If being the first vegan chef to win a culinary competition (on “Cupcake Wars”), writing three best-selling cookbooks, and opening a critically-acclaimed lines-out-the-door restaurant chain all before your 30th birthday seem like impossible feats, you haven’t met Chloe Coscarelli yet. The 29-year-old visionary chef didn't just redefine Millennial success, she also redefined vegan food, turning plant-based creations into stunning renditions of Americana that sate even the pickiest omnivores. Coscarelli has just hit another major milestone, but it’s not a happy one by any means. The young chef was just ousted from her booming vegan restaurant chain, By CHLOE.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the trouble started last summer, when Coscarelli sued her business partner ESquared’s Jimmy Haber, father of By CHLOE co-founder and its creative director, Samantha Wasser, who reportedly wanted to start opening non-vegan restaurants under Coscarelli’s name. The longtime ethical vegan refused the request, which led not only to lawsuits, but reports of physical threats against Coscarelli from Haber, who suggested she come to meetings flanked by bodyguards. He claims she was interfering in the business's growth, not operating under “good faith,” and that he eventually had to keep her out of meetings with investors over fears she’d jeopardize relationships.
“[Coscarelli] came to us with the idea of a vegan fast-casual restaurant, but that’s pretty much all she came with,” Wasser said in a recent interview about her former business partner.
“Chloe has been trying to undermine the brand and burn it down while we’ve been the ones who have been protecting it, putting more money in, and taking all the risks to keep the doors open,” said Wasser.
"I developed every single recipe for the restaurant over the course of several years in my tiny apartment kitchen," Coscarelli wrote on her Instagram page last night. "I slept on a couch in the living room with no bedroom of my own so that I could be close to my work in the kitchen and develop recipes 24/7, sleeping only 3 or 4 hours most nights, for years. I set my alarm to wake me up every half hour through the night to measure the progression of ice crystals in my ice cream recipes. I made 30 variations of beet ketchup and lined them up on my window sill to compare the difference in pink pigmentation. I turned my home into a vegan test kitchen and worked with my amazing vegan team from Natural Gourmet Institute to perfect every last detail. We tested every recipe literally hundreds of times. But it was a labor of love."
Things finally came to a head earlier this week when Coscarelli was officially forced out of the business. An arbitrator ruled in favor of ESquared, saying it had the right to cut ties with Coscarelli and move forward with its non-vegan concepts using her name.
"This year has been extremely painful—one that has challenged me to the core," Coscarelli wrote. "But I will not let anyone deter my goals." And while the By CHLOE brand may soon be serving animal products without its namesake at the helm, there’s certainly no shortage of interest in plant-based foods to keep the young and talented Coscarelli busy. She notes projects already in the works and sends a message to "budding entrepreneurs" to "stand up for what’s right, even if it feels scary."
The demand for plant-based food is accelerating so quickly restaurants and supermarkets are scrambling to keep up. And there are sure to be lines out any doors that lead to Coscarelli’s delicious creations.
"From the day I began this journey, my goal was to create a fun, friendly restaurant that showcased how delicious vegan food can make a powerful and positive impact in the world—a belief that has never for a moment wavered," wrote Coscarelli. "To me, veganism is so much more than a vehicle for business; it’s a vote for kindness, a dedication to sustainability, and a commitment to compassion. It’s a lifestyle I adopted more than a decade ago, and will forever be proud of, champion, and defend."
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