It’s that time of year when many people look to improve their diets and health. Chefs, restaurants and foodservice operators often turn to plant-based and even vegan meals and concepts to further that mission and also ease up their impact on the environment.
Meatless Meat: The Herbivorous Butcher
Sister and brother duo Aubry and Kale Walch, founders of small-batch, vegan butcher shop The Herbivourous Butcher in Minneapolis, continue to change minds one meat alternative at a time. The shop uses a lineup of traditional foodservice equipment and supplies one might find in any butchery, deli or bakery. This includes meat slicers, industrial mixers, ovens, steamers and more. Staff use these tools to mostly boil, bake and steam — or a combination thereof — homemade seitan for various menu items.
The store’s bean curd product is pressed and cured for deli ham and turkey, sold as-is or on sandwiches. Staff use grinders to make ground seitan “beef” and traditional graters to grate the gluten-free mozzarella made with organic soymilk and coconut oil, along with soy-free, almond-based feta cheese.
The Walches also made a rendition of pulled pork carnitas and shredded chicken for tacos and more using seasoned jackfruit, which has a meat-like consistency.
Very Vegan Items
- Seaweed — the new kale, this natural green comes loaded with important vitamins and minerals.
- Fermented Foods — sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi and miso have beneficial bacteria for improving gut health and boosting immunity.
- Maca Root Powder — this energy-boosting powder made from the root of a radish-like vegetable was once used by Incan tribes for medicinal purposes.
- Nutritional Yeast — high in protein, B and other vitamins otherwise found in meat, nutritional yeast imparts a cheese-like flavor.
- Jackfruit — this superfruit has a meaty texture.
- Aquafaba — also known as bean juice, the liquid is commonly found inside a can of chickpeas and can be used for whipping purposes, like a meringue in baking, and as a frothy egg white replacement in shaken, craft cocktails.
- Walnuts — high in Omega-3 fatty acids, this California-grown nut can be used as a thickener in soups and stews.
Rising Vegan Concepts
Part-bakery, part-diner, part-bar, this veggie-centric concept in Washington, D.C., by Chefs Doron Petersan and Jenny Webb, two-time champions of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, features a bakery in the basement with a custom-made, dumbwaiter-like elevator for the vegan cakes.
This newly opened vegan bar and lounge in Washington Heights, N.Y., caters to the neighborhood’s Dominican population and fills in a lack of healthier food options in the area, owner Alex Peralta says. Designers from studioBIG designed the wooden plank wall, glass bottle sculptures and test tube chandeliers to signal the colored glass bottles and natural infusions of Mamajuana, the Dominican Republic’s national drink made by soaking tree bark and herbs in rum, red wine and honey.
The brainchild of vegan chef Tal Ronnen, this full-service restaurant in Los Angeles focuses on fine dining-like, plant-based dishes with Mediterranean influences and creative, artful plating. Pizzas come topped with different vegetables and almond ricotta, while entrees and apps center around meat-free, dairy-free options.
The majority of dishes at this new Chicago restaurant from Heisler Hospitality are vegetable-focused and meat-free, set amidst an edgy, retro design. Vegetarian-friendly options include beet tartare, tempura fried lemons, a veggie burger and more.
Quickie Q&A with Ronen Seri, Blossom Restaurant, New York City
Blossom Restaurant in New York City has bloomed into one of the city’s premier destinations for all-vegan cuisine. The group now has three locations throughout the city, each with a fine-dining flare and global influences minus the excess use of soy-based and gluten-rich products. Instead, vegetables like eggplant, cauliflower and mushrooms are used to recreate meaty textures and tastes.Since opening his first restaurant in 2005, Ronen Seri’s
FE&S: How has eating vegan changed your life?
RS: I grew up non-vegan, and have since gone vegan for animal welfare issues, but in terms of my health, I definitely have more energy and my skin is clearer and my cholesterol levels have gone down.
FE&S: Why do you think eating vegan continues to grow in popularity?
RS: I think that people are more aware of their own health and athleticism and that translates into vegan food, but many people have also given up meat to lessen their impact on the environment.
FE&S: Are your profit margins lower or higher because of serving strictly vegan and kosher meals?
RS: In terms of food costs we use all organic ingredients, so it is a bit more expensive, and we pay more for staff because we have to prep all our own food. But there is a growing demand for eating this way so people will pay to eat at
FE&S: How do you appeal to non-vegans?
RS: Some people will not step foot in a vegan restaurant, but once they try it, we find they often come back. In fact, 70 percent of our customers are not fully vegan, but they might just want to eat less meat and incorporate more vegetables into their diet.
FE&S: What are some key ingredients?
RS: For our seasonal, In Bloom menu, we focus mainly on playing with different vegetables to recreate favorite foods in healthier ways, like making a risotto out of cauliflower and mushrooms instead of rice and making a cream sauce with cashews and coconut cream instead of butter and dairy.