When it comes to vegan baking, Chris Tucker is breaking new ground in plant-based baking. The head hairstylist and vegan baker specializes in creating European-style recipes with a touch of southern charm, such as cream puffs infused with cobbler flavors with peaches and éclairs filled with custard cream. Yam. While in London on The great American pastry fair, Tucker had the opportunity to feature the recipes he created for his hair clients, and the recipes turned out to be a hit on the ABC TV show. After returning from London, Chris continued to make baked goods for his customers and transitioned from hairdressing to cooking recipes in the kitchen full time. In 2018, Tucker opened his own business, Betta with Butta, where he continues to create personalized vegan cakes, cookies and more.
We spoke with Chris Tucker about his time on The great American pastry fair, her journey to a vegan lifestyle and the inspiration behind her business, Betta With Butta.
Chris Tucker (CT): Be certain The great American pastry fair was so fun! Personally, I had never been to London so it was a whole new experience for me. I immediately fell in love with the city and absolutely saw myself living there one day. Don’t get me wrong, while the show was filming there wasn’t much time for sightseeing, but I was able to extend my trip after filming was over, when my parents told me. joined and made us all the tourist things. The shoot was exhausting, moving, upsetting, exciting and it’s something I would do again if I had the chance!
CT: The inspiration for Betta With Butta came from the simple nature of supply and demand. In my past life (before entering my role as a vegan chef), I was a hairdresser. Being in the kitchen has always been in my DNA, and I couldn’t run away from it after being on the show. On my return from London, I transformed my current hairdressing clients into catering clients. In [preparation] for being on the show, I had already introduced my clients to this foreign side of me [that] they never knew. I was constantly bringing baked goods and talking about what I was experiencing in the kitchen. I already had the clients, I just had to look at them from another perspective. I started to bake their cakes for birthdays and to prepare their small events. The business grew from there! My motto has always been, and still is, that everything is Betta With Butta (today Butta just happens to be vegan!).
CT: I love the method used by the European style of cooking and it has a big influence in the development of my recipes. Being from the South, my flavors tend to lean more towards the southern influence of the family style of my grandparents’ restaurant that I grew up working in. These days I can have a cream puff (very Euro) but infuse the flavors of a southern peach cobbler. On the Pastry, I remember Paul Hollywood thinking that a lightning bolt I made wasn’t going to suit him, but he ended up loving it. The eclair (still very Euro) was filled with a sweet potato pastry cream and topped with toasted meringue and candied pecans. It was a nod to a sweet potato pie (very southern).
CT: My vegan journey has been quite long. I started by giving up red meat and only ate chicken and fish. I then ditched the chicken and finally ditched the fish about 10 years later. I was a vegetarian for a very long time, but I had this preconceived idea that because I was a baker, I could never give up dairy products. My husband and I had been informed of What is health more times than we could count, and one day that’s what we chose for our viewing “pleasure”. By the time the doc ended, we emptied our fridge of every animal product, thus starting our road to veganism! I could not, in good faith, continue to release Betta With Butta products that I knew were harming my customers, the environment or animals, so from that point on all of our products were also became vegans. It has certainly been a learning curve, but it’s a curve that is extremely fascinating to me at the same time. The science behind the vegan market, and what something simple like brining a can of chickpeas can do, is mind blowing to me!
CT: One recipe that best represents me as a vegan chef is my GF / V Chocolate Chip Cookie. The reason is, I have never made anyone taste one of these cookies without saying it’s the best cookie they’ve ever had (vegan or otherwise). My goal as a vegan chef is to cook food for people (who may or may not be vegans) and to have them enjoyed because it’s great food. I aspire to be the vegan chef that people turn to when they want to bring together a mixed group of people – with different eating habits – serve them an amazing meal and then shock them at the end by telling them that it was entirely herbal. I don’t think there is anything that cannot be vegetated.
CT: Yes, we believe in giving back to the community in which we serve as well as nationally. We launched our own pandemic initiative which aimed to provide families who had been economically affected due to COVID-19 with (free) birthday cakes for their children. Blowing out a birthday candle and making a wish is something every kid should have the opportunity to do, and we wanted to be a part of it. I made a call to action on Instagram and within weeks we brought together bakers from all over the world including Canada, India and the UK, as well as countless states here at the nationwide. Over Christmas, we partnered up with The Alexis Project for a toy drive and collected nearly 500 toys for their organization’s Santa’s Workshop, where they allow parents to come and buy for their children. It was so much fun to be a part and just the start of our partnership with this organization.
CT: I don’t like to limit myself to the following because the possibilities are endless! I will be making a trip to Detroit in September for a guest residence at Frame, where I’ll serve a whole Southern vegan meal as a nod to my grandparents’ restaurant, Tuckers Inn. There will be fried chicken, cabbage, mac and cheese, corn casserole, and lots of other fun before and after classes. If you are in town, join us!
Follow Chris on Instagram at @betta_with_butta to stay on top of his vegan lifestyle and see what he does next!