“I mean, I’m just the chef,” Isa Chandra Moskowitz says with a shrug, having lost another small battle with the director on the set of her first series of cooking videos for Breville.

Turns out what she needs to do to make her pumpkin ice cream differs from the artistic vision of the director, but in this kitchen at least, in a Brooklyn loft, she’s not the boss.

It’s a tough pill to swallow for Moskowitz, a chef whose popular website is called Post Punk Kitchen, and who still exudes punk-rock attitude as she cooks her way through a universe of meat-and-dairy-free recipes. Oh, did I neglect to mention that she’s a vegan? Yes, Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a chef, a post-punk maker of delicious things to eat, a top-selling cookbook author, and a woman who has clandestinely mastered the art of cooking without ingredients that 99% of Americans use in their food. That is to say, no cow’s udders have been touched in the making of her pumpkin ice cream.

Yet when I put a spoonful of that pumpkin ice cream to my lips, it’s as creamy and sweetly delicious as anything you could find in a carton or even at that new artisanal ice cream shop down the street. How does she do it? How does this Brooklyn-bred gal, who now lives amongst Omaha, Nebraska’s hip creative class, turn typical new American dishes into restaurant-worthy bites with no sign of bacon or cheese in sight? Nor any meat or cheese substitutes of dubious scientific origin? The answers speak in large part to why we’re here in a sparse Williamsburg loft, watching Moskowitz spar with an experienced cooking show director for a series that will be called Make It Vegan.

After the shooting for the 10th and final video wraps, and everyone on set embraces as if they haven’t been bickering for the past few days, I press Moskowitz for clarification on how she’s been able to attract a growing audience of believers.

“I hate saying things like, ‘You won’t believe it’s vegan!’ Because it’s good and you don’t need to say that,” she says matter-of-factly, sitting on a well-worn sofa as the camera crew packs its bags. “Things have changed so much and so fast for vegans and vegan cooking that I can’t imagine that in a decade I’d have to explain, ‘I promise it’s good!’”

These changes are due in no small part to Moskowitz herself, who wrote her first vegan cookbook in 2005 and whose subsequent efforts, a total of seven cookbooks including the hit Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook, have combined to sell roughly a million copies. Her biggest and boldest book yet, the brand-new Isa Does It should mark a turning point in vegan cooking — and vegan philosophy.

Gone are the days when vegans had to exist like some sort of cult of non-meat eaters. In Isa Does It (note the curious lack of vegan puns in the title, in favor of wordplay based on her name), there’s an early section on “vegan butchery” — how to slice tofu, for example. There are recipes for butternut bisque and shiitake banh mi sandwiches and pesto. There’s a chapter on mouth-watering desserts, not what you’d expect to find in a vegan cookbook. In short, the distinctions between vegan and non-vegan cooking reduce like a sauce on high heat. While ingredients like nutritional yeast and tempeh do pop up, and the “milk” or “cream” derives from nuts rather than dairy, much of what you’ll find in Isa Does It is merely combinations of vegetables and grains that happen to taste delicious together.

Seated across from her, I ask Moskowitz to discuss some of the differences between meat eaters and vegans, leading to this exchange:

What do you think is the obstacle for people who don’t like to cook vegetarian and feel that meat has to be at the center of every dish?

I think that that’s their obstacle — their thinking! I think they need to change their thinking and stop seeing things as proteins and sides, and look at it as more of an integrated and veggie-filled or grain-filled plate and adding the protein from there.You can add it in lots of different ways, obviously. Also, you have to take into consideration that all food has protein. Zucchini has a great deal of protein for what it is. Kale, brown rice, and quinoa all have protein.You don’t have to get the protein from one source, because you are getting it from multiple sources. All of the essential amino acids are represented in what we’re eating if we’re eating a lot of whole foods. Meat doesn’t have to be the center — we should think more about the flavors and textures of a varied plate.

Vegans are often perceived as either being on the defensive about their diet or going on the offensive to prove that they’re right in their choice. But your writing doesn’t usually go in for that kind of rhetoric, right?

I find that meat eaters go on the defensive and offensive more! For me, this is just how I eat and what I do and I’m not preaching it to you. I’m never going up to a meat eater and questioning him. I just do what I do and those are my ethics. Sometimes people rush to judgment, like, “Oh, you’re a vegan, so you think I’m a bad person.” But that’s on them. I just cook and try to be a chef and I happen to be a vegan — we’ll leave it at that and see how other people react. If someone asks me why I don’t eat meat and I tell them, then I’m not judging them, but they asked.

And to be clear, while Moskowitz doesn’t typically bang the (synthetically made) drum for veganism, she’s no less dedicated than more outspoken advocates.You have to think it has to do with her upbringing. Raised in a decidedly less hipster section of Brooklyn than the one we’re speaking in, Moskowitz found her calling as a chef and a vegan as a teenager, in an era and a neighborhood where the very word vegan was foreign. Her family quickly accepted her decisions (one of her sisters and her mother have become vegans as well), but the vegan lifestyle has certainly been challenging in a country known for its fixation on the hamburger and its love of the outdoor (meat-based) barbecue.

A stint living in Portland, Oregon, a city that even has vegan bars (some beer, wine and spirits are made with trace animal parts), offered a reprieve for Moskowitz, but she now resides in Omaha, with her Nebraska native boyfriend; and, as she points out, it’s a place that’s very “meat-centric,” seeing as how it is “in the shadow of Omaha Steak.”

Rather than testing her resolve, this proximity to cowboy culture seems to have inspired her. With Isa Does It, the growing following on the Post Punk Kitchen site and now the Make It Vegan cooking videos, Moskowitz is poised to break out as a star chef, one who happens to favor veggies and grains over meat and dairy.

“There’s not a lot of vegan chefs,” she notes. “I think when the established food culture lets there be a vegan chef, there will be. There’s a lot of incentive not to have a celebrity vegan chef. A lot of people have an investment in meat and that’s a big deal right now. I think it’s challenging to the establishment and that has to be fought for. I think that more vegans have to fight for it and more vegans have to cook better food. Let’s stop putting soy cheese with a ‘z’ on everything and chicken with quote marks on everything. Let’s start cooking real food and start being chefs. Let’s be food-focused, and changes will happen.”

It’s a formidable mantra, and one that Moskowitz puts into practice. Anyone who cooks from Isa Does It will instantly see what she’s getting at — this is food that’s so richly satisfying, the focus won’t be on what’s not in there but on what is.

As the last equipment gets wheeled out of the loft, and Moskowitz’s first serious cooking shoot comes to a close, she looks to be in need of a change of scenery, maybe a hearty meal. I let her wind down with a couple of rapid-fire food questions, and her answers make me want to head back to her book to cook more vegan dishes.

You wake up and you’re hungry for a big brunch on a Sunday. What are you making?

Scrambled tofu for sure. Avocado and roasted potatoes. Toss in some guacamole, some cilantro, some salsa.

What about a late-night craving?

If I’m going out, I’ll have falafel as a late-night snack. I have a recipe for falafel burgers in the book.

Is it hard to do falafel from scratch?

No, it’s super easy. I do Israeli-style falafel. Basically, it’s soaking the chickpeas until they’re tender and then chopping everything up in a food processor and forming it into a burger and pan-frying.

There you have it: what sounds intimidating on paper is actually attainable. As more and more people go vegan for environmental or political or personal reasons, Isa Chandra Moskowitz is looking like the face of sensible veganism. Early in our conversation, I’d brought up a speech she’d given at a vegan conference, in which she discussed her philosophies and how she evolved from more of an activist to an advocate. We started talking about cows, and I suggested that for her, being a vegan is more personal than political.

“Yeah,” she replied. “I mean, I don’t want anyone else to eat [cows] either, but I’m not going out of my way to preach against it. Instead, I’m making vegan food and hopefully making it accessible.”