Kelly Reiss: The Vegetarian Librarian, Chicagoan of the week

Kelly Reiss the Vegetarian Librarian

Scrumptious smells are escaping out of Kelly Reiss’s Logan Square kitchen in Chicago. On the inside a flood light from Home Depot lights up the stage and husband Jason Waclawik mans a hand held camera as Kelly, the self proclaimed Vegetarian Librarian, cooks up some creativity with a side of vegetables. “About three years ago the phrase “vegetarian librarian” gave rise to the idea of filming DIY cooking demos,” explains Kelly. After letting the idea “marinate” for a while Kelly, a research librarian, and Jason, with a background in film and media, began producing webisodes called, “The Vegetarian Librarian.”

Not to be confused with other cooking shows the Vegetarian Librarian is far from your bland Martha Stewart type. Local Indie/Rock band Strawberry Horsecake developed the theme song and can be heard throughout many webisodes, while all other music used is created by local Chicago artists and friends. Some of the most unconventional and artistic of the webisodes include “Gumbo” and “Master of the English Muffins” both from season 2. During Gumbo Reiss strolls through Palmer Square Park on a beautiful fall day and is compelled to make gumbo. Meanwhile zombies emerge from behind tall trees and lurk in the background. Back in the kitchen the absent minded VL finishes her hearty dish when she hears someone at the door. The undead must have rounded up a few more of their own frightening kind with a freaky fetish for gumbo. As they attack the VL she finds her only defense is to pour the gumbo on them. Her ploy works and she sends them on their way with a bowl each and corn muffins to follow. This spooky Halloween themed webisode is entertaining and dishes on how to create a seasonal meal or an anti-zombie potion, which ever you may need.

“Master of the English Muffin” features the local band Hewhocorrupts and recreates the music video for the song “Master of Profits”. The original music video is a spoof off the CEOs of corporate America and features the same “mock” violent actions to the strum of an electric guitar. But instead of throwing money the VL and band crew throw flower and other ingredients in the air and into a bowl during the creation of home made English muffins. Gone is the sweet and innocent VL from Gumbo and in her place is a dark sunglass wearing, serious, boss type character. And Kelly admits it was her biggest acting challenge to date.

Whether shot in locations unique to Chicago such as the Hideout, Palmer Square Park, Salon Miniscule, Atlas Recording Studios or in her own kitchen Reiss cooks up delicious recipes mixed with amusement. Now in her third season the Vegetarian Librarian promises more taste bud pleasing recipes along with more vegetarian/vegan blog content for fans. When not fulfilling her vegetarian side Kelly entertains her librarian side by feeding her brain with information from the Center for Books and Paper knowledge at Columbia College. And when out for some vegetarian cuisine Kelly frequents restaurants like Sultan’s Market, El Cid, Karyn’s on Green or Handlebar. Being a very smart vegetarian Reiss has found some unique places to find her ingredients. You won’t find the VL shopping at any ordinary grocery store but you might be able to sneak a peak into her grocery cart at the Green Grocer Chicago on Grand Ave, the Logan Square Farmer’s Market on Sunday, a speciality Korean store called Joong Boo Market, or Whole Foods in Lincoln Park. So if you run into the Vegetarian Librarian at any of her favorite Chicago niches ask her what she’s cooking up next.

Or just visit her website at

About Natalie Scheid

When Mattel manufactures your idol and your nickname is Barbie life can get pretty unreal. My favorite activities include cheering on the White Sox (I’ve been converting Cubs fans since 1986), meeting new people and writing on the rooftop with the skyline as my backdrop. You might be able to find me at the opening of a new hot spot, soaking up some culture at a local museum or art show, or enjoying one of the cities fabulous festivals. So…. catch me if you can!

One Comment

  • Ashley
    July 1, 2010 | Permalink | Reply

    What a clever article! I’ve heard about the VL and cant wait to try some of her scrumptious recipes!! Her juicy red locks and quircky fun personality really entertain the wanna be vegans like me!

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