If you ask me, the coolest new thing in Boston is, without doubt, a little fast casual restaurant in Seaport called “by CHLOE.” It opened on February 23rd to large crowds. I went twice that day, and I keep going back. But while the food was everything I expected, the atmosphere was missing something: namely, Chloe Coscarelli.
In case you’re not hep to the vegan jive, Chloe Coscarelli is a young celebrity chef (and one of Forbes’ 30 under 30) who first rose to prominence in 2010 when she emerged victorious in the Cupcake Wars. Many animal-secretion-based cupcakes were slain. Afterwards, she founded an eponymous restaurant, and then another, and another, and another. The chain is so successful that its vegan-ness has become contagious. And at every opening, Chloe Coscarelli was there to do the honors. Why was she absent this time? We got a clue last year, when VegNews told us that the battle-hardened entrepreneur would have to defend her vegan empire from meat.
Apparently, despite the success of the brand, Coscarelli’s partners are still not sold on this whole vegan thing. There’s a reason for that: their main business is in steakhouses. When Samantha Wasser and her father, Jimmy Haber, wanted to use her name to promote non-vegan restaurants, Coscarelli refused. Reportedly, Haber then told her “she would need a bodyguard if she dared to meet with him in person.” Wasser then sold all of the company’s assets to her father, and Coscarelli filed a lawsuit in response.
Since then, the promotion of by CHLOE. has somewhat de-emphasized the CHLOE part. A November article in the Observer describes Wasser as “the woman behind the hottest vegan spot in the world,” adding that the non-vegan steakhouse promoter “lives and breathes the by CHLOE. lifestyle.” Another article in Boston Common last month snubs Coscarelli entirely and spotlights Wasser, this time as the restaurant’s “Creative Director, Founder, President, and Instagram queen.” The first interview question asks about her “go-to ingredient” when cooking. Of course Wasser’s cooking has nothing to do with this or any other vegan restaurant.
An anonymous contact explained to me what is going on in a little more detail:
So Chloe Coscarelli is out, Samantha Wasser and Jimmy Haber are in, and when you eat at “the hottest vegan spot in the world” you are probably supporting new flesh restaurants instead of the expansion of the chain.
That’s nothing new to vegans, who are used to the sad fact that animal products pervade the economy. We support animal exploitation every time we go to a supermarket that sells non-vegan products. I certainly don’t want to dissuade anyone from frequenting by CHLOE. or any vegan business. The by CHLOE. expansion could still be a positive evolution for the vegan community, regardless of who owns it. By supporting it, we are demonstrating that there is a demand for all-vegan restaurants and vegan options from other businesses. Our goal is to put pressure on restaurants to get all animal products off the menu, and I’m hoping that the success of by CHLOE. as a vegan lifestyle brand will signal to other restaurant owners that this is achievable.
But there is a lesson here. Our battles over cupcakes and veggie burgers appear very far removed from our actual cause: the animals who endure unthinkable atrocity because humans want to eat from their bodies. Vegan businesses are, for us, a tool to challenge this paradigm, but for carnists they are just a tool to make money. Although many vegans nowadays see business opportunities as our way into the mainstream, we need to remember our purpose, and we need to be careful about our choice of business partners. Animals will not be protected by meat salesmen. This is not a war, but we do have enemies.
Is by CHLOE. still by Chloe? (Medium blog)
Is by CHLOE. still by Chloe? (Original Blogger post)