She’s worked at some of the best vegan restaurants in the country, holds a degree from one of the nation’s premiere culinary schools, and just became the first vegan chef to win a Food Network cooking competition—all before the ripe old age of 23. Yes, Chef Chloe Coscarelli is a culinary force to be reckoned with. On Tuesday, June 22, the Los Angeles-based vegan chef blew past the non-vegan competition on Cupcake Wars, taking first place on the latest episode of the Food Network series. Coscarelli squared off against three bakers to claim top honors, wowing the celebrity judges with four decadent vegan cupcakes—Ginger Nutmeg Spice with Date Caramel Drizzle, Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake, Crème-filled Chocolate Orange with Candied Orange Peel, and Raspberry Tiramisu. In addition to winning a cash prize of $10,000, Coscarelli got the chance to cater 1,000 vegan cupcakes for a high-profile party hosted by OK! Magazine at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where magazine bigwigs and Hollywood starlets happily devoured her dairy-free desserts. Between balancing a busy schedule chock-full of catering gigs and recording how-to cooking videos for her newly launched web series, Vegan With Style, Coscarelli found time to give VN the scoop on her historic Cupcake Wars win.
VegNews: How did your win on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars come about?
Chloe Coscarelli: It all started when I saw an ad for the Cupcake Wars casting call on Twitter, and I tried out on a whim. At the audition I had to show up with an elaborately decorated cupcake—I made a cupcake with an Alice in Wonderland theme. They loved the cupcake, and several days later the producers called me back to say I made it! Times are a changing! I brought my college roommate, Sandhya, to assist me on the show. It turns out we make a pretty good team.
VN: What kind of feedback did you receive from the judges?
CC: I was required to come up with four different cupcake flavors based on aphrodisiacs for a “hot singles” event. The competition consisted of four challenges; the first was the taste test. This was the scariest challenge, because if they didn’t like my cupcake, I would be immediately eliminated and told to leave the studio. For this round, I made the Ginger Nutmeg Spice Cupcake. They each took a bite and I was so relieved when the judges liked it better than anyone else’s. One of the judges, Florian Bellanger, who is a renowned traditional pastry chef from NYC, even asked me to marry him after tasting it.
VN: One of the judges was Candace Nelson of LA’s Sprinkles Cupcakes—the world’s first cupcake bakery, which recently added its first vegan cupcake. How did it feel to have your vegan treats singled out by Nelson?
CC: I’ve always looked up to Candace as the ultimate pastry entrepreneur and to hear her say that my cupcakes changed her perception of vegan desserts was the biggest honor. As I stood before her while she raved about my cupcakes, I was thinking, “Pinch me this must be a dream!” I go to Sprinkles all the time because they are making a killer vegan red velvet cupcake!
VN: You catered 1,000 vegan cupcakes for an OK! Magazine celebrity party in Beverly Hills. Tell us more!
CC: The party happened right after the win at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, so it was a huge rush! It was so exciting to walk on the red carpet and see celebrities coming back for seconds and thirds of my cupcakes. From the OK! Magazine execs to the star guests, everyone loved the fact that my cupcakes were vegan, and all 1,000 cupcakes were wiped clean. I even found out that some of my favorite celebs were vegan themselves, such as Chelsea Hightower from Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance. It was surreal to have people that I’ve always admired appreciating my cupcakes.
VN: As a vegan, did you feel like Food Network was receptive and encouraging of dairy-free desserts?
CC: Absolutely! At first, I was unsure if Food Network would even cast me on the show with vegan cupcakes, but they treated me like every other contestant and were totally cool with it. I definitely think that mainstream media is catching up with the public interest in lighter, healthier, plant-based cooking.
VN: What do you hope audiences take away from your appearance on Cupcake Wars?
CC: Quite honestly, I think most people were shocked that the judges would choose a vegan cupcake over a “traditional” one. Let’s face it—it was a huge risk! Even one of the other contestants admitted to me in the middle of the competition that they expected me to go home first because my cupcakes were vegan. I hope everyone who watches is reminded to believe in themselves, even when no one else does.
VN: Now that you’ve taken mainstream media by storm with vegan cupcakes, what’s next?
CC: Right now, I’m enjoying being a professional eater. I’m either in my kitchen experimenting with something or working on my blog. Who knows what’s in store for the future!
To read more about Chef Chloe check out VN’s July+August Anniversary issue, on newsstands July 1!