My Vegetable Story: Why Jack Bishop Believes Vegetarian Cooking is for Everyone

Our CCO extols the value of the test cooks' collective cooking IQ in our cookbook dedicated to vegetarian cooking.

Published Mar. 17, 2017.

This interview is part of a series celebrating the publication of The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook. We've interviewed celebrated chefs and members of the Test Kitchen family, each of whom know a thing or two about how to best prepare vegetables. (Ed's note: This interview originally ran on on March 4th, 2015.) 


Today we catch up with ATK stalwart Jack Bishop to discuss his passion for vegetarian cooking, and the collective IQ of the test kitchen's books team. Jack is a firm believer that vegetarian cooking isn't only for vegetarians. 

What was the impetus to make The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook?

As with any book project, we listen to our readers and television viewers. They ask and we deliver. And this topic is increasingly popular with our audience. More and more people are interested in eating vegetarian meals on occasion—and they want someone to help them navigate this new world. We wanted to put together a book that would be the number one resource for the full-time vegetarian—that’s why the book has 700 recipes. But we also wanted a book that would appeal to the vegetarian newbie. In the end, we decided that both audiences would be best served by a diverse collection of approachable recipes. We wanted to showcase just how well vegetarians—full-time or part-time—can eat.

What do you think sets this book apart from other vegetarian cookbooks out there?

No one can match the test kitchen when it comes to reliable shopping information. And when you’re cooking vegetarian dishes it’s really important to choose the very best ingredients, whether it’s soy sauce and canned tomatoes or pasta and brown rice. I think the list of 14 flavor-building ingredients at the front of the book is really key.

Nuts are a huge flavor booster in many recipes. We grind toasted walnuts and add them to our Ultimate Vegetarian Chili for flavor and body.

This chili is absolutely amazing. I’ve served it to meat eaters who claim they don’t like vegetarian dishes and they have been 100% satisfied.

What’s the most important thing for a home cook to know about The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook?

A team of dozen editors and test cooks worked on this book so the collection of recipes is really interesting and varied. It’s not just the perspective of one individual but rather the diverse experiences of many talented cooks brought together to cover this huge subject.

The second thing that’s really key—you know these recipes will work because they have been tested again and again. No one wants to fail when making a recipe and I think a lot of people are afraid to experiment with unfamiliar vegetarian recipes because they don’t know if they will work. The recipes in this book taste great and have been designed to work in anyone’s home kitchen.

I think readers would like to get a glimpse into your role as editorial director at America’s Test Kitchen. [Ed's note: When this interview was first published in March, 2015, Bishop's title was editorial director. It has since changed to chief creative officer.] Can you comment a bit on your day-to-day in regard to an ongoing book project?

I’m very involved in the upfront work, leading the team as we decide which books we want to tackle and how we want to approach the subject. But then the test kitchen team goes into the kitchen and I’m pretty hands off. Sure, they call me down to taste a few dishes but there’s so much cooking I couldn’t possibly keep up.

For me, the real joy and surprise is when I see the original idea translated into book pages. And that process takes a long time—usually about 12 months. It’s like waiting for Christmas to come. I love to read about the new discoveries and tips. For instance, who knew that you should brine beans rather than soak them? It’s true.

Where does your personal experience with vegetarian cooking start?

I feel like this book was written for me. In my house, we eat vegetarian five or six nights a week. For me, the biggest challenge is balancing inspiration with reliability. I like to try new dishes but I don’t have the time to try things that won’t work. I know when I cook a recipe from our test kitchen it will work.

I’m especially appreciating all the Asian and Middle Eastern recipes in the book. I’m not an expert in these cuisines and recipes like Baked Squash Kibbeh and Indian-Style Vegetable Curry with Potatoes and Cauliflower have been big hits with my family.

Do you have a favorite recipe in the book?

I love the freshness of the Bulgur Salad with Carrots and Almonds. The mint and cilantro work really well with the lemony dressing. The Brown Rice Bowl with Roasted Carrots, Kale, and Fried Eggs is healthy, playful, and easy. And the Mushroom Bolognese is a great riff on this classic Italian pasta sauce. It’s pure comfort food, Italian style.

And if you think you don’t like tofu or tempeh you need to try some of these recipes, especially with the Pan-Seared Tempeh Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce. It’s a real favorite in my kitchen.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about this book, and vegetarian cooking on the whole?

Vegetarian cooking is for everyone. If you want new ways to cook vegetables, beans and grains, and pasta, this book is for you. If you want to explore authentic peasant cuisines from around the world, this book is for you. If you want bold, bright flavors with lots of herbs, spices, and chiles, this book is for you. If you’re bored with the same old same old, this book is for you. The real beauty of vegetarian cooking is its diversity and freshness. This book represents the very best of modern vegetarian cooking, with influences from all around the globe melding to form an exciting, yet practical approach to making dinner.

The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook

The 700+ recipes in this comprehensive collection show you inventive and uncomplicated techniques for making boldly flavored appetizers, soups and stews, main dishes, pasta, pizzas, and more. Whether you’re a committed vegetarian or simply want to eat more vegetables and grains, this collection of re-imagined, meatless comfort food and all-new recipes inspired by ethnic cuisines will help you cook and eat well.   
Buy the Book

For more information about vegetarian cooking, read this post: 

This is a members' feature.