Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Chefs That Inspire Me: Lagusta Yearwood of Lagusta's Luscious!

For vegan MOFO this year, I decided to interview some of the vegan chefs who inspire me and my cooking, and who are true artisans and revolutionaries in their culinary field! I thought I couldn't start with someone better than Lagusta Yearwood of Lagusta's Luscious! She is a true inspiration to my cooking and chocolate making and her commitment to sourcing the best produce for it's taste as well as it's sustainability and ethics is something to be commended! 

Lagusta Yearwood of Lagusta's Luscious. Photo credit Shirvin Lainez. 

DBB: Hello Lagusta! I absolutely love your ethos, style and the passion behind the amazing chocolates and dishes you create. As a chef myself I get so excited and inspired when I see one of your new blog posts or a new chocolate photo pop up on Facebook! Where do you get your passion and inspiration from?

LY: Aww, thanks! I mostly take inspiration from the natural world...the seasons and the great farms in my town. I also always want to just make tasty candy that I crave. Not sure if that's an inspiration, but it's a passion! 

The Luscious Locavore Box

You champion and use local and 'beyond organic' produce for your chocolates and dishes. Could you explain why you think this is so important and what you mean by ''beyond organic''?

LY: Sure—when we say "beyond organic" we're trying to address the fact that, in the US at least, the USDA organic certification system can be really tough on smaller farmers and producers. The fees and paperwork can be really prohibitive. So, while we do use mostly certified ingredients, some of our local ingredients come from farmers who either used to have USDA organic certification but dropped it because of the issues with it (but didn't change any of their farming practices) or aren't interested in the certification but are certified under another system, some of which, like Certified Naturally Grown, are even more stringent than the USDA organic program, as well as more fair to farmers. Instead of relying on a simplistic seal of approval from a government agency, we try to really do our homework researching the environmental practices of the products we use. 

Similarly, the international Fair Trade certification system has some of these same's a tough situation. All our chocolate is fair-trade (some of our ingredients aren't fair-trade just because that standard only applies to products made out of the US and we use lots of local produce.), but what I'm really proud of is that the chocolate company we buy from, Tcho, is committed to much more than fair trade certification and independently ensures that human rights standards are being respected and that the people who pick the cacao beans that turn into our chocolate are working under fair conditions and receiving a fair wage. 

We try to buy our ingredients from other local businesses as much as possible—for example, our lavender is from a tiny lavender farm on an island off Seattle, our fancy sea salt is harvested in Hawaii, our vanilla beans come from a 1-acre vanilla bean farm on Maui. Our prices reflect this commitment, but our customers have come to rely on us for an ethical component, and we're grateful so many people get what we're trying to do. 

Peaches and Cream Bark

DBB: What are your favourite chocolates to make and why?

LY: Hmm...I love making truffles, because I love working with ganache. It's so fun and adaptable. 

DBB: What meal or dessert evokes a special memory for you and why?

LY: For some reason, I went through a phase of making udon noodles with a sesame peanut sauce for months once. I would change them slightly every time, but I couldn't get enough of it. I had just moved to New Paltz, where I live now, and I didn't know anyone. It was a homey, comforting meal for me, and whenever I eat that meal again I remember that time. 

DBB: What are three ingredients you couldn't live without?

LY: Miso, onions, and olive oil! 

Autumn Bonbon

DBB: I give you a bag containing these ingredients: Pasta dough, baby yellow courgette (zucchini), baby fennel, tomatoes, apples and balsamic vinegar. What would you make?

LY: Wow, yum! OK..I think I'd make a little ravioli with sauteed yellow courgette, fennel, and roasted apples inside, then I'd finish it with a tomato sauce made with a little balsamic vinegar. 

DBB: What is your favourite recipe book?

LY: Right now I can't get enough of the Alinea cookbook by Grant Achatz. It's like a cooking school education. 

DBB: What would be your perfect afternoon?

LY: Probably reading novels and eating a delicious meal with my sweetheart, Jacob, in the sun!

Lagusta's Luscious was founded in 2003 by Lagusta Yearwood and makes beautiful artisan chocolates in New Paltz New York. To find out more about Lagusta's Luscious and their inspiring chocolates check out 


  1. Lagusta seems like such an awesome person. I tried her chocolates once and I am a fan for life.

  2. I am yet to try her yummy chocolates as I live in the uk! One day I hope to visit though! X

  3. aww, I'm blushing over here!

  4. Awww so pleased you like it Lagusta! X