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Vegan Black Metal Chef: Interview With Brian Manowitz, the Florida Native Behind the Internet Hit

Vegan Black Metal Chef, the internet cooking star who proves that a meat-free lifestyle isn't exclusively the territory of New Age hippies or cute college chicks, is back.

Posted Monday, episode seven of the online series finds VBMC, the brainchild and alter ego of Brian Manowitz, preparing the "Indian Feast of the Gods" and doling out practical cooking advice in a trademark tongue-in-cheek manner that's made even legendary vegan-hater Anthony Bourdain take notice. Example: of adding water when cooking lentils, Manowitz -- in a thundering growl -- advises "They are thirsty, and they will expand like a bloated corpse." About a package of Brain Masala Mix, "That's some zombie shit right there." 

By all logic, the novelty of Vegan Black Metal Chef -- with its pentagram-bedecked cooking surfaces, chalice "measuring cups," and fully made-up host -- should have worn off months ago. In the ephemeral world of viral video and internet memes, Manowitz's cooking show could easily have been a one-off. But amazingly, the schtick hasn't worn out its welcome, a phenomenon that doesn't escape Manowitz, a 30-year-old Tampa native who lives in Orlando and creates the videos and music himself in addition to playing in two bands and other creative pursuits. 

"I don't like to reuse jokes," Manowitz said during a recent phone interview from his lair. "At the heart of it, it's an actual cooking show and not just an entertainment show. I think personally it would have died off if it didn't have something to it."

Manowitz, who developed an interest in cooking when he went vegan 12 years ago, posted the first episode of VBMC last spring to Facebook. It immediately took off through social sharing, and soon after, the concept exploded. "The first time had that 'What the fuck?' factor, but people kept watching [the videos], whether for the music or for the cooking or for the all-around comedy thrown in. There are other elements to give it lasting value."

The videos are the kind of well-done oddity that grabbed the attention of not only social sharers but national media. In a course of little more than half a year, Manowitz has enjoyed a surge in success and popularity, having been written up by Huffington Post, the Washington Post, and ABC News, among others.

In December 2011, Vegan Black Metal Chef upped his profile with an appearance on the bizarre "Holiday Special" of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. In the extended sequence, Bourdain is seen grazing on a smoked-fish platter in a lonely hotel room, vacantly watching VBMC episode six, "Holliday Hell Roast," on the hotel TV. As Bourdain dozes off, he pleads in voice-over -- "Mommy; make the scary vegan stop. Mommy?"

While all of the hype has led Manowitz to step up his game in terms of video editing and directional concepts, it's done little to alter his improvisational approach to cooking. He loathes formal recipes ("They are limiting and intimidating") and instead favors giving viewers well-guided ideas on how to use seasonings, explore cooking techniques, and experiment with new ingredients.

Manowitz is earning income with the videos, and not surprisingly, there is a cookbook in the works, but as he is the first to say, "The last thing the world needs is another cookbook." The Vegan Black Metal Chef take on a cooking tome will rely heavily on audio and visual elements and avoid the regimented recipes typically seen in a cookbook.

So -- how much is real, and how much is a persona created for the camera? Manowitz said his studio is his actual kitchen, and he is entirely sincere in his love of metal, cooking, and a desire to avoid the exploitation of animals. As to whether he typically wears white pancake makeup and spikes while he's making a meal for himself, he'd rather keep that mystery alive (undead?) for now.

Watch the latest episode of Vegan Black Metal Chef below:

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