As chefs, most of us have been there. As Front-Of-House staff, we’ve been on the receiving end of uncooperative chefs. NEWS FLASH!! It’s 2018 and the days of serving up that mushroom risotto as your standard vegetarian option have gone. Coupled with the “I guess I can make that vegan if you want?” this has to end.
I’m not vegan, I don’t think I could ever be vegan. My will power is terrible and I feel my relationship with meat is deep rooted in my DNA. So many good memories with feasting of roast rib on beef, shoulders of pork, even dipping into a bargain bucket of fried chicken. It’s not necessarily the food, just the associated memories. I can’t recall any nostalgia connected with eating broccoli. This is just me. I have total respect for the reasons behind veganism. I get it.
I sometimes imagine the scenario of Aliens landing on earth, on their intergalactic quest for knowledge. They would turn to us humans and ask “What do you eat?”… obviously they’d speak English! We’d then turn and point out to them that we eat pretty much everything. “Yes the animals too!” At this point they run for the hills or beam up to their mothership.
We eat the animals. This sounds a little weird when said out loud right? In its first few years, my own event catering business “Knife Of Brian Cookery” had offered a Hog Roast as one of the services. I have sold my roaster recently…. I had to. Making eye contact with a 70lb Pig as I loaded it into my Hog Master Oven left me racked with guilt. It’s unbelievably human-looking eyes felt as if they were looking in to my own soul and this chilled me to my core. That was the point I decided that I didn’t want to do Hog Roasts any more. It didn’t have an effect on my diet. In the words of comedy legend Chris Rock “I’d eat a pigs ass if you cooked it right!!” But the events of last summer had started to sew the seeds in my own mind that I should try to make some changes. I know Ethically it makes sense. You don’t have to search too hard on Netflix or YouTube to find a documentary highlighting the malpractices of the meat and dairy industry. Not to forget the shocking statistics raised by cattle farming.
My eldest son, who, now in his twenties, has dived in to veganism. This happened a few years ago and my wife and I joked that it would never last. He’s still vegan and loves it. He lives in London now and although more expensive, the food choices are always vast. Especially when it comes to street food, pop-ups and events. I recently visited Brighton. I was there to support friends during the marathon and I took the opportunity to see if I could “go vegan” for the weekend. It was ridiculously simple. I wasn’t checking for isinglass in the beers or wearing Pleather shoes, but I was doing my best to make vegan choices. In a town like Brighton, it was so easy. Every other café, pub or restaurant was totally vegan friendly. A glimpse of the future maybe?
So, what next? As chefs and food industry professionals we are on the front line of seeing the food trends and how half arsed the governments and legislators tackle issues with Sugar, fast food and food labelling. We see the Gluten free tourists who request a specially designed menu, then proceed to gorge on bread rolls anyway because they looked nice. The vegan who eats dairy, milk and fish….and some chicken! We see the food trends first hand and this time, I think it’s here to stay. It’s not a trend. This is an awakening. A movement. A revolution. I’m not on board yet, but I’m walking the platform. The recent cookbooks which landed on my doorstep recently have been vegan or plant based. Like I’ve said, I don’t know if I could ever go vegan. I love cheese. I love bacon. I am currently addicted to Nduja salami. But my overall meat consumption has fallen by 80%. I try to make those meat free choices when cooking at home or eating out.
There are those chefs who’ll stand their ground. With their never say die attitude. Tearing the flesh of a turkey leg like some old-school cartoon character. They sneer and snarl at the mention of a vegan in their restaurant. I was one of those chefs. I’ve even seen the famous anti-vegan Gordon Ramsay tweet about “Giving this vegan thing a try…” It is time for us to move with the times. Jump on, or be left behind.
Take a look on social media. Scroll through the images on Instagram or Chef+ and you’ll see that it’s not all avocado toast and sourdough. A quality chef can filter through the bullshit and discover some new flavour combinations. A new challenge to keep the daily graft more interesting.
I’d love to hear if you have made similar changes. Would you consider becoming vegan? Are you vegan? How are you finding it in a non-vegan kitchen? I’d really love to know. Thanks for reading.