[R]EBEL VEGAN CHEF + EVENT DESIGNER.
Jay Astafa was born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island. He’s a first generation Albanian-American. At a young age Jay aspired to be an actor. It wasn’t until he went vegan at the age of 15, that his career plans started to shift. As a young vegan, Jay was looking for a way to be an activist for animals. He discovered cooking, and decided that he was going to become a vegan chef. Today he considers himself part chef and part culinary activist. His mission is to show people how to EAT MORE PLANTS!
After going vegan, Astafa spent the next year and a half teaching himself everything he could about plant-based cooking. He also spent time working at his dad’s Long Island pizzeria, 3 Brothers Pizza Cafe. He noticed that there was a void in vegan options, so he set out to create his own. At 16, Jay began his professional chef career, he started to offer some simple vegan options at his dad’s pizzeria. Within a few months, due to its tremendous popularity, that modest menu expanded, evolving into a full-fledged multi-page promised land for every vegan within driving distance. Astafa had found his calling — and amassed a cult following — and he wasn’t even old enough to vote. Astafa’s cruelty- — and cholesterol- — free contribution to the formerly meat-and-cheese-laden lineup proved such a success, in fact, that The New York Times in November 2009 published a compelling piece about the establishment’s shift towards compassionate cuisine. It was all uphill — in a good way — from there on out.
Astafa decided to elevate his talents to the next level, enrolling in 2011 at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City. Later, in 2013, he took his education further still, studying restaurant management at the International Culinary Center.
Ambitious then-20 year old Jay Astafa, was determined to open his first NYC restaurant. He debuted his cooking to the NYC dining scene, by producing a 2 day pop-up restaurant. He had never eaten at a tasting menu restaurant or even worked at a Michelin Star restaurant, but the wunderkind was determined. He served 85 guests each night, an 8 course vegetable forward tasting menu. Jay thought this would be the springboard for a brick-and-mortar spot in New York. But, when catering requests started coming, Astafa got sidetracked by the deluge of opportunities. He hit the ground running in May of that year and hasn’t slowed since.
Jay Astafa’s work at 3 Brothers Pizza Cafe has been recognized by PETA not once but twice for his pizza prowess — 3 Brothers’ “The Works” pizza came in second out of ten for PETA’s Best Vegan Pizza in February 2015 and ditto April 2011. Astafa was the winner of Vegan Iron Chef in San Francisco in March 2014, and also appeared in April 2014 on Food Network’s Rewrapped. He’s cooked for clients such as Russell Simmons, Lenny Kravitz, BET, LUSH, VegNews Magazine, Positive Tails, PCRM, Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, and Adidas. He also food styled for various movies and tv shows featuring Sarah Jessica Parker and Meryl Streep.
Today Jay Astafa keeps himself busy catering bespoke events throughout the major cities and being the creative force behind Long Island’s only all vegan restaurant, 3 Brothers Vegan Cafe. In the future he plans to launch a restaurant empire , cookbook, and a cheese line.