Toronto-based photographer Jessica Milan has combined all of her passions—cooking, photography, and fashion—into a fresh little book that’s as pretty as it is handy. The aptly titled Lookbook Cookbook (based off her blog of the same name) is chock full of healthy gluten-free and vegan recipes, but that doesn’t mean they’re not totally indulgent. Throughout the pages, Milan’s models dig into plates like Blueberry Lemon Jonnycakes, Sundried Tomato Pasta Pesto, Hot Chocolate Cookies, and Jalapeño Poppers (hungry yet?). We talked with Milan about the makings of her lovely guide and some of her favorite foodie spots in Toronto.
How did the idea for Lookbook Cookbook come about?
A few years ago I wanted to start a vegan food blog, and because I am a photographer and was shooting a lot of models at the time, it just felt right to include some of the girls in the shots with the food. Doing a book was always one of my original intentions and it felt like a great match when my publisher approached me last year. So I decided to go for it!
How do you gather all of the different recipes?
I love making food and trying out new things in the kitchen, so I created most of the recipes through a lot of cooking and taste testing. Many of the dishes in the book are my go-to staples.
Why did you make the decision to create gluten-free and vegan dishes?
All of the recipes are vegan and gluten free because that’s simply the way I prefer to eat. I find food a lot easier to digest this way, and am quite conscious of what I put in my body, so it’s a great way have a little fun eating while staying healthy.
Have you always had a passion for food? How did it begin?
I’ve always been a huge foodie and just really love eating. I think it started when I was quite young and wanted to go vegetarian—my mom was always great at trying out new things and finding recipes I could eat. I also used to model and that’s really when I became a lot more health conscious and into vegan and raw food.
Some of your favorite places to eat in Toronto?
Fresh is definitely my favorite restaurant in Toronto; it’s one of the first veggie places that opened up here years ago. Some other great places I love are Feel Good Guru, Live, and Bolt Fresh Bar.
Some of your favorite places to grocery shop in Toronto?
Kensington Market in Toronto is my favorite place to shop here. It’s full of fresh produce, bulk shops, Mexican food, and my all-time favorite organic store, Essence of Life.
What’s your favorite recipe in the book?
It’s hard to choose just one! I definitely love the Sundried Tomato Pasta Pesto, the Chunky Guacamole, and Tex-Mex Potato Skins.
How did you scout your models?
Most of the girls I’ve shot are friends or models I’ve worked with before. Instagram has also played a big part lately though, with a lot of girls reaching out to me through there, and I’ve contacted a few as well that I follow.
Were there any mishaps while shooting?
There hasn’t been any major mishaps, but there’s always lots of crumbs on the floor after each shoot!