Where it all started..

I’m Gaz Oakley, and I’m 25 years old from Cardiff, Wales, UK.
As you may have guessed I love all things food and cooking…I started my Avant-Garde Vegan page on Instagram in February 2016… but my love of cooking started much earlier than this.
Growing up, alongside food all I loved was playing sports, particularly rugby, which I played at a high standard throughout my school years.
I owe a lot to my dad Doug for igniting my passion for cooking. He cooks fresh meals every night for my mum and family, and since I was tall enough to clear the kitchen worktop he allowed me to help him. I enjoyed art and creative things growing up so I think I took to cooking because it was an outlet for me to be creative.

I chose catering as a subject for my GSCEs when I was 14 and learnt the basics.
During my first year studying catering I was encouraged to apply for a new TV show called ‘Britain’s Best Dish’. It was a national daytime cooking show on ITV, where members of the public would cook their best dish against other contestants. I just missed out on the final but was very pleased with how far I progressed at just 14.

At 15 I had to do one week’s worth of work experience, and I choose to do it at a Cardiff hotel called the New House. I had a great week and learnt a lot. I must have made a good impression with the chefs as they started calling me Gordon… after my hero at the time Gordon Ramsay. Shortly after my 16th birthday I managed to get a part time job working a few evenings and weekends each week at the hotel. I was learning so much… They catered for huge weddings and events but also had a small fine dining restaurant. I loved cooking for the restaurant side. I loved the fast tempo of the kitchen – the adrenaline rush was amazing. Being able to present food with flair was my thing… letting out my creativity.

After a couple months of working part time and loving it, and not enjoying 6th form in school, I decided to quit school and go full time. It was a huge decision. My parents weren’t fully behind me at first and were trying to put me off… but I didn’t want to waste time. I wanted to learn as much as possible and be the best chef I could be. I was starting early and was finishing very late, but I didn’t regret leaving school.
I worked at the hotel full time for a year, learnt the basics, and made some lifelong friends.
But I wanted to learn more, especially on the fine dining side of things where I felt I could really express my creativity.
There was a renowned restaurant in Cardiff called Le Gallois. I remember thinking it could be my next step. On my day off I decided to turn up at the restaurant and simply ask for the head chef. To my luck he stopped preparing for service and came to talk to me. I remember I had my cv with me and a page full of pictures of dishes I had made. No doubt they looked pretty amateurish, but he must have seen how enthusiastic I was. I told him my goal of moving to Paris to learn French cuisine and how I’d work for free for a day at Le Gallois to show him what I had. He accepted soon after and I left the New House and joined Le Gallois.

Working at Le Gallois was so intense but the food was unbelievable. The Head Chef had so much experience and had worked all around the world. I learnt so much. But I was often working over 80 hours a week and at 17 years old it was a killer.
I remember starting at around 8.30am and working straight through to 11.30pm after a big lunch & dinner service. Sometimes if we were lucky and didn’t have to prepare loads for the dinner service we could have a short break during the day, where often I would just go and sleep in my car. This was 5, sometimes 6 days a week.
My cooking developed so much, but the pressure and hours really got to me.
I lasted over a year a Le Gallois, which felt more like 5. Looking back on my time there, in some ways I wish I’d have been slightly older when I started. I think I could have handled the hours better. I was so focused on doing the job, I hardly ate, slept or exercised. I started to make mistakes and wasn’t working right. My parents were very worried. Shortly after I left the restaurant it actually closed down, which was a big shame. We managed to get 3 AA rosettes and I fully believe it would have ended up being awarded a Michelin star soon after.
I had brief spells over the next couple of years in other kitchens and started designing menus for restaurants and doing dinner parties.
I took a few years out of the cooking industry, and went into a sales role in a totally different industry. I ended up selling civil engineering materials. I started off really low down in the company loading wagons but worked my way up. I didn’t mind starting off at the very bottom – I was earning more money doing that despite working half the hours I used to as a chef. I was nicknamed Chef in my first year.

As I progressed up the company I start travelling all over the UK meeting new clients and even won Salesman of the Year at 22 years old! It was a great learning experience and looking back now I’m glad I did it because I learnt a lot about business and building relationships with people. It was amazing getting my social life back after working in kitchens for years. However I still wasn’t 100% happy and was often trying to think of ways to express my creativity.
I started weight training at the gym after work and wanted to bulk up, so was eating masses of animal protein, but I soon realised eating all that meat and dairy wasn’t good for me.

So in October 2015 literally overnight I went vegan. This decision turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made.
I started experimenting with food again, and my passion was reignited.  After a few months of playing around in the kitchen and showing my friends what I was eating (they were shocked I was vegan) people started to encourage me to upload my food pictures to Instagram.
I started Avant-Garde Vegan in February 2016 (whilst still in my sales job), at first uploading pictures of my food taken on my iPhone. I started growing followers quickly and I was getting great feedback on my recipes.
I soon decided to upgrade to a proper camera, which took a lot of getting used to. Often the food in front of me looked great but the camera just wasn’t capturing it.
So I spent as much time as I could on YouTube watching food photography tutorials. I knew that my food styling skills combined with good photography would be a winner… I just had to somehow understand the 1,000 buttons on the new camera.
As months went on, and with plenty of trial and error, I started getting into it. Although I still get the odd picture I’m not happy with, most of the time I know how to control lighting etc. I noticed a huge influx of followers when my pictures started getting better. It was great to see my hard work paying off. It got to a point where I couldn’t focus on my day job –  I just wanted to grow Avant-Garde Vegan – so in June 2016 I said goodbye to my sales role and put my all into Avant-Garde Vegan…and I haven’t looked back since!

I try to tell a different story with each picture. Often this is created by using different backdrops and props…So my bedroom is filled with odd bits of wood and tiles. I had to buy new shelving for all my bowls and plates. But I could still do with more!
Starting my Instagram page has opened up so many doors for me and I’m so happy to be cooking again… I have done pop-up nights at restaurants, food festivals, loads of interviews, worked with amazing companies and been commissioned to consult on menu design for new restaurants. I’m extremely fortunate to be in the position I’m in. I’m really enjoying life now that I’m not stuck in a job where I can’t express my creativity.
I have people following me from all around the world and the kind comments are overwhelming. I’m going to share some of them on my website, because they make me happy!

The call from people wanting my recipes was huge. So I decided to take the plunge and start a YouTube channel. I’m quite self-conscious and never thought I could stand in front of cameras and talk.
My mates are in a band and whenever I got asked to feature in their music videos I always felt so awkward.

The first video I filmed for season 1 I felt so stiff and not relaxed at all. I didn’t think I could do it. The lights were blinding and there were 3 cameras on me. But I soon got into it. I’ve now recorded 4 seasons and you can definitely see a huge improvement as you go along.

Youtube has no become my main platform, my subscriber count has already surpassed my Instagram following in half the time & off the back of the success of the channel I recently signed a book deal. My debut cookbook Vegan 1oo will be out in January 2018.

I couldn’t be more thankful for everything that has happened to me.

I hope one day I will get my own cooking show on TV…fingers crossed!

Anyway that brings us to the present day. I will keep updating the About Me section as things move forward… No doubt I will have to be doing it constantly as things are happening so quickly.
Thank you for reading and for all your support. Please pre order vegan 100 on amazon now.


Forever Baking

?CHOCOLATE TART GOALS ?RECIPE VIDEO ON MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL. That’s right, click on the link in my bio to learn how I made this only difference is I added orange in the video! So the recipe video is how to make a Chocolate Orange tart ?? doesn’t get better than that does it!? It’s so rich, Creamy & of course chocolatey ?

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Vegan Cuisine

STUFFED ????? filled with Bulgar Wheat & Quinoa, Coriander, Mint, Spices, Butternut & Red Onion. Topped with Tzatziki made with @coconutcollab, Pomegranate, Toasted Almonds, Coriander & Mint!
Perfect Light Lunch! Give it a try?✌?Happy thanks giving to my American followers ?? Gaz

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