'Evolving Vegan' Season 2: Mena Massoud isn't going to be 'preachy' about his vegan diet

"The reality is, everybody eats vegan all the time," Massoud said

Mena Massoud in Evolving Vegan Season 2 on CTV Life Channel, streaming on Crave
Mena Massoud in Evolving Vegan Season 2 on CTV Life Channel, streaming on Crave

Canadian Aladdin star Mena Massoud continues his journey to share the evolution of the vegan food scene around the world with Season 2 of the CTV Life Channel original series Evolving Vegan (premiering April 16 at 8:00 p.m. ET on CTV Life, CTV.ca, and the CTV app, and also streaming on Crave). For Massoud, continuing the show meant making the show look "bigger," "better" and "sexier."

"We got to use better drones, better lenses, ... Bell backed us really with going bigger, making the show look even better, sexier, more grandiose, and I think people will really see that in the first couple of episodes," Massoud told Yahoo Canada. "Yes, we all want to see the sexy food shots and the beautiful food that makes us just drool, ... but I think food is also about connecting with people."

"As a host, I really just wanted to see what I could improve on, really connect with people a little bit more, try to get to know them, to open up more."

'Some of the best vegetables I've ever had in my life'

In the first season of Evolving Vegan, Massoud guided us through places like Los Angeles, Vancouver, Mexico City and Toronto. In Season 2, we discover the plant-based food scenes in Montreal, Miami, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and even as far as Tokyo.

Some guests Massoud brought along for these trips include magician and actor Penn Jillette, comedian Maz Jobrani, and cookbook authors Carleigh Bodrug and Radhi Devlukia.

One place that stood out for Massoud from the series was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

"Philadelphia just really surprised me," Massoud said. "I think when you think of Philly, you think of just like blue collar town, really hard working, quintessential American town, but we went to these places that all blew my mind, including a place called Pietramala, [which] got voted one of the best new restaurants in America by Bon Appétit in 2023."

"It's some of the best vegetables I've ever had in my life. Period. I will go back to Philly just to go back to that restaurant, that's how good it was."

Evolving Vegan Season 2 on CTV Life Channel, streaming on Crave
Evolving Vegan Season 2 on CTV Life Channel, streaming on Crave

'I don't want it to be preachy'

While many may assume that Evolving Vegan was created to convert more people to veganism, Massoud stressed that's not the case at all. It's about urging viewers to be mindful about what they're eating.

"I don't want it to be preachy," Massoud said. "I think that we will make more of an impact on the planet and our fellow living beings, and our health, if more people eat vegan meals than more people just going 100 per cent vegan. If 50 per cent of the population has one or two vegan meals a week, that'll have more of an impact than four per cent of the population being strictly plant-based."

"The reality is, everybody eats vegan all the time. Most cultures have a ton of vegan dishes, but we don't view it that way. And when we say 'vegan,' all of a sudden that throws people off and people get very defensive, and their wall goes up and they're like, 'Oh that's disgusting. That food isn't good.' ... Evolving vegan just means eating more plant-based and being more mindful ... of what goes into your body. That's all it is. ... My job is to just show people how incredible vegan food can be, and also give people a little bit of a guide."

Over the course of working on Evolving Vegan, Massoud shared that something he's adopted with his own cooking is that "simple is better," a lesson he particularly understood when he went to Japan.

"I think a lot of people get overwhelmed, even someone like me. I've written a cookbook, but I can get overwhelmed," Massoud said. "What I learned in Japan is such simple ingredients go along the way, if you pick good ingredients that just work together."

"Recently, I've been obsessed with purple sweet potatoes and I just make some purple sweet potatoes with some really good tofu, some broccoli and some other vegetables, and I literally have that and it's just delicious. It's nutritious, it fills you up, and so simple is better."