Lauren Toyota on cookbooks in an era of blogging

Lauren Toyota talks about her imperfect style of vegan cooking and how she rediscovered print with her cookbook 'Vegan Comfort Classics: 101 Recipes to Feed Your Face'.

Elder millennials will remember Lauren Toyota as a MuchMusic host – during her tenure she hosted awards shows and hobnobbed with huge music stars like Katy Perry and One Direction. Fast forward to present day and the Mississauga native is still behind the screen, only this time it's probably your laptop where you'll find the foodie.

Toyota hosts vegan cooking shows on her blog, 'Hot for Food' where she whips up comfort food recipes for her almost 400,000 subscribers. We chatted with the YouTuber to learn how she came to publish a cookbook in print and where she thinks the future of cooking shows is headed.

On writing a cookbook

I went from my entertainment television broadcasting career into creating recipes and content full time. That was the gateway to doing a cookbook. I was approached a few times and I was pretty reluctant initially. I thought it was antiquated and I didn’t think a book was the right step. Typically, I don’t look at cookbooks, which was part of my early hesitation. I can appreciate a beautiful cookbook and I have some on my shelf but it’s not really something I turn to for inspiration. But I’m so glad I made one because it’s taken Hot for Food to another level. With the book, I was cooking way more than I ever have. I had to make 120-130 recipes whereas for the channel, you’re popping out content but not actually spending a ton of time cooking. I really liked being in the kitchen and playing around and the cookbook allowed me to do that with concentrated effort. I miss being in a kitchen without any pressure to make a video.

On YouTube’s inclusivity

I grew up thinking, “I’m not perfect like Martha Stewart, so where is the space for me?” The space turned out to be YouTube. I’m very clear about my lack of knife skills and I’m not trying to come off as the perfect chef. I want everyone to feel like they can get in the kitchen and make delicious food with what they have. Because YouTube is produced and edited by regular people, you have different pacing and you’re getting the real steps – it’s not overly sexy or polished, you’re just seeing someone creating something from start to finish.

Food is our currency; it’s what we do all day, every day and it’s so emotional and nostalgic

On the trend towards cooking videos

I think it’s good for the culinary world to have the floodgates blasted open – it’s allowed anyone to come into this space and share their own food experience and their own history. Food is our currency; it’s what we do all day, every day and it’s so emotional and nostalgic. So it’s nice when you see authentic stories coming into it that aren’t from celebrities or professional French chefs who have been given a pedestal. Someone from Mexico who’s cooking their mother’s food or my own personal stories with vegan comfort food – all of that being added to the food space is beneficial in the end. There are endless ways of fusing cultures together and I want people to be really open to that. People should be inspired to want to try something. It may not be totally authentic but they’re able to bring it into their own home. If I teach someone how to make gnocchi – I’m not saying it’s the best gnocchi in town – but I’m helping you feel less intimidated about the idea of making it in your own kitchen.

On the viability of cookbooks

I think there’s still a place for cookbooks. I, too, was proven wrong about their demise. A lot of my audience had bought into Hot for Food before the book, and it’s those dedicated people who want something tangible, too. There's a sentimentality and an attachment to it. If they follow people on YouTube, it’s the next logical step – they want you in their home in a more physical way. I don’t think that YouTube is going to replace physical cookbooks, but it’s definitely changing the landscape. Every Instagrammer and YouTuber is getting a book deal because the audiences and sales are built in.