As if holding a doctorate degree in neuroscience from UCLA, starring on the hit television shows The Big Bang Theory and Blossom and being mother to two sons wasn't enough, Mayim Bialik has just published a cookbook. Titled Mayim's Vegan Table, the book includes more than 100 recipes. Bialik celebrates the release of her book with an appearance Monday at Mohawk Bend. The event - part of the restaurant's Authors Worth Celebrating series - features four courses from the book and some discussion from the now 38-year-old Los Angeles native about each dish.
We caught up with Bialik to ask how her cookbook came about and whether she's nervous about having her recipes cooked for a large group of strangers. Sadly, we never answered any of her responses with "whoa."
Mayim Bialik: I grew up in L.A., so it's kind of a thrill to speak to you. I grew up with the Weekly as our standard paper in the house. The New York Times and L.A. Weekly - that was my household. I can't wait to tell my parents. They'll be super excited. I had so many moments of my childhood where my dad would ask me to get out of the car and pick up a Weekly.
Squid Ink: Let's hope I don't blow it. So, tell me about your event. How did you get together with Mohawk Bend?
MB: This is a restaurant I've been going to since it opened. Living in L.A., there's a wide variety of really fun places where you can get vegetarian and vegan food, but Mohawk Bend, to me, is so exceptional because you can go there with your meat-eating friends and everyone can be happy. It's not like there's one item for vegans that you either like or you're screwed; it's not like taking a meat eater to a vegan place and having them grump about it.
I didn't even know about this series. They said, "Would you let us host you?" I was never a cool kid; I grew up in L.A. and I was kind of a goth kid. I've always been weird, so to have a hipster restaurant ask me to be there is super exciting. I always feel like I'm not cool enough to go to Mohawk Bend, but I go there anyway. So this is really fun.
SI: Have you ever cooked or had your recipes used for as many people as will be in attendance Monday?
MB: No, and that makes me really nervous. I trust Mohawk Bend so much because I've eaten there so many times and I really respect their chefs. In doing tours for my cookbook, I did appearances on some pretty big national things. Two, in particular, cooked food from the book. The Rachael Ray Show did an amazing job with my cupcakes. By that, I mean they tasted good and I was happy for them to be shared with the live studio audience.
I went on another very large, popular show and it was horrible. It wasn't the way I would have cooked it, and they must have used weird substitutes that I don't use. I felt really bad, especially because none of the hosts were vegan and they kind of had to pretend it was tasty even though it wasn't. Not because the recipes weren't tasty but because it just wasn't prepared right. So I'm extremely nervous to have this many people eating my recipes, but I'm assuming because Mohawk Bend does food so well that they'll know if it doesn't taste right or if they use a different brand of something.
My recipes are fairly easy - it's actually kind of hard to mess them up, so I'm looking forward to seeing what sort of flair they add to it.
SI: You might be surprised at how your food comes out.
MB: I might always want them to cook things from my cookbook and I'll be paying to eat there every night.
SI: What's your role during the event?
MB: I'll be talking about each of the courses. The idea is that before each course, I talk about where the recipe came from and why. Maybe a funny anecdote, because I have many funny anecdotes about food. I'll probably speak generally about the book, about how and why it came about.
SI: So, how and why did the book come about? I mean this as a compliment, but your recipes seem pretty basic, like these aren't recipes I couldn't do.
MB: I'm kind of a normal person. I'm not like, "Look at me, I'm a celebrity and here's my cookbook and if you eat this way your life will be perfect." I'm a normal mom who's budgeted. I don't eat out all the time and I don't have a nanny. And I don't have an exciting life.
Over the years I had kids, I was not acting and I was not living an extravagant lifestyle. I had to find things that worked to cook for my kids. The appeal for this book was supposed to be for every parent and not just parents living in Los Angeles or New York or San Francisco, where you can get tempeh easily. The idea was to present recipes that are palatable, not just for vegans but for people who are simply trying to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their diet - which everyone should be, says every major medical organization.
SI: Have you encountered any skepticism? Stuff like, "Oh, here goes another celebrity writing a cookbook?"
MB: Sure. Honestly, I was most nervous because I'm the person who was like, "Really? I'm a celebrity cookbook person now?"
I tried to stay true to the recipes I make. I'm not fancy and I never will be. And that's how I tried to present it. In terms of the reception we got, I think we did pretty well. I mean, Howard Stern asked to have me on to talk about this book. We were mentioned in Redbook, places that typically are appealing to a different kind of audience than the celebrity chef, which I'm definitely not.
SI: Everyone knows you're the smartest person in the room. That must lend itself to easing the skepticism.
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MB: I don't know. People have such deep-rooted neurosis surrounding food. A lot of people have created a bad parent in their head, and if they deviate from the way they were raised, if they deviate from the way they think about food, it's like they're going to be punished. I've found my intelligence doesn't go far in a lot of places.
Mayim's Vegan Table dinner with Mayim Bialik: $30. Monday, June 16, from 6:30 to 9:30, at Mohawk Bend, 2141 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; 213-483-2337. Tickets available online.