October 10th, 2011 by Gary Smith
Brian Manowitz, better known as Vegan Black Metal Chef, posted a Pad Thai cooking video in May of this year that went viral. As of this interview, the video has been seen by close to 1.6 million people. He’s been featured in Time Magazine, the Washington Post and Wired. Brian, or rather Vegan Black Metal Chef, was kind enough to share some of his thoughts.
How long have you been vegan and how did you come to that decision?
I have been vegan for 11 years. The short answer to the second part of this question is that I do not believe in the exploitation of animals, using them at their loss (an understatement) for our gain.
On the “Why Vegan” page of your website, you talk about mysticism and spirituality. How do both play roles in your life?
To me they are one and the same so I cannot really talk about both. All mysticism is having a direct connection with “God” or “The All” or “The Divine,” whatever you want to call it. To me this is paramount in my life. It is kinda the one thing that is always on my mind in some form or another.
Can someone have a spiritual life and contribute to the suffering and death of nonhuman animals?
Yes, since this spiritual life comes simply from knowing, experiencing, and living your direct connection with “the all.” You can ultimately do any outward action and still know and feel this connection. As long as the action is done with perfect consciousness and awareness, it is really a spiritual action. It may become difficult to do these things, while bringing consciousness and awareness to them however.
You can cause incredible suffering with perfect consciousness, I just have no idea why you would want to.
When you do something with total awareness of what you are doing, you have to face the total scope of what you are contributing to your self and therefore the world.
“God,” “The Divine,” “The all” is all power and all things…this includes all of the things we consider “good” in this world as well as all of the things we consider “evil.” It is all still “God.” Else, there would be many gods/many powers. God would not be “all powerful” if this were the case. The sum of all of these gods/powers in the world could then be seen as one “God,” returning it back to one.
When you came up with the idea of doing a vegan cooking video, did you ever imagine that 1.5 million people would view the video?
I did want this to be fairly popular from the start; that’s why I put a lot of effort into it…it just happened way faster than expected. I am humbled and honored for that.
What kid of feedback have you received from non-vegans?
Mixed feedback all over the board…it has been mostly positive which is cool, but if you read through the comments on the videos they can be pretty much all over the place.
Are you a trained chef?
Self-trained chef. I like to cook (and eat) a lot so I do a lot of experimenting with food. I am always pushing my limits on this and always looking for better ways to do things.
What is your favorite meal to prepare?
A lot of people ask this question. I guess it’s a common question we all grew up with. In truth, now, I have no favorite meal. I like to eat or prepare anything that is phenomenally good that my body wants at that time. Once you eat a large variety of truly amazing food, how can one pick a favorite?
What are your plans for Vegan Black Metal Chef?
To definitively answer the question “what do vegans eat” (from my perspective)? This entails videos, writing, demos, whatever to get this out. I wish to teach people how to make really amazing food, and the concepts of making amazing food…along with making some awesome music and raising awareness to go along with it.
In the near future: more videos, cookbook with audio elements, more speaking and future cooking demos/shows.
Where do you get all of your cool gear?
Lots of various places. You will be amazed at what you can do with a pile of junk and spray paint. A lot of shit is also custom made. People only think in terms of gong to a store and buying something, when there exists tons of “artisans” in this world. They make all of the best stuff.
Do you consider yourself an activist? Which issues are most near and dear to you?
I consider just my living example a form of activism. I am an activist in the sense that I just want to give the best parts of myself and any knowledge that can help people, animals and the whole world.
I consider myself an activist because I have no problem answering any questions from absolutely anyone about veganism when they ask…no matter how stupid the questions get.
I used to be more of a “traditional” activist, and I do think traditional activist methods actually work and are good for the most part (if done well). However for one reason or another, I do not take as much direct activist action as I used to.
My time is better spent giving in the unique ways I can give best. Others’ time is better spent doing these other things. Everyone is needed to do their best part in the world. Perhaps it will be my time to be more of the traditional activist again in the future.
Tofu or tempeh?