Photos and interview by Alexander Lawrence
Top to Bottom with Mouthfeel is back for a very special interview with the incredible Timothy Pakron (a.k.a Mississippi Vegan). In preperation for his Spring Supper this May, Timothy gave Mouthfeel an all access pass to his Brooklyn apartment where he cooks and photographs his one of a kind dishes. While feasting over some homemade gumbo, shiitake bacon, and Rosé we discussed everything from good creole food to the slaughterhouse videos that pushed Timmy towards veganism.
Alexander Lawrence: While growing up in Mississippi what was your exposure to cooking? Did your parents cook?
Mississippi Vegan: My mom was always in the kitchen and she exposed me to everything she knew. With her background stemming from growing up in New Orleans and cooking cajun and creole food, that’s what I learned! I will always remember waking up to the smell her cooking the holy trinity (a creole version of mirepoix) with loads of cayenne pepper, paprika, and bay leaves. There is nothing like waking up in a house filled with the smell of true creole cooking.
AL: From my experience I would say food is a very important part of Southern culture, would you agree?
MV: It’s an intergral part. And each part of the south has different traditions and styles. Growing up on gulf coast, there is a strong influence from New Orleans, which definitely shaped how I cook. My time in Georgia and South Carolina was influential of other southern styles and dishes like casseroles, barbeque, and low country cooking.
AL: What are some of the most memorable dishes and recipes you remember from your childhood in Mississippi?
MV: We were always eating gumbo, jambalaya, and red beans and rice, which are staples in creole cuisine. My mom also would often make things like apricot chicken with pecan rice and my dad would stick to breakfast, cooking grits, biscuits, and omelettes. Oh, and po’ boys.
AL: When did you realize you loved to cook and that you were good at it?
MV: I knew as a young teenager. I was always making cookies for my teachers and was the only child out of three who asked my mom how to make gumbo step by step. I went to boarding school in North Georgia around the time I hit puberty. While attending, I began to cook for my friends and their families.
AL: Did you stay in Mississippi after you graduated from high school?
MV: Hell no! I went to college in Charleston, SC for Studio Art, which was a very big moment for me. Charleston is a liberal sanctuary in the South and it was a really eye opening place for me to be at that point in my life.
AL: What brought you to New York?
MV: I came to New York because I knew that it was the only place where my career could take off. But I loved living in Charleston and I could for sure see myself moving back there in the future.
AL: When did you start to develop “Mississippi Vegan” on social media?
MV: I started Mississippi Vegan a year and a half ago. The seed for this idea was planted when I attended the Woodstock Fruit Festival, which was very inspirational experience for me. There were so many people there who had created careers for themselves online, basically talking about health and plants. I was finally interacting with people who were doing everything I wanted (being creative while also being passionate about eating). Following the festival I really began to put all of my energy into this idea, and it just took off on social media. People have been really receptive and supportive of what I am creating.
AL: What prompted your move to veganism?
MV: It really started as a response to videos online of factory farming. The videos of suffering and slaughtered animals was incredibly eye opening for me and it really changed my perception of food.
AL: Do you miss the good old days of eating whatever you want?
MV: Honestly? No. Because I do eat whatever I want. But what I view as food has changed. My goal is to create food that celebrates the plant kingdom in the most beautiful and delicious way possible. And I have no problem creating vegan dishes that not only mimic animal based products in name, but also in flavor and texture. Because it’s not the dead animal or their by products that that I’m after. It’s about recreating the experience of flavors and textures that made them taste good in the first place. I want people to take a bite of my gumbo or my shiitake bacon and never question if it has animal products because it delicious and that’s that!
AL: What’s next up for the Mississippi Vegan?
MV: So much! I have been doing a lot of collaborative work with different companies involving recipe development and food styling, as well as my own NYC based pop-up dinners. My next one is entitled ‘Spring Supper’ and it takes place on Tuesday, May 10th at Rockin’ Raw in the West Village. It's going to be a really special night!
(Tickets are available on mississippivegan.com)