June 14, 2021

Get to Know Chrissy Tracey—Bon Appétit’s First Vegan Chef 

Skim through the recent digital pages of Bon Appétit, and you’ll find a refreshing new plant-based perspective within the traditionally omnivore-focused recipes. In a conscious effort toward improving its diversity (in regards to the people behind it and its content), this mainstream food media outlet brought vegan chef Chrissy Tracey on board. As a Black woman, powerhouse vegan recipe developer, and independent business owner, Tracey is breathing new life into the company and expanding the accessibility of vegan cuisine to the masses. From landing the job off a social media comment to providing plant-based meals to those in need, we quickly learned from this conversation that Tracey is doing so much more than just veganizing cacio e pepe. 

VegNews (VN): Tell us how you landed your new position at Bon Appétit. We’re so excited for you!
Chrissy Tracey (CT): Let me just start by saying: the power of your voice and the power of social media and connecting is larger than you’d ever imagine. When George Floyd was killed in May, riots began, and attention started to turn toward companies and individuals—forcing them to think about their behaviors when it came to inclusion, racism, etc. As a result … many companies would get on Instagram and share their faults within the realms of racism and be vulnerable to their followers. Typically it would be followed up with an action plan of sorts on how they plan to move forward. Bon Appétit did that. They recognized their faults, apologized, and provided a plan of action in as much detail as they could disclose publicly. That was met with a lot of hostility and hate rather than hope and positivity, and I don’t think society can thrive like that. So, naturally, I had to give my two cents, and I said that we have all failed at one point or another in our lives, but what’s important is how we recover from that, and that we actually change. Humans are flawed, so to think companies wouldn’t have flawed cultural aspects is beyond me. I have worked for some of the largest organizations in the world— Apple and Yale, to name a few—and what I can say is no company is perfect. It’s the ones that strive for betterment that make it out in the end. 

I left my little comment along with something that stated that I would love to work for them, and that comment was met with a lot of love—it sort of went viral from a “likes” perspective. Next thing I knew, I had an email from a talent manager from Condé Nast, and then interviews happened very quickly after that. 

I was excited to be a part of an opportunity that would allow me to “be the change.” This opportunity was way larger than me. I didn’t see many Black chefs on TV. I didn’t see any vegan chefs on TV growing up. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to show every little Black girl and boy that they can be a chef, they can go against the status quo, and they can make a difference. I want to show [people of color] that their voices can be heard and their cultures can indeed be showcased and be hip and cool—just like anything else. This opportunity was very special for me. 

VN: What are your hopes for the future of Bon Appétit and, more specifically, the attention it will give to vegan cuisine?
CT: The future may not be 100 percent vegan, but it’s going to include more plant-based recipes … and I’m excited to be a part of that. I think Bon Appétit really does care about making sure everyone is seen and heard in the organization no matter what their background is, and that is special to me and means a lot because I personally don’t want to be a part of a trend—I want to be a part of a revolution … I’m really hoping that with such a large platform, I will be able to revolutionize the way people think of vegan food. I’m really passionate about encouraging those in my community to eat more healthy, plant-based food. Every week, my meal delivery company Vegan Vibes donates dozens of meals to food insecure families in Connecticut. I’m hoping my work at Bon Appétit brings more attention to these types of initiatives from myself and other chefs.

VN: How did you learn to cook?
Most of what I’ve learned is from family traditions cooking Jamaican-style food at home with my mom and dad. I also learned a great deal from my best friend’s mother who lived next door and was from Argentina. Her name is Sabrina and she taught me how to make fresh pastas, cakes, cookies, empanadas, and more. My neighbors allowed me to come over and be as creative as possible in their kitchen, and I will forever be grateful for that. 

I grew up vegetarian with my seven siblings. Culinary school wasn’t an option I was willing to explore due to the fact that it would mean I’d have to cook meat, and that’s something I really didn’t want to do. I went to school for business and technology instead. One thing I have always known is how to flavor the hell out of food and make plant-based food taste really good, so techniques and cooking processes were just other aspects I wanted to master. I’m currently enrolled in the Food Future Institute by plant-based chef and restaurateur Matthew Kenney. It’s been really fulfilling and I’m glad to be a part of such a comprehensive, go-at-your-own-pace plant-based learning academy. 

VN: We know you love to bake—Did you start baking one thing in particular during the pandemic?
CT: Honestly, I went crazy with cinnamon rolls and focaccia bread! Also, I know it’s not baking, but I got obsessed with making fresh pastas … [cooking and baking is] what I’m passionate about and what I love to do, so the pandemic just gave me more time to embrace all of that and really focus on cooking for myself and having fun. 

Tanya Flink is a Digital Editor at VegNews as well as a writer and fitness enthusiast living in Orange County, CA.

Photo credit: Chrissy Tracey

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