill, or how do you marinade, what’s the basis of making a smoothie or a veggie burger. Just the simple techniques that I think are long-lasting, that’s what’s going to help people sustain a healthier diet. A healthier lifestyle.

Caryn Hartglass: And it’s all free? Those videos that you can watch and you can learn everything you need to know? Now that is really awesome.

Chad Sarno: Yeah. I have a huge video section on my website that I’ve been adding to. I just launched that as well at All of my videos are up there (from) over the years whether they’re recipes or events or anything like that so folks can check those out. There are some great resources out there. I think the community’s growing more and more over the years and there are some stellar chefs out there and amazing advocates and experts in this field so that there’s no excuse anymore. There’s so much free information out there for people to grasp onto to and make it accessible and fit within their lifestyle.

Caryn Hartglass: You know, the nice thing, or the thing that I notice, is the chefs that are making all of this wonderful vegan food—look at them. They are slim, they look good. You are an excellent, stunning example. But when we look at most of the chefs today on the Food Network and chefs all around, they don’t look healthy and they’re on the plus side. And I think that’s important. I really would like to see one of the important factors of delicious food being that it’s good for you because you can make delicious food and not have to pay the price for it.

Chad Sarno: Yeah, I completely agree with that. And it’s just investing that little bit of time. And it’s even cheaper than eating a processed food diet. A lot of people think eating a healthy diet is so expensive. Well, if you’re shopping, and you’re eating all processed food…If you look at the Standard American Diet, Caryn, I mean, it’s over 70% processed food. So if somebody’s converting and thinking that if they just eat organic they’re eating healthy and if you’re just buying organic 70% processed foods of your diet, it’s going to be more expensive. But if you shift that 70% to fresh whole food, shopping the perimeter of the store whether it’s in the produce or the bulk department, I mean, you’re paying pennies for every meal. It’s remarkable how cheap beans and grains and greens are. And if that’s the staple of your diet with the occasional treat or what not, the affordability of it is amazing.

Caryn Hartglass: It’s true. You know, Whole Foods gets a bad rap from time to time. People joke and call it Whole Paycheck but if you go to Whole Foods and you’re buying those simple whole foods, you can really do very well. There are some of those foods that are priced very, very reasonably.

Chad Sarno: Yeah. The company is really focused on value with the 365 brand, whether it’s canned beans or any kind of canned product or packaged product or frozen product. There are frozen greens and whole grains. All of that. It’s just learning how to shop and I think that’s a big challenge for most people. It’s really just taking the steps to educate themselves. The first step is when they’re going to shop. How to fill a basket? How do you stretch meals? How do you make something in the beginning of the week that you can utilize in three to four different applications during your busy workweek? It’s just thinking ahead. It’s a little bit more planning. It’s some self-motivation and going out there and learning the basics: how to shop and what to buy and the basics of cooking, you know? Some grains and beans and you’ll be blown away with how many people out there really don’t know how to cook whole grains or just beans, just dried beans. We’re seeing this in a lot of our classes and also with the viewing of the videos online. One of the most-watched videos on the website is “How to Steam,” which is amazing. That just shows you. A lot of us may be on the coast or in a little bit more progressive cities and it’s kind of shocking but when you start doing some education and teaching in some of inner America and all that, the diet is very different and the resources aren’t out there as much as they are in more of the progressive cities.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. We joke from time to time about how people don’t know how to boil water but right next to that is steaming and that’s all it is.

Chad Sarno: Yeah, exactly. That was the most painful video I’ve ever made in my life was “How to Steam.” But anyways, those are up on all of the sites. Just some really exciting things happening in the plant-based world. And, again, tons of pioneers and hats off to the pioneers out there and the experts and people pushing their businesses and just following their heart and knowing they’re doing the right thing.

Caryn Hartglass: I think people are just afraid sometimes to get back into the kitchen. They’re so distanced from it. If you just thought about how to do things from just a logical point of view, you could figure most things out but I think there’s this distanced fear that maybe we’ve even been marketed and manipulated to feel so that we go out and buy things from fast-food restaurants and who knows how subliminal it’s been. I don’t know.

Chad Sarno: I think what people fear the most is urban spice combining and the basic cooking methods and how to cook grains and beans, just the simple items like that. On my website also, I have…if people sign up for the newsletter they get an extensive urban spice combining chart and a quick glance guide. It kind of shows everything in each column what blends flavor-wise together. It’s just simple tools like that. Simple little quick glance charts. There are just so many resources out there that are available at our fingertips.

Caryn Hartglass: One of the first things that I learned from you was making cheese with probiotics.

Chad Sarno: We have a couple of those in the book. They’re not using probiotics in the book but you obviously can if you’re going to culture. And there are some great raw cheese companies out there. Like Dr. Cow is one of them out of Brooklyn and there’s some great examples out there. We have some that are a little quicker-setting after that doesn’t take exactly how it would taste if you were to culture it because that tends to intimidate some people with culturing. But it’s not…they do the trick and utilizing cashews and almonds and some of those concentrated fats to make the base of your cheese. They’re great little alternatives.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, I really think this is the beginning of something that we’re going to see really bloom because people love cheese.

Chad Sarno: There’s a very close friend of mine who is…I won’t reveal it now because it’s not full public but there’s a cheese that’s going to be coming out on the market that’s going to be a game changer. And it’s not the blended cashew itself, it’s basically the high-fat milk, which is nut-based, and cultures and enzymes and cultured and pressed and aged and it’s exactly the same process as cheese-making. It’s going to be hitting the shelves in the next few months.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, why not?

Chad Sarno: It will definitely be a game changer so it’s very exciting what’s in the works.

Caryn Hartglass: People won’t be able to say, “But I need to have my cheese.” They can give up dairy and they’ll have it all. Very exciting. Just one more question. You have a daughter. How old is she?

Chad Sarno: I have a daughter. She’s 7. My little joy in my life. She’s seven years old and she resides with me here in Austin, Texas.

Caryn Hartglass: What does she like to eat?

Chad Sarno: She loves her green smoothies. I am so grateful that she loves her green smoothies. She loves her starches and the vegan mac-and-cheese I made her the other night and things like that of course she loves. One good thing is she absolutely loves her green smoothies and she asks for them. Over the years I’ve been doing green smoothie demos at all the little schools she’s been going to with her classes and it’s a lot of fun. I think it’s really important for folks who have kids to get them involved. Get them in the kitchen. Let them pick veggies out of a garden or pick veggies out at a farmers’ market, what looked beautiful. Get them involved in the kitchen. It just makes it so simple and so much easier to have them try and to experience more plant-based foods if their hands are in there and they choose themselves.

Caryn Hartglass: I just wanted to wrap up and get back to Crazy, Sexy Kitchen. I know that in addition to all of your recipes, there were a number of guest chefs in the book and I have here in the studio with me for the next part of the show Chef Fran Costigan and she’s in that book too.

Chad Sarno: She is. Fran and I go way back. She is an absolute powerhouse pastry chef.

Fran Costigan: Hi Chad.

Chad Sarno: Hi Fran.

Fran Costigan: Hi Chad. It’s so nice to see you sweetie.

Chad Sarno: Look at that. I’m singing your praises and you’re right there. Awesome. Good to be on here with you, Fran. Yeah, she’s one of the chefs in the book and we just have an amazing lineup. It’s just always a pleasure to work with Fran on any projects.

Caryn Hartglass: Chad, thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food. All the best with Crazy, Sexy Kitchen and all of your wonderful projects and thanks for doing what you’re doing for all of us.

Chad Sarno: Thank you so much, Caryn, for having me. I appreciate it.

Caryn Hartglass: Happy Holidays.

Chad Sarno: OK, you too. Goodbye.

Caryn Hartglass: That was Chad Sarno and you can go to his website for all of those wonderful videos he was talking about and a whole lot more. OK, we’re going to take a quick break and then we’ll be back with Chef Fran Costigan to talk about irresistible chocolate vegan desserts. We’ll be right back.

Transcribed by Jennie Steinhagen, 2/24/2013


Caryn Hartglass: Hi everybody, I’m Caryn Hartglass and we’re back! It’s the eleventh of December, 2012 and this is It’s All About Food. Now you know me, I talk about food all the time. I like to say that eating a healthy diet is really important and so is really keeping an eye on the oil, salt, sugar, and all that stuff. That doesn’t mean that from time to time we can’t have a treat. A treat is something that we don’t have all the time, that’s what makes it a treat, hello! I know the standard American diet today has people treating every hour. And I think it might even be a little boring when you’re getting all that gooey, sweet whatever you want every moment of the day. Just my opinion.

There are moments when treats are wonderful and deserved. We should have them made form wonderful, quality ingredients that are gentle on the planet and cruelty-free. There is one person who does this best and we’re going to be talking to her right now! She’s a native New Yorker, Fran Costigan is the queen of vegan desserts. She’s an internationally recognized culinary instructor, author, consultant, recipe developer, and the pioneering vegan pastry chef who marries healthy eating with sumptuous tastes. The “Fran factor” is her unique ability to transform traditional desserts into modern healthful and luscious vegan desserts that satisfy vegans and omnivores alike. In Fran’s recipes, nothing is missing except the dairy, eggs, white sugar, and excess fat. She’s the authority on all things related to vegan baking and desserts and a graduate of the New York Restaurant School, the Natural Gourmet Institute, and Nick Malgerie’s Professional Pastry Intensive. Today Fran teaches her unique courses at the institute of culinary education, a natural gourmet institute, including her always sold out Vegan Baking Boot Camp Intensive, and at other venues throughout the US and Canada. Fran’s second cookbook, More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts Naturally, is designed as a complete course in vegan baking. She just finished working on her third cookbook, Irresistible Chocolate Vegan Desserts for Everyone: Unapologetically Delicious, Decadent, Dark, Organic and Fair. That will be coming out next year. We’re going to be talking about that and a lot more. Welcome to It’s All About Food, my wonderful friend, Fran!

Fran Costigan: Thank you.

Caryn Hartglass: It’s really nice to have a friend like you because you’re always bringing chocolates wherever you are.

Fran Costigan: This is true. Thank you for that lovely welcome Caryn and I really enjoyed your interview with Chad, a dear friend.

Caryn Hartglass: One crazy, sexy chef!

Fran Costigan: He is that! He’s a good looking man! And a great chef and a wonderful teacher.

Caryn Hartglass: I want to go watch his video on how to steam vegetables.

Fran Costigan: You know, because I teach so much and for such a long time, I’ve met so many people. I have still trained myself to have a beginner’s mind. There really are people who, whether it’s the terminology, like steaming, or are really nervous about going into the kitchen and making their own food, boiling water or steaming seems like a gourmet term. I suggest to people that they might have made themselves a cup of tea sometime and that would have involved boiling water. We just need to show each other.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m just thinking right now, probably a lot of people don’t know how to boil water because they have automatic coffee makers and they just fill it up and press a button.

Fran Costigan: That’s right. Or in Europe, and I see a lot of it here too, where people plug those pots in to make the boiling water.

Caryn Hartglass: Right, electric.

Fran Costigan: But stoves work too. Or people who boil water in a microwave oven. Anyway, the fact is, keep it simple. And do what works and what feels comfortable for you. Once you start making a little bit of food for yourself, it’s a game changer. I’ve been working day and night really, and I’ve had pretty unbalanced life and I believe in balance and in the last week I’ve been working on finishing the man for the new vegan chocolate book and I’ve very excited about it. So I’m in NYC and I can pick up the phone and I can have a green juice delivered or a bean salad or whatever, and I was doing that for a while. I did that for two days and then something just didn’t feel okay. Even though the restaurants I chose were alright, I wasn’t making the food and my energy wasn’t in the food and I kind of went ugh.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, even if you’re not making the food, there’s an opportunity for a lot of oil or salt.

Fran Costigan: Exactly

Caryn Hartglass: There are some wonderful restaurants in this city but still, they’re trying to maximize their profit and you don’t know all the ingredients that are going into what they’re making.

Fran Costigan: You don’t know. It’s true. So I didn’t like the way I felt and I just thought, “This is so simple!” I keep a pretty well stocked pantry and even when it’s not, one of the best things about following a whole-foods, plant-based diet is that you can always eat. So I had something and people look at the salads that I eat and they go, “Is that for you?” and I say, “Yes.” Greens, avocado, cucumbers, celery, whatever I had in the fridge.

Caryn Hartglass: You’re making me hungry!

Fran Costigan: It was a really delicious salad! And I felt better! It’s a little way of taking control. I didn’t need oil. I’m not an oil-shunner, because I use oil in my desserts but I don’t use it where I don’t need it. The avocado took care of the fat that I was craving.

Caryn Hartglass: It’s my favorite fat!

Fran Costigan: Yeah, it’s good. And for the kale salad, I did that too. It was really good. And it gives me an opportunity to get up from my computer and go and massage my kale a little bit. So it’s just wonderful. With that said, I have tasted a lot of chocolate in the past year. This book is going to be quite unique. There hasn’t been to date, a chocolate book, and chocolate is pretty universally loved, for people who exclude form their diets milk, dairy of all kinds, eggs, and refined white sugar. And those are products that I do not use. I also do not use any, what I call marginal or fake foods. Now I am not making people who use the products I do no use wrong, I want to make that really clear. There’s room for everyone. But I have not needed to and I don’t want to, so I don’t use palm oil. I’m not talking chocolate chips. There are some chocolate chips in the chocolate chip cookie, but I’m talking about high percentage chocolates. And I learned so much throughout the research for this book, it’s so interesting.

Caryn Hartglass: Did you start out with history of chocolate?

Fran Costigan: Yes. The book is designed so that the first chapter is pretty information dense. You can go to it if you wish or you can just go to a recipie in chapter that you might be interested in. there’s a truffle chapter, chocolate truffles, cakes, showstoppers which are multi-part but are doable in stages, ice creams, puddings, cooked, raw, gluten free, and confections as well. Did I say cookies and bars?

Caryn Hartglass: No.

Fran Costigan: Cookies and bars. What I did is I have information about the ingredients. People say, you’re vegan? You’re doing a chocolate book? That’s great, what do you use for chocolate?

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, people don’t understand. They equate milk and butter with chocolate. I think they’re even confused when they see cocoa butter as an ingredient.

Fran Costigan: Thank you for saying that. So yes, I decided to do a really complete glossary and then at the front of each chapter, because there are different types of desserts and within the types there are subtypes, and I write the way I think so I will go to a section or a chapter, usually in the front or the back of the book that has explanations, but I want to know about what I need to know to bake a good cake at the cake chapter, for example. So I did a complete section on chocolate and I really had to rethink the way I was labeling chocolate. I was thinking high percentage which is when you go to any major drug store chain and you see seventy percent on the bar, or eighty percent in big print. What that means is that’s the percentage of chocolate solids, which is the cocoa mass, the unsweetened chocolate, like chocolate liquor, which is not alcohol, and cocoa butter, which is not dairy, it’s the fat. I’m not very good at math, but if it’s a seventy percent bar, it’s seventy percent chocolate and about thirty percent sugar. So the higher the percentage, the lower the sugar and I like that because you’re getting more chocolate. However, the percentage is not a guarantee of quality because you need to do a little homework and you need to taste a few bars. It all starts with the beans: how are they selected, how are they fermented, how are they handled, are they roasted or not? Also, with the artisanal, small-batch chocolate makers now, how they prepare the chocolate bean to bar is proprietary information. And on top of that we have personal tastes and our palates are different. So one seventy percent bar might taste creamier to me and sweeter, whereas you might take a bite and say, “This is really dark, this is really bitter.” So it turns out that what I was calling, until now, “bittersweet” or “semi-sweet” chocolate is a misnomer. They are dark chocolates with different percentages. Actually, according to the FDA, and I’m doing this from memory, to be called bittersweet, the percentage of a chocolate only need only be thirty-five percent. Clearly, a bar that is labeled with “bittersweet” and made with thirty-five percent is going to taste really different from one that is made with eighty-five percent.

Caryn Hartglass: I think going to taste sweet

Fran Costigan: It’s going to taste sweet to me. So the percentages are a guide. I like the idea of using high percentage chocolates for a number of reasons. There’s less sugar and more chocolate. I like using less sugar with the idea that these are desserts. And going back to what you said about treats, if you eat these desserts that I make all throughout the day, I don’t see that they are treats any more. So whereas I start many of my classes and conversations with, “There is no holy grail of sweetener and these are treats that are meant to be made to be once in a while, but when you enjoy them, make it good. Make it really good.”

Caryn Hartglass: I think a lot of people have a palate that doesn’t know how taste many flavors. they’ve grown accustomed to accepting low quality that has sugar and artificial flavors and fat and they don’t even know what good is.

Fran Costigan: Yes, but you can retrain really easily. I know that eating my version of a clean diet, my whole foods, plant-based diet, because as we know, you and I have discussed this as friends many times in conversations, vegan doesn’t equal healthy. You can be a candy bar began. I eat seasonal foods that are whole and organic. I have greens every day, many times a day and grains and beans.

Caryn Hartglass: But when it’s party time, you bring the chocolate cake!

Fran Costigan: When it’s party time, I’m happy to have my chocolate, but I want it to be delicious. And so, having grown up on those foil, kissy things, those waxy things, the high percentage chocolates, and I’m talking about the ones that are high quality, are a phenomenon because you’re tasting chocolate. You need less really because there is more chocolate inherently in something that’s seventy percent or eighty-five percent. And I know, because I have met so many people in this line of dessert work that I am doing to my surprise and delight and the delight of my friends I must say, that they say “Wow, I can really eat a smaller piece and feel satisfied. I can have a truffle that isn’t the size of a golf ball or a baseball and feel satisfied.” But you need to use quality, good stuff. Also, when you take the excess fat out, and there is excess sugar and excess fat in commercial foods just because it’s cheaper and the general public’s palates might be used to that, you taste the chocolate. The chocolate isn’t masked. This I know because I have really experienced this.

Caryn Hartglass: Now some people like chocolate, just plain chocolate. I like when chocolate is married with something else either like chocolate with some nut or chocolate with some sort of bread, cake, cookie, something or other. I feel like I taste the chocolate better when it comes with something

Fran Costigan: You might. Well, chocolate and nuts are really a historic pairing. There’s this symbiotic thing that goes on. There are recipes in this book for every level of expertise or how much time you have in a particular day or whatever. Many of the component recipes have components that can be done in advance so learn you learn to make a ganache, which is typically an emotion of heavy cream and chocolate, then sometimes butter is added and sometimes corn syrup is added, this is getting kind of yucky to me. Mine are non-dairy, milks, creams, I’ve even got one with orange juice. So you’ll be able to tailor what works for you in this. Let’s say that you’ve done this ganache, which isn’t very difficult to do; you need to follow my rulebooks. I have Fran’s rulebook for making perfect truffles or ice cream or whatever at the front of each chapter. Then you’ve got this in your refrigerator and let’s say that you were coming into the city with Gary. Caryn, come on over! I want to serve you a little something, its holiday time! And I make you a little chocolate crostini. I toast some wonderful sourdough or sprouted wheat bread until it’s crunchy. Spread it while it’s warm with some of this melty ganache and for you, who likes nuts, maybe there will be some chopped hazelnuts on the top and teeny crush of finishing salt, maybe or maybe not, and a little drizzle of olive oil, maybe or maybe not. But you can see the possibilities; they are endless and they are wonderful. I also have a vegan not-tella-tella, if you know what I mean, in the book. It’s really good.

Caryn Hartglass: I was talking about Nutella recently because they’d been in the news. In France, they are talking about levying a tax on foods with palm oil. Something like a thirty percent tax, but I’m not exactly sure how it works out. So the Nutella Company is up in arms because there’s a lot of palm oil in their hazelnut spread.

Fran Costigan: And milk powder.

Caryn Hartglass: And milk powder. Those are the two top ingredients actually: milk powder and palm oil

Fran Costigan: Yes, there’s very little chocolate and there’s very little hazelnut. That’s really interesting. Well Caryn, let me say, there’s that one recipe with palm oil in my book. I don’t use it. It’s just something that I do not use. I haven’t needed to.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s fine. I’m on the fence about palm oil and I know a lot of people are really quite adamantly against it. I think there’s a lot to it. People are concerned about palm oil because there’s a lot of mono-cropping of palm oil in many third world countries devastating the rainforest and it’s not good for the environment. I acknowledge that but I also acknowledge that there are bigger issues to the rainforest than sometime I think is the whole palm oil story which is a distraction to the bigger issue which is cattle ranching and soy production to feed cows, which is a bigger piece of the rainforest destruction puzzle, unfortunately. It’s all important.

Fran Costigan: It’s all important is really what it comes to. So as long as I’m able to, I’m keeping it a bit more local. I’ve found that using olive oil from California, California Olive Ranch, to make desserts that require fat, is just wonderful. When you switch from a solid shortening, so we would say butter here, to a liquid, which is all fat, you need less. You need twenty-five percent less. So I use just enough to make the dessert taste good. The fat-free desserts, I’m talking about cakes, unlike truffles, which isn’t a fat-free dessert, but it’s certainly a no-fat-added dessert. I’ve got my truffle recipe going into Rip Esselstyn’s upcoming book and you know that no fat is allowed there. You also go around full circle there to the idea that there are times when people who eat plant-based diets need a good treat. I did Rip and Jill’s wedding cakes. They did have cakes at their wedding.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh good, I’m glad to hear that.

They wanted a chocolate cake and that’s what they had. You and I talk often about this and I heard you talking to Chad, you know how people who say to me, “You’re a dessert chef right?” and I go, “Yeah, I make desserts.” “Well, you’re not fat. You’re slender, super slender.” Well, I just finished writing an all chocolate book with 100 to 115 recipes I think and I certainly had to do tasting all along the way. I had to taste with my grand children’s little tasting spoons. The fact is, I don’t live on these desserts. I know that I’m tasting for flavor, for consistency, and for texture, and then I’ve had enough, because they’re really good.

Caryn Hartglass: Was there something you learned about chocolate that you didn’t know before?

Fran Costigan: There was a lot I learned about chocolate that I didn’t know before and I’ve been using chocolate because my classes are popular, but it’s the chocolate classes that are really popular or in a class that isn’t a chocolate class invariably someone will say, “Well, what if we put a little chocolate in this?” It’s just this universal thing. One of the main things I touched on before was the percentage, the idea of bittersweet, and it’s just a marketing label, almost like natural. That was very interesting to me. Also, the idea of well, what makes chocolate vegan? I was stunned to learn that, in this country anyway, up to 12 percent milk solids, in some form, is allowed to be contained in a dark chocolate. So you had best read your labels. It’s disclosed, but it wouldn’t occur to me until I learned this. This is law. If I saw a bar of dark chocolate, I would assume that it is an only chocolate bar.

Caryn Hartglass: Many people have made that mistake.

Because organic has become a very popular marketing tool, so that the chocolate makers that I trusted or liked, for example, have been bought up by the bigger guys and then the biggest guys. I’m not talking about shared lines here, I’m talking about seeing milk powder. Green & Black will list organic milk powder.

Caryn Hartglass: I used to love them a long time ago and I don’t any more

Fran Costigan: They were bought by Cadbury.

Caryn Hartglass: And then by Kraft.

Fran Costigan: But the fact is, they’re still talking about shared equipment. By law, you can have up to 12 percent milk in some form. So I suggest that you really look at your label. At least, it’s annoying and at worst, it’s quite deadly. That was a really big one for me. So people say, “Well, what makes chocolate vegan?” It’s a bit tricky; the sugar needs to be vegan. “What makes sugar vegan?” If your sugar is organic, it’s vegan. It hasn’t been processed through bone char. So you want to look for organic sugar, but even that’s become a confusing thing.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh my God, we can’t talk about chocolate anymore!

But we can talk about chocolate. I want to use a chocolate that’s a compassionate chocolate, not a slavery.

Caryn Hartglas: No slavery in your chocolate.

Fran Costigan: There’s a lot of slavery and I talk about that in the book as well. But mostly, I just want you to like it! Mmmm!

Caryn Hartglass: Well Fran, thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food! We really are looking forward to when this book is in print, which will be sometime in 2013.

Fran Costigan: Fall.

Caryn Hartglass: In the fall. Great. Well, thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food! Please visit, that’s where I live! Send me an email at and we’ll be back next week! Have a delicious one! Bye!

Transcribed by Flannery Cash, 3/4/2013

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