Interview by Lia Pietrolungo. Photos by Charles Von
From the age of sixteen, Brian Meeker has spent countless hours in kitchens, learning and honing in on his talents as a chef. Recently we spoke about his approach to cooking, and his famous gluten free, vegan banana nut bread with chocolate chips.
Lia Pietrolungo: From what I witnessed in the kitchen, you seem to be a very lively and passionate chef. Tell me a little more about your experience while cooking:
BRIAN MEEKER: The first [thing] that comes to mind that simply relates and conveys my experience is the book/film, “Like Water From Chocolate”…meaning love can be and is communicated through food when love is present.
LP: How does your background as a surrealist artist spill over into your cooking & time spent in the kitchen?
BM: As in making a piece of visual art, I remain open and intuitive to my approach. I realize sometimes that whatever it is I’m working on has a voice of its own and if I fail to listen to what it wants to be on its own terms then generally the outcome won’t be born as it ought be. Listening is key.
BM: Biggest challenge is time constraints…my shift is 6 hours, half of which is lunch…I end up multi-taking so much as once, I bounce and curse way way around the kitchen like someone who’s possessed! Ha!
LP: Your banana bread is most divine! How long did it take for you to come up with the perfect recipe? What was your recipe formation process like?
BM: The original recipe came from my aunt Kathy. I loved her nut bread as a kid, so I got her recipe. I can be incredibly nontraditional, especially when making food. [I’m] not sure how long it took to get from my aunt’s recipe to me blowing it up to what it is now with the chocolate chips and spices — maybe a 10 year plus experiment recipe-forming process — a lot of trial and error. Especially through the transition from non-vegan to vegan and again when I switched from wheat flour to gluten-free flour.
LP: What is your favorite dish to prepare?
BM: I’ve always been a fan of making soups, so I’d say [Angel Falls’] soups, which I change up seasonally. We always have two soups, one of which I make vegan for the vegan folks. My favorite and I’d say from how much I make during the fall and winter is my flaming hot vegan chili. And, of course my vegan gluten-free banana nut bread w/choc chips.
Recently, Lia has taken to making pies of all sorts. Her cat, Heathcliff, has taken to knocking them off of the counter while trying to sneak a nibble.