Vegan Diets: Trendy or Transformative?
When I started my cooking career in 1992 vegetarians, vegans and gluten free diets were unheard off. In fact, it was not part of my culinary upbringing at all. Back in the day it was pretty simple, at least in the old country. We created dishes and patrons enjoyed them. This was independent of personal dietary restrictions or mind sets. It really was that simple.
Nowadays to go through a typical restaurant service without a guest requesting vegan, gluten free or allergy specific meals is very, very rare. I have to admit that for the longest time I resisted to conform to these new demands. I was ignoring the growing number of customers who weren't interested in my proudly created animal protein-based dishes. Even more challenging was that I had to now scramble in a busy service to accommodate such requests.
However, over the years of struggling through service and resisting the dietary restrictions, I came to understand what the fuss was all about. I could not ignore the trend and have now seen the light. The trend is nothing of the sort.
These dietary requests are a movement. And one made with a conscious effort to live a healthier and happier life. I now make a daily effort to create wonderful vegan-based foods and have integrated a 4 course vegan tasting menu into my weekly offerings. As I am getting to know the vegan community, the more I like it.
Why? Because a vegan diet is a very conscious diet. You really have to think about what you are eating. To create a satisfying vegan diets you have to creatively source your ingredients and challenge yourself to find new ways to prepare them. By the time you are done there is a good chance you are having an extremely healthy meal. How awesome is that?!
As I learn more about the community I realize that there are many people who simply make an ethical choice to become a vegan. This is something I have been struggling as Chef with for a long time. I will admit that there are responsibly raised animals who find themselves at the end of their journey that could be made into a tasty meal. And I don’t really see anything wrong with that. What I do find offensive is the mass herding, irresponsible treating of animals and slaughterhouses built for the sake of larger profits.
Vegetables are versatile, tasty and abundantly available. We are being told that they are actually good for us daily. So if we really "are what we eat" how could we not indulge? I can confidently admit that I have created some pretty awesome vegan Diets.
I always begin creation based on my experience and some choice literature. My first go-to guide is the flavor bible. Just by looking at a food and seeing what others have paired I can come up with hundreds of ways to prepare my own dishes. Another great book is culinary artistry. Both focus on flavors and accompaniments of various foods and provide endless inspiration.
Another great tool, separate from literature, is my Grow.Bar. I grow my own veggies and build them directly into my creations. For example, I use the Grow.Bar Radish Seed.Kit and grow organic radish right in my kitchen. As I watch the seeds grow, I begin to imagine recipes featuring radish that can be used for an entire week.
The Grow.Bar offers many different Seed.Kits®. And anyone can use them to get creative. One of my favorite foods to create at home are oven roasted vegetables. I simply wash and rough cut carrots, parsnips, potatoes, broccoli and onions and toss them in a bowl with some oil, salt and pepper. I throw the mixture on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for about an hour.
The flavors produced are awesome (the broccoli is my favorite). And you can indulge right off the sheet pan. You can also add them to a salad or throw them on top of some cooked rice. But regardless of how they are prepared, I always finish my roasted veggies with some home grown pea tendrils from my Grow.Bar.