Gaz Oakley, a 28 year-old UK based chef and author known as the Avant-Garde Vegan – and a man who has more than a million subscribers on his YouTube channel – was one of the star attractions at Festive Vegan & Plant Powered Show (FVPPS).
South Africa’s first online food show took place on Saturday, 28 November 28 2020, and allowed visitors to meet some big name local and international chefs and discover products and services in an entertaining, engaging and informative way. Visitors to the online event were also be able to meet and greet Oakley – albeit virtually – and ask him a question or two.
Who is Gaz Oakley, the Avant-Garde Vegan?
After learning to cook at a very young age with his dad, cooking and sports became Oakley’s early passions. Wanting to learn even more about the former, Oakley got his first part time chef’s job at the tender age of 15, working at a local hotel restaurant. A year later, after completing his GCSEs, he left school to work full time at the restaurant.
After a few years he decided it was time for a new challenge and plucked up the courage to knock on the door of Le Gallois, a renowned restaurant in Cardiff, Wales. Oakley offered to work for free to show off his skills and to his amazement the head chef agreed. He worked the weekend for no pay and a week later was offered a full-time position.
“Working at Le Gallois was intense but the food we served was unbelievable. I learnt so much and was given the freedom to create my own dishes for the menu.”
After working long hours in the kitchen for a number of years Oakley decided to take a sabbatical. When had some spare time again, he got back into exercising, started weight training and adopted a body builder’s diet but gained a lot of weight and did not feel healthy at all.
“I noticed more and more information about veganism popping up on my social media feeds and then one day my favourite musician Jme (aka Jamie Adenuga) was on the radio talking about what made him go vegan, and he mentioned a YouTube video by a guy called Gary Yourofsky which made him make the change overnight.
“I watched the video and was blown away. From that day on I knew I would be vegan for the rest of my life.”
First vegan meal
“I remember eating my first vegan meal and it was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. It tasted so fresh, vibrant and flavoursome. After weeks of experimenting my passion for cooking was back and I started to create the most incredible vegan food,” says Gaz.
“One day I came up with an idea to turn people on to the idea of veganism. I invited a group of friends over and made them the most amazing vegan burgers ever. They were gobsmacked and didn’t believe they really were 100% vegan burgers. From that moment on, I knew that I had to use my cooking skills as my way of promoting veganism.”
In February 2016, after many months of cooking for friends, recipe testing and experimenting, Oakley started his Instagram page @avantgardevegan, with the hope of spreading his activism through food to a wider audience. And before he knew it, he had thousands of followers from around the world, a number that now sits at over half a million and growing daily.
In December 2016 Oakley launched Avant-Garde Vegan YouTube. Oakley has now completed over 11 seasons of recipe videos, has over one million subscribers who are based all around the world and his YouTube videos have a combined total of nearly 40 million views.
The next obvious move was into publishing, and in January 2018 Oakley released his debut cookbook titled #Vegan100, which is sold worldwide and has been translated into five languages. In December 2018, Oakley released his second book, Vegan Christmas which, like his debut book, went on to become a bestseller. A third book, titled Plants Only Kitchen was released in April this year and is filled with simple protein packed recipes that have proved to be a godsend to vegans and vegetarians during lockdown the world over.
What: The online Festive Vegan & Plant Powered Show
Where and when: Saturday 28 November 2020 from 11am to 5pm
Who: A host of international and local chefs including Gaz Oakley, Chef Cola, Chef Jay Mac from the Kind Kitchen, Chef Chris Erasmus of Foliage, and more still to be confirmed. Also featured in the show will be cooking demos, expert talks and The Great Big Festive Vegan Banquet.