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Ivy Stark
Photograph: Callisto Media

Chef Ivy Stark helped change how Americans viewed Mexican food and now she’s onto plant-based eating

The Time Out Market New York chef loves a good vegan mac and cheese.

Written by
Bao Ong

It’s been more than two decades since chef Ivy Stark showed diners that Mexican food wasn’t simply hard-shell tacos brimming with ground beef or a basket of chips with guac. 

With the recent debut of Whole Food Vegetarian Cookbook, her third book, Stark is adding her voice to the growing movement around plant-based diets. But for the chef—who many New Yorkers may know from her time leading the kitchens of Dos Caminos, Rosa Mexicano and El Toro Blanco—it’s not simply a fad. While she doesn’t consider herself a vegetarian or vegan, this book is full of recipes that shows the way Stark has been eating for years.

Ivy Stark cookbook
Photograph: Callisto Media

“I think it’s here to stay. I’ve been amazed at the growth of it,” says Stark about the growing popularity of plant-based eating. “People are looking to eat in a healthier way, but they still want to enjoy their food.”

While Stark made her name showcasing the diversity of Mexican food, she’s focused on menus without meat in recent years. At Time Out Market New York, she’s opened the vegetable-centric BKLYN Wild and Mexology.

Ivy Stark cookbook
Photograph: Callisto Media

In Whole Food Vegetarian Cookbook, readers will find 135 health-focused recipes emphasizing the use of unprocessed foods and whole foods. The dishes range from a pumpkin and cashew curry to whole grain churros to a vegan mac and cheese (“people will eat it and be like, ‘This is so good, it’s not vegan. This is real cheese.’ But it’s completely vegan”).

“A lot of people think you have to eat a big bowl of lettuce every meal to get everything you  need,” Stark says. “You can satisfy that comfort food desire with vegetables.”

A plant-based diet may seem new to the majority of the public, but Stark acknowledges how many different cultures—including how “Mexican food is inherently very healthy”—have practiced this way of eating for ages. 

Ivy Stark
Photograph: Ivy Stark

Stark will consume meat in her restaurant kitchens, but the last time she consumed meat? A burger from Pat LaFrieda on reopening day at Time Out Market New York.

Ivy Stark
Photograph: Ivy Stark

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