Chef Chloe Coscarelli has had quite a decade. In 2010, the 28-year-old took the top prize in the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, becoming the first vegan chef to win a culinary competition on TV. Then she followed that up with a couple cookbooks. And then she got the bright idea to open a restaurant.
“I thought that if I opened a restaurant that was a bit more on the casual side — good price point, fast service, and people could actually eat here every day — I could make a change,” Coscarelli told Grub Street in a recent interview.
And what a change she’s made. Since By Chloe’s opening in New York this past July, Coscarelli and her partner Samantha Wasser have kept themselves busy serving up to 1,000 customers a day. The big draw for people: the restaurant is fast-casual vegan. Coscarelli doesn’t focus on local ingredients, nor does she focus on serving items that are in season.
“I think the new wave is vegan food for everyone, which is very different from vegan food that’s just designed for vegan people,” Coscarelli explains. “It should be an inclusive cuisine. I like to think of it like any other food group. If you’re going to eat Indian food on a Tuesday night and Italian on Wednesday, why not try vegan food on Thursday?”
When she pitched the idea to Esquared, the hospitality group she paired with for By Chloe, she told them it was the food of the future. “It’s all about the flavor and the texture at the end of the day, that’s why we eat,” Coscarelli said. “It’s not really about the ingredients.”
Which means—gasp!—she’s integrating fake meats into her menu — happily featuring tofu, seitan, and tempeh in her dishes. (Take, for example, her Classic Burger, described as “tempeh-lentil-chia-walnut patty, pickles, onion, beet ketchup, special sauce, potato bun.”)
The decision might have turned off the local farmers market-combing vegans, but doesn’t seem to be hurting Coscarelli’s bottom line at all. As Grub Street put it, “part of what makes By Chloe so widely appealing is that it isn’t precious or preachy about its values.”
Or take it from Coscarelli herself: “I feel like millennials, especially, are demanding more options where they can eat higher quality food more frequently,” she said. “People just want good food that makes them feel good, and they don’t want to pay a lot, and they don’t have a lot of time.”
Coscarelli delivers on that need, delicious food that looks highly stylized — like something we might get at a cheffed-up gastropub. The chef obviously has a flair for giving dishes the right “look.” Her official Instagram page is color-coordinated and just plain gorgeous. Coscarelli’s personal Instagram is also filled with bright, mouth-watering shots of her creations.
So far, By Chloe is killing it. On Yelp, the restaurant’s rating is a healthy four stars, with consistent positive reviews about the taste of the food. As one reviewer wrote, “My once vegan phase was short lived due to limited, tasteless options with ridiculous price tag. Then came By Chloe.”
Coscarelli’s restaurant, which she initially was worried wasn’t going to get any customers at all, is doing so well that she and Wasser are already planning to open another location in the Flatiron this February. “People are asking for us in Japan,” she told Grub Street. “It would be so great if we could serve everyone that wants us, but we’ll have to take it one day at a time.”
You have to assume that a big motor for this success is the fact that Coscarelli’s dishes look familiar and comforting, even though the ingredients might be new to people. Hell, some of the dishes look horribly unhealthy, which, again, isn’t hurting their allure.