The Rapid Evolution of the Vegan Foodies and Chefs

Jen Slack's picture

When I first decided to go vegan, after watching some very convincing documentaries, I was pretty sure that I was going to be sacrificing much in the way of taste and texture. I was okay with that, believing it was the right move for the animals, for the environment and for my health.

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About 3 1/2 months later, I can not believe just how wrong I actually was. Weekly, I am amazed at the amazing plant-based and vegan food ideas that professional and home chefs keep discovering and sharing.

Vegan Food Creation Trends

Vegan cheese? I didn't even know this even existed, although it has been around for decades. Already, I prefer a certain brand of vegan mozzarella to the regular cow mozzarella I used to eat. Offerings of vegan blue cheese, parmesan, brie, cheddar - you name - are becoming more mainstream and available daily.

Then there is seitan. This word is so new my spell checker is flagging it. When an acquaintance mentioned it, because he pronounced it "satan", I immediately reacted negatively. He laughed and admitted he did not really know how it is pronounced. It's actually pronounced Say-tawn - according to a youtube video. Since I almost always trust Youtube videos, I will go with that. Seitan is actually food that is supposed to resemble meat, and It honestly does resemble meat. Some brands are better than others, I am finding.

Yesterday I had a 'fish' sandwich and it tasted exactly like fish. I could have given that sandwich to any meat eater and he would not have noticed that it wasn't fish. I think I will do that actually. Nothing wrong with tricking people into Seitan.

Then there's aquafaba - yet another word my spellchecker does not like. Unbelievably, when you drain the liquid from chick peas, kidney beans and certain other foods, you can actually whip this liquid up and it creates a meringue. You can sweeten the meringue to make all kinds of desserts. You can also use the liquid straight from the can to use as an egg substitute in various dishes.

The sudden rise in veganism has also caused many trendy food chefs to adapt their menus and embrace the masses.

However, when it comes to becoming vegan themselves, their answers varied.

Some Of The World's Top Chef's Weigh In

Here are some comments from some of the top chefs around the world who weigh in on the subject of whether or not they could actually adopt a vegan lifestyle themselves.

While some are dead set against the idea, stating a love for either meat or cheese, others, like Simon Rogan, owner of L'Enclume and Rogan & Co in Cumbria, said, "Yes, I could! I am virtually there now. I definitely believe it is important for our environment to eat as many organic vegetables as possible."

Hamish Brown, group executive chef at the Japanese-inspired restaurant Roka, said, "Yes quite easily, I currently eat meat only once a month (outside of work) and have a heavily plant based diet. I do eat a lot seafood, however."

Joey O'Hare, 2015 MasterChef the Professional contestant and Young British Foodie nominee, answered, "Yes! Although perhaps with the exception of eggs…I would say I unintentionally eat a vegan diet most of the time and I took part in “Veganuary” this year and thoroughly enjoyed it. For me the key was incorporating as many fermented foods as possible, their complexity of flavor is vegan food’s closest ally, it adds flavor dimensions otherwise often lacking."

Claudio Cardoso, executive chef of Japanese-Brazilian-Peruvia fusion restaurant Sushisamba in London's commented, "I actually have been vegan for a long period and try to be vegan as much as possible during the week. It’s great for the mind, body and environment."

Andrew Dargue, the head chef of vegetarian restaurant Vanilla Black in London, had this to say, "To be honest I never thought I would say this but, yes. It’s seen by many as a natural progression after being a vegetarian but there are obvious reasons for this. As time moves on it seems rather alien to consume milk from another mammal."

If some of the world's top chef's consider becoming totally vegan, how can it be, right?

The Vegan Chef

There is now a trend towards chefs who are strictly vegan, being educated solely in the art of vegan cooking.

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There are now many courses available to those who have a passion for strictly vegan cooking and becoming a vegan chef.

I met one such person on a Vegan Facebook group, who has an incredible amount of passion for what she does. Chef Harriet Wolff, posted a photo of spectacular- looking, brilliant blue dessert. Being the inquisitive person that I am, began messaging with her about the dessert and about the natural blue coloring that comes from the Butterfly Pea Flower.

Harriet quit her job as a lawyer in the Netherlands to pursue her passion to become a vegan chef. Currently, in Korean on an extended stay, she is learning Korean cuisine, where she is a chef at a fully vegan restaurant. She also spent some time in New York, Los Angeles and Paris taking several vegan and raw vegan cooking courses. After having won a cooking contest recently, she also traveled to Thailand to accept her prize, which was studying under vegan chef Jean Christian Jury, who is renowned in the world of vegan cuisine and a chef who focuses on healthy recipes.

A creative person myself, I was astounded by the creativity in foods that Harriet spoke of, like raindrop jelly cakes and how to smoke food with candlewax. She elaborated, " This again was new to me but in Thailand it is common to smoke some elements of desserts and this is done by candle wax. It gives a very delicate flavour and smell.I really loved it!"

Harriet's focus will also be on creating exciting vegan foods that are also healthy. See some her creations here.

Unfortunately, I believe that too many have the perception that healthy and delicious just do not go hand in hand. I learned a long time ago how incorrect this perception is. And in the short time that I have been vegan, I do know that this is entirely possible with vegan cuisine. I am interesting in learning more and looking forward to learning new creations as the trends towards adopting veganism or plant based foods continues.

Veganism Is Going Mainstream - The Stats To Prove it

While you might question whether or not veganism is really on the rise, here is the proof.

1) By 2022, the global plant based milk market is set to reach 21.6 billion

2) Google reports a staggering 90 percent increase in searches involving 'vegan'

3) In the UK, plant based food are up a whopping 1500 percent.

4) In the USA, 33 congressmen write to the FDA to remove the word "milk" from plant-based milk. It looks like the Dairy Industry is worried.

5) In the USA, Tyson, a meat giant, buys into the a company that produces plant based alternatives, Beyond Meat.

6) Vegan leather sales are on the rise - set to hit 85%.

7) In the UK, well known retailer Sainsburys doubles up on it's plant based milk alternatives.

8) In the USA, more than 1.5 million over the age of 17 are vegan.

9) A vegan retailer called allplants, which curiously does not start with a capital letter, received a huge sum of 800,000 pounds from Felix Capital, who has never before invested anything into a plant-based business before.

10) Veganuary, a vegan charity that encourages people to try to go Vegan for the month of January, had almost 60,000 participants and it looks like this coming January, they will have over 100,000. Not bad considering the first year, in 2014, the number was 3300.

What do you think of the whole vegan or plant-based trend? Have you become vegan yourself? How are you adapting? Please feel free to weigh in with comments or questions.

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