You’ve probably heard of world-famous musician/ DJ/ songwriter/ producer Moby, but did you know he owns a vegan restaurant? Co-founder Leiti Hsu caught up with Moby at his home in LA. Read below for his thoughts on veganism, his favorite spots to eat around the world—and his other other dream job.
Describe your high school self.
I grew up very poor in Darien, CT, one of the wealthiest towns in the US. I was on food stamps and welfare until I was 18. My mom was a painter and a musician. When I turned 12 or 13 years old I became a punk rocker. I always had green hair or a shaved head and wore torn jeans and Clash T-shirts going to the preppiest high school on the planet. I didn’t necessarily fit in all that well.
We always had a bunch of adopted rescue animals growing up—dogs, cats, lizards, frogs, mice—and at some point when I was a teenager, I looked at one of our rescue cats and realized that she had two eyes, a brain, a central nervous system and a profoundly rich emotional life and just wanted to be left alone. That’s when I became an animal rights activist.
Not everyone gets to make a living doing what they love. Was there a point at which you thought ‘Hey, maybe I could be great at this’?
I’ve never thought of music as a vehicle that would help me gain meaning on a material level. For me, music itself is its own reward. I can’t buy anything with the money I make from my music that’s more precious or more valuable than the making of music itself.
I think the end goals for everyone are companionship, meaning and well-being. But people tend focus on the means and not the ends. They focus on wealth, hedonism and materialism. I grew up with the ethos that you should pursue what you love and see what happens. All those painters and musicians in my family? No one ever succeeded, but they loved what they did. So any success I’ve had has been absolutely an accident. There’s never been any planning.
You’re known for your passionate animal rights work. Why is it that people don’t come out of the womb as animal rights activists and vegans?
I think people actually do come out of the womb as animal rights activists. Most children know that animals are worthy of love, care and protection. There are so many reasons to consider eating fewer animal products. The moment someone relies on animal products in their diet, their potential for getting cancer, diabetes and heart disease goes up exponentially.
Of course there are ways for people to live healthy lives and eat animal products, but look at the role of animal production on our planet: 40% of climate change, 80% of rainforest deforestation and 40% of California’s water use are all due to animal agriculture.
Plus, I love eating plants. Plants are beautiful, they’re tasty, they’re diverse, they’re good for you, they’re fun to think about, they’re fun to gather, they’re fun to eat.
Being a vegan and raving. Is there a connection?
Dancing to music you love is so good for you. Going out and getting covered in sweat dancing to music you love is as great for you as being a vegan. Having a plant-based diet and going out dancing? Those are things that increase your life force and improve your wellbeing.
Describe your restaurant, Little Pine.
I love the idea of representing veganism in a really inviting way. I love the idea of having a vegan restaurant that’s not didactic or strident. It’s the idea of attraction rather than promotion: I’m offering wonderful organic vegan wine and beer, amazing desserts and amazing dinners in a beautiful old art deco building in a great location.
Instead of yelling at people and saying they should be vegan, I’d rather give them the option of coming in and having a cassoulet and a great bottle of wine. That’s me putting a really nice face on veganism.
Little Pine is an organic vegan restaurant, and 100% of the profits go to animal welfare groups.
If you could do breakfast, lunch, tea, a snack, and dinner anywhere in the world, where would you go?
My favorite place to have breakfast is the west coast of New Zealand. I used to rent a house there, and I’d eat breakfast outside during the summer to the sound of the surf crashing on a gigantic, empty black sand beach.
For lunch, I’d go to Cafe Gitane on Mott Street in NYC. I lived on Mott Street for about 25 years, so that was my local. I’d sit outside in the sun on a beautiful day as all the beautiful people walked by, sipping a watermelon juice and eating an avocado toast.
I remember being in a vegan restaurant in a 14th or 15th-century building in Edinburgh. It was a cold, stormy late November day and I ordered simple black English breakfast tea. Sitting there while it it rained and stormed... That was pretty idyllic.
One of my favorite things about LA is that 30 minutes from my house is the Angeles National Forest, which is bigger than the entirety of NYC. It’s this beautiful, mountainous forest, filled with bears and mountain lions. I think going to a health food store, getting some bread and hummus, going up to the Angeles forest and sitting by a waterfall to eat would be a pretty nice way to have a snack.
This may be a little self-serving of me, but I’d probably go to my restaurant, Little Pine, for dinner. There’s a handmade sophisticated thoughtfulness to the dinner menu. I’d probably have our agnolotti, a beautiful farrow and walnut salad with pomegranate and butternut squash and the chocolate s’mores ganache for dessert.
Describe your ideal weekend trip.
Anywhere in California that has Redwoods—probably Big Sur or north of San Francisco. Those trees are so old, so beautiful, and hundreds of feet tall. Of all the places on earth, I get no greater sense of peace than being surrounded by Redwoods.
What’s your packing style?
Bring as little as possible.
You’ve already done it all—musician, DJ, producer, restaurateur—what’s your other other dream job, if you could do anything in the world?
Leading whitewater rafting trips through the Grand Canyon.
Photos: Flickr/Kurt Thomas, @littlepinerestaurant