The creators of Thug Kitchen are stirring things up—in and out of the kitchen

Meet the cookbook authors who are "verbally abusing people into eating their goddamn vegetables" (and creating controversy along the way).
Thug Kitchen
(Photos, clockwise from left: Rodale, Matt Dukor/Epicurious, Thug Kitchen)

Sometimes, bloggers get famous for their perfectly styled shots of parfaits in mason jars. Sometimes, they get famous for pairing profanity with green juice and “verbally abusing people into eating their goddamn vegetables.” Well, at least this one time.

That’s how Thug Kitchen co-creators Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway, both 29, describe the approach that has catapulted them into the spotlight, first via love from Gwyneth, and now via their first cookbook, Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck, released last week. [Yup, this article will contain profanities, so maybe if our asterisks aren’t enough for reading this article at work, shield your screen?]

Davis, a long-time vegan and home cook, and Holloway, a photographer, started the blog as a creative outlet while both were working service jobs, at a grocery store and “fetching lunch and coffee” for a production company, respectively. Davis was trying to convert Holloway—who describes his former diet as “pizza and Mountain Dew”—to a healthier one, and she wanted to show him that veganism didn’t have to be serious and self-righteous.

Their posts come with healthy inspiration like, this one for Quinoa Oatmeal: “Don’t give me that ‘I don’t eat breakfast’ bullshit. It’s too early to be an asshole. The fiber in the oatmeal helps control your blood sugar and keeps you feeling full until lunch.” Green juice recipes might boast “there’s so much god damn spinach in this shit, even Popeye can’t hate.” And you would never confuse their recipe instructions with Julia Child’s.

“We wanted to show that you can be f*cking normal and have a good time and try to eat better and not have to change everything else about yourself,” she says.

They were also turned off by the aforementioned perfectly styled, food photography of blogs, where the thought of making a dish look anything close to the Instagram version (paired with perfectly manicured nails and a running golden retriever) didn’t seem accessible to the everyday busy person.

And it obscures the fact that cooking can be simple and easy, they say. “One of the off-putting things about a lot of the food blogs for me is that they’re really spearheaded by a personality, and it’s all about a lifestyle,” says Holloway. “We were like ‘F*ck that! It’s just about food.”

Except, it’s not just about food. The duo stayed anonymous until a few weeks ago, and when they finally revealed their identifies to their fans and a wider audience, it became about them—and in a not-all-positive way. Critics across the internet attacked them for the use of “thug,” a term considered racist in most circumstances, and for using a “bastardized version of Black English” while profiting off of the fact that many readers assumed they were black. Bookstores rushed to deal with backlash around scheduled readings.

“We curse on the site because we curse in real life. We’re not pretending to have a lifestyle that we don’t, and I think anybody who goes to the site can see that,” Davis says, in response. “We understand that thug is kind of a loaded term and has gotten more so since we started the site. But we’ve always thought about it as more of an attitude. It’s about being a bad-ass in the kitchen and taking charge of how you eat.”

Wherever you stand on the issue, you’ll probably agree this recipe for Roasted Chickpea Broccoli Burritos, from the book, looks really f*cking delicious. —Lisa Elaine Held

Thug Kitchen
(Photo: Thug Kitchen)


This is a fan favorite that had to appear in the book, says Davis. “It’s a weeknight staple and one bad burrito you deserve to have in your life. Listen to the fans. They know what’s up.”

Makes 4 to 6 burritos

1 large yellow onion
1 red bell pepper
1 large crown of broccoli
3 cups cooked chickpeas*
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce, tamari, or Bragg’s**
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander***
Cayenne pepper, to taste
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lime
4 to 6 flour tortillas
Burrito trimmings such as spinach, avocado, cilantro, and Fire-Roasted Salsa (page 124)

1. Crank your oven to 425F. Grab a large rimmed baking sheet.

2. Chop up the onion, bell pepper, and broccoli ’til they’re the size of a chickpea. Place all the chopped up veggies in a large bowl with the cooked chickpeas. Pour in the oil and soy sauce, stir, and then throw all the spices in there. Mix until all the vegetables and shit are covered. Put all of that on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

3. Take it out of the oven—don’t f*cking burn yourself—then add the garlic and stir it around. Bake for another 15 minutes. The broccoli might look a little burnt at this point but that is the plan, so chill the f*ck out and take it out of the oven. Squeeze the lime juice over the pan and stir the roasted chickpeas and veggies all around. Taste and see if it needs more spices or anything.

4. Now make a motherf*cking burrito. We like ours with spinach, avocado, cilantro, and some fire-roasted salsa, but do your thing.

* Or two 15-ounce cans
** WTF? See page 10.
*** Or more cumin if you don’t want to go to the store.

“Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook” by Thug Kitchen. Copyright (c) 2014 by Thug Kitchen, LLC. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.

For more information, check out Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a Fuck


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