Welcome to the New-Age!
You may have heard the recent buzz about the global dining scene that magazines, food channels, websites and the meat industry are picking up on. The role that vegetables play is under transformation by chefs worldwide! No longer arbitrary sides to a main, vegetables are becoming the main element of a meal. Needless to say, it’s a super exciting time for vegetarians worldwide!
From bean-riddled soups in Latin America to Asian seaweed wraps, vegetarian dishes are as plentiful as they are diverse. These incredible flavours are coming together by skilled chefs, who are getting very creative with their cooking techniques.
The most exciting trend is to have vegetables at the center of the plate. This is why so many high-end restaurants are offering vegetarian tasting menus to their diners. Chef Daniel Biron from Brazil, has long echoed this principle, and feels that these trends “naturally seem to be the right thing: for the animals, for our health, for future generations, and for the environment. I don’t see them as trends,” he says, “but as necessary steps to a more just, compassionate, and sustainable planet.”1 People are waking up to this #gogreen revolution and beginning to ask where the food they eat comes from.
Even Celebrity Chef Alain Ducasse is turning a new leaf. A few years ago, one of his restaurants, L’Andana in Tuscany, was so lacking in vegetarian options that one of VeggieBuzz’s own actually walked out! But now the 21 Michelin star holder should be commended for exploring a lighter, vegetarian-style cuisine to search for greater naturalness. At his Plaza Athénée restaurant, Ducasse focuses mostly on organic cereal, plant based dishes and his obsession to remove sugar, giving desserts a new twist. We hope his other restaurants will follow suit!
The chef revolution is reinforcing the vegetable trend as chefs start to glamourize their use. Where previously there was a huge divide between a vegetarian and a meat-eater, that line seems to have faded, courtesy of initiatives like Meatless Mondays. New York based restaurant Dovetail, for one, features special vegetarian and vegetable focused set menus every Monday. The world’s current no. 4, Eleven Madison Park, has always been creative with vegetarian dishes; in fact they provide each guest with a tailor-made menu based on individual dietary preferences. For instance one of the unique dishes they served last summer was the braised sunflower. It would never have occurred to most of us that a sunflower heart could be edible, but believe it or not, it was surprisingly good!
Other restaurants that have jumped on the bandwagon include Vedge, in Philadelphia, a vegetable restaurant, not a vegetarian or vegan one (yes, there’s a difference). They serve innovative dishes like carrots cooked shawarma style with black lentils, green garbanzos, tomato olive stew and green harissa as well as grilled seitan with swiss chard, whipped tahini, pickled turnips and za’atar. The dishes are so complex and substantial that one reviewer claims, “go here and forget that you might normally eat meat,”2 while another commented “unique, creative, delicious vegan food that will satisfy even the most devoted carnivore."3 Thankfully, the menu isn’t loaded with tofu and mock meat. As co-owner Kate Jacoby states "we’re not trying to mimic meat. It’s its own cuisine."4
Commissary by Roy Choi in LA, is housed in a beautiful greenhouse on The Line Hotel’s rooftop and follows the same concept as Vedge. In Washington, Table also has a similar focus and serves a cauliflower steak drizzled in hazelnut butter. The dish proves it may only be a matter of channelling the usual flavours people like and applying them to vegetables. If people want more cauliflower, the chef insists that’s fine, but meat is strictly a side dish.
Vegetables are uprooting (pun intended) old fashioned views and displacing America’s staple hamburgers; the “frozen ones, flattened ones, even ones inexplicably dyed black"5 in Chef Jose’s words. He believes "fruit and vegetables are sexier than a piece of chicken,"6 and is contributing through his restaurant, "Beefsteak" at George Washington University – no, not the meaty kind. The restaurant is named after a chunky variety of tomato and has a cheeky reference implying veggies are comparable to meat. It serves warm grains with freshly prepared vegetables and house made sauces.
According to the Chef, the inspiration behind Beefsteak, was that, “sometimes the public don’t know what they’re craving, it’s the chef who points the way."7 However, VeggieBuzz would have to disagree. We have championed this idea since our inception and are thrilled to see this movement sweeping across the globe.
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