For Chef Skye Michael Conroy, cooking is all about the animals. Not the rumps and cheeks and wings of dead animals (as per a conventional chef) but the living, breathing animals — the pigs and chickens and cows traditionally used for food.
He loves them, so he chooses not to cook or eat them.
A former vegetarian, Conroy went vegan several years ago after seeing the notoriously harrowing documentary Earthlings. He was inspired to watch the film by a vegan friend, though initially he thought her lifestyle was “too extreme.” “I went on PETA’s website and they had a 30 day challenge. I thought, this is doable. And once I got into it I just never went back.”
A hairdresser by trade, he retired early, and his love of vegan cooking later evolved into a second career. “I saw commercial products on the market and thought, maybe I could make this taste better,” Conroy says of his early experimentations with cooking vegan food.
Now he’s known as The Gentle Chef. “I started a blog and a little Facebook group and began posting some of my recipes and it kind of just took off from there.” These days he boasts a growing cult following of vegans and non-vegans obsessed with his wildly realistic re-creations of meat, dairy and egg products.
His most recent publication, The Vegan Eggz Cookbook is an 88-page volume dedicated to every egg creation imaginable. There’s eggnog, eggz foo young, eggz whites, “hard-boiled” eggz and shirred eggz, among dozens of others.
Conroy’s cookbooks are all self-published, available as downloadable e-books via his website, and he admits that they’re not as glossy or aesthetically appealing as those lining the shelves of Barnes and Noble. The decision has been a conscious one, however, as he doesn’t want to turn his power over to a publisher.