5 Reasons Many Chefs Now Highlight Vegetables Over Animal Products

  • Animal Welfare Ethics
  • Environmental Ethics
  • Flavor
  • Health
  • Changing Tastes

More and more chefs are highlighting vegetables over animal products in their menus. The days of meat as the perpetual centerpiece of a meal in which vegetables are relegated to side dishes are over. Diners’ tastes are changing as well, with a rise in vegetarianism and veganism accompanied by a demand for high-quality food and ingredients. Here are five reasons vegetables have become rising stars in the food world.

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1. Animal Welfare Ethics

Some chefs are eschewing meat for vegetables for the same reason their diners are: They are concerned about animals welfare and feel the meat industry is unethical. In fact, chefs are more likely than the average consumer to be familiar with the provenance of their meat. While some focus on sourcing meat from ethical sources, others see highlighting vegetables over animal products as a way to not only avoid harming animals but an opportunity to educate the public about the versatility of plant-based diets.

2. Environmental Ethics

Some chefs have begun highlighting vegetables over animal products for environmental reasons. Most experts agree that eating habits in the parts of the world that consume large quantities of meat are going to have to change. National Geographic took a look at a report from the British medical journal The Lancet in which 30 scientists recommended switching to a diet that is largely plant-based. The report also recommended cutting the consumption of sugar and meat in half.

3. Flavor

Some chefs appreciate the challenge of creating fine dining from vegetables. In an interview with NPR, one chef, Rich Landau describes the extensive process he goes through in order to build a meal around a carrot. The steps include blanching, roasting, caramelizing, grilling and setting the texture and take hours to complete. He and his partner, Kate Jacoby, were inspired in part on a trip to Japan where they were struck by the emphasis on simplicity and seasonal ingredients. For many chefs, the most exciting new frontiers for cooking are exploring what the world of vegetables may hold in terms of new flavors and techniques.

4. Health

Some chefs want to focus on a rising demand for healthier food. In some cases, this comes about after their own health struggles, but in other cases, they are simply interested in living and promoting a healthier lifestyle. More diners also want to be able to eat out while remaining healthy. Studies consistently show that plant-based diets in which meat and dairy are consumed in only small amounts are healthier.

5. Changing Tastes

For all the same reasons that more chefs are highlighting vegetables over animal products, diners want more vegetable-based meals as well. The demand is rising for restaurants where vegans can dine happily alongside carnivores, and careful attention to the preparation of vegetables to give everyone a novel and satisfying dining experience can help ensure that. Chefs are also cooking for diners who are increasingly sophisticated and familiar with or open to world cuisines that emphasize plant-based diets.

Plenty of restaurant customers and chefs still love meat-based dishes, and they will probably always have their place on the menu of most restaurants. But more and more chefs are seeing the value in experimenting with a plant-based diet and in demonstrating to their customers what that can mean. As chefs continue to highlight vegetables over animal products, diners’ tastes are likely to continue shifting toward a greater appreciation of plant-based cuisine as well.