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Friday, October 30, 2020

The Edgy Veg’s Candice Hutchings: ‘First and foremost, it’s about the animals’

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Canadian YouTuber, vegan chef and author Candice Hutchings, the face of The Edgy Veg talks transitioning to veganism, writing her own cookbook and educating her audience on the relationship between feminism and veganism.

Candice Hutchings is celebrating her tenth anniversary of being in the vegan industry, having previously been mostly vegetarian because of religious reasons. However, after moving to Toronto, a poster she saw on the subway sparked her decision to fully transition to veganism. “It had a pig and a cat on it, and it said: ‘Why love one animal and eat another?’ I could never not think about that statement,” she tells me.

The transition wasn’t as smooth as it would be in 2020. Ten years ago, veganism wasn’t very popular; there was less access to vegan products and alternatives. Therefore, Hutchings had to adapt her eating habits, teaching herself how to cook and implementing substitutes into her lifestyle. “I kept getting messages from my mother and people from her church group asking for the recipes and I got tired of emailing them, so I put them up on a blog, not thinking it would go anywhere. And then people started reading.”

The Mac Daddy. Photo: Candice Hutchings

Her blog launched in 2011 which catalysed the birth of her YouTube channel in 2012, pushing The Edgy Veg onto a variety of social media platforms to share her vegan-friendly content more widely.

Hutchings explains that her main motivations for pursuing a vegan lifestyle are agriculture and the importance of looking after animals: “Ethics are huge for me, and first and foremost, it is about the animals.”

The purpose of her social media presence is to educate her followers and the general public about what occurs in the animal agriculture space. Additionally, she focuses on spreading awareness about the connection between feminism and veganism: “I try to do it in an approachable way, through storytelling as opposed to lecturing.”

She adds: “One of the reasons why I am vegan is that I’m pro-human as well as pro-animals, and I want to educate in a virtual way about how these industries really prey on vulnerable communities, migrant workers, and illegals, especially in the States. So, I am trying to convey those messages in a really easily digestible, approachable format. That is my goal.”

the edgy veg
Photo: Amir Menahem

As well as her morals, Hutchings is into comedy, keeping things light-hearted when preaching and educating: “I try to deliver everything with a comedic aspect to it. I try to do everything from a place of laughter, and laughter makes people feel good. Finding the humour needed in a terrible situation is how I decided to run my business.”

 

Hutchings is one of the most followed Canadian vegan influencers, with over 92,000 followers on Instagram and 403,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel, with combined views of over 22 million.

From recipe videos to recreations, Hutchings shares a wide variety of content on her channel, including restaurant reviews and networking with chefs to document their creations. However, arguably the main reason why Hutchings’ channel became so popular is that she branches out from typical ‘healthy’ vegan YouTube content, helping her viewers recreate food from fast food chains and popular restaurants. “Most vegans on YouTube are very healthy, and I was like: ‘You know what? I can’t eat anywhere, so I’m going to make it at home,’” she tells me. “Those are some of my favourite videos to make and the most well-received.”

As more people transitioned to veganism, both the Edgy Veg YouTube channel and Instagram page started to grow. Moreover, Hutchings defied more minimalist Instagram food pages with her vibrant and welcoming content, attracting a wider range of viewers, followers and subscribers. Many influencers have a very Pinterest-like aesthetic to their feeds; Hutchings’ brighter, bolder approach is what she feels makes her stand out from others: “I really wanted my personality to translate onto the screen; I love colour and vibrancy.”

She uses Instagram Reels, a 15-second video concept to showcase ‘What I Eat in a Day’ style videos, which she finds fun to make as they are just small cuts of food, but also entertain and inform her audience too.

 

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A post shared by Candice | The Edgy Veg (@edgyveg) on

As video content is an easy and effective method of showcasing new recipes, Hutchings also creates TikToks to supplement her YouTube channel. She says: “It kind of sparked my love and passion, and made me fall in love with creating videos again, as it is so different to what I have been doing for 10 years.”

With an additional blue tick to her name on Instagram, I ask her how she copes with fame: “It is a big responsibility, but I take the trust of my followers very seriously, especially when it comes to product recommendations. It’s still very surreal; sometimes it doesn’t feel real at all, some days I’m just living my life and I forget that not everyone does this for a living or has their life on the internet.”

Like any other celebrity, Hutchings is also recognised by fans on the street whilst walking her dog. “That’s really when it started to dawn on me that people actually recognise me. It was very cool, but also terrifying.”

 

During her career, she has been approached by countless publishers to create her own recipe book, and in late 2017, she released her cookbook. Initially, she didn’t see the value in writing one, since she had recipes on her channel and on her blog, which were online for free. Nevertheless, the publishing agency let her have “free range of creativity”. “I wanted every recipe to have a photo throughout the entire book and they really let me translate the voice I have in person on YouTube onto paper in this book,” she tells me. The book repurposes some of her best-known meals, additionally containing exclusive recipes that are not available on her social media platforms.

Her success as a vegan Youtuber and influencer has led to many achievements and endless opportunities. She won the Taste Awards under the Home Chef category in LA and has been nominated for various other food awards. Her YouTube channel also reached milestones like the Silver Play Button.

She also had the opportunity to travel to Israel on a press trip to see an almond milk factory. “That made me feel very accomplished and that I’m finally getting my career in the right direction, because that is the type of thing I want to do,” she says. “Show people what veganism is around the world.”

 

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It’s common perception that London, New York and LA are the main global hubs for vegan food and the availability of vegan products. Nonetheless, Hutchings says Toronto has a huge, vegan community: “We can pretty much eat any type of cuisine we want, and really good versions of that cuisine. Now more than ever, we have a ton of vegan restaurants in the city.” Canada is known to be a very active country; Hutchings describes Vancouver as a vegan hub as well, explaining that many take on a healthy lifestyle and “veganism goes hand in hand with that”.

the edgy veg cookbook
Photo: Candice Hutchings

Hutchings understands that transitioning to veganism isn’t easy. For new vegans, she says: “I always tell people if they are trying out this lifestyle, take your five to ten recipes you love to cook, go to the store and buy easy substitutes. She explains the importance of taking baby steps to get used to new products: “Don’t get mad at yourself; we are all human, we all slip and fall, and if you accidentally eat something with eggs in it, it doesn’t mean you aren’t vegan or that you are a bad person”.

Hutchings has grown an international fanbase on her various platforms. Although based in Canada, her highest audience market is in the USA, followed by Europe and Australia. With such a successful YouTube channel, a growing Instagram platform and a popular cookbook, Hutchings hopes to launch herself into a new territory of veganism to create her own product: “It’s something I haven’t done before; I also want to be constantly evolving, creating fun, new ways to get the vegan message out there.”

vegan youtuber
Photo: Candice Hutchings

Veganism has created a lot of awareness about climate change, the animal agriculture industry and humans in general. She says: “I don’t think it’s a fad that’s going to go away. It will continue to trend upwards because people are tired of being fed garbage.” She adds that millennials and Generation Z are also tired of seeing their planet “go down the toilet”.

Hutchings has been incredibly successful since the birth of The Edgy Veg, and she says: “Being vegan and running The Edgy Veg allows me to live my life creating the least amount of harm possible”.

Mansi Vithlani
Mansi Vithlani is a journalism student at City, University of London. A vegetarian her whole life and a massive foodie, she enjoys discovering more about veganism and eating vegan cuisine! She enjoys investigating social media based stories and how its influence has made a significant difference in the last few years.