The end of meat? Why gourmet restaurants are going green
HONG KONG – The shift to plant-based meals has strengthened over the past decade, but it took a pandemic for the world of food to finally cross the Rubicon. With restaurants closed, chefs had time to take stock, and the enormity of the Covid-19 crisis prompted them to visualize another future.
The year 2021 will surely be remembered as a turning point. In June, one of the world’s most respected luxury dining establishments, Eleven Madison Park, went almost entirely plant-based. Chef-owner Daniel Humm, who led the New York icon to # 1 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2017, has decided that after the pandemic he can’t just reopen his business as d ‘habit. He realized, âNot only has the world changed, we have also changed. The current food system is simply not sustainable in many ways.
Speaking at this year’s awards ceremony – held in Antwerp, Belgium after a one-year hiatus – Mr Humm said the notion of luxury needs to be redefined.
âWe celebrate caviar as a luxury ingredient. But there is nothing luxurious about caviar anymore. It’s the contrary. He is raised on the farm, he comes from afar, it is not rare at all and he does not have good taste like in the old days. It’s an old idea that we cling to, âhe said.
So today, finished the caviar on the menu, and finished his signature duck with daikon and plum. Now it’s cucumber with melon and smoked daikon, and zucchini with lemongrass and marinated tofu, which he created after learning techniques from Zen Buddhist leaders. He does, however, offer honey and milk for coffee and tea service, and eschews the term “vegan,” saying it can have negative connotations.
Just over a year ago, another big milestone in meatless dining was taken when Beijing’s King’s Joy hotspot became the world’s first three-Michelin-starred vegetarian restaurant. Cutting-edge cuisine won two stars at the guide’s top awards in 2019, adding another, as well as China’s first Michelin green star for environmental and sustainable practices, a year later.
In January 2021, the Michelin Guide also awarded its first star to an entirely vegan restaurant in France – Ona, in ArÃ¨s near Bordeaux.
Ms. Dominique Crenn, who won this year’s Icon Award for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, went meat-free (but not seafood) at her San Francisco-based Atelier Crenn in 2018. Now, in a surprise gesture, she’s reintroducing him – with a twist – aiming to be the first chef in the United States (US) to feature lab-grown chicken on her menu.
âI thought, ‘woah! At first, but if lab-grown chicken helps make the world a better place, then that’s fine. And it tastes good, âshe says.
Ms Crenn has teamed up with Upside Foods, which makes chicken grown from a small amount of animal muscle cells grown in a bioreactor.
And it does not stop there. She will also be a consultant on recipe development for Upside while, pending regulatory review, she will be serving cell-based meat at Atelier Crenn.
Singapore was the first country to tolerate the sale of lab-grown meat, when its National Food Standards Agency approved the cultured meat of American start-up Eat Just, branded Good Meat, in December 2020. Meat grown in Lab was served in a three-course tasting menu at a salon called 1880, which was intended to stimulate debate about what we eat.
While not everyone takes such a bold step – or a big risk – as Hmmm, other chefs are also stepping into vegan or vegetarian territory. The head chef of Geranium in Copenhagen, Rasmus Kofoed, runs an experimental and all-plant pop-up, Angelika, within the restaurant, ranked No.2 on the list of the 50 best restaurants in the world.
Mr. Andreas Caminada, owner of Schloss Schauenstein in Switzerland, opened a 10-seat vegetarian kitchen in June this year. Oz is located in a historic shed next to the castle which houses its main restaurant.
For Mr. Caminada, “just buying vegetables for my own vegetarian restaurant – that wouldn’t be my thing”, so he enlarged his existing garden under the direction of Thomas Moon, a naturopath who worked for several years as a farmer in the mountains before practicing permaculture in Austria. Mr. Moon modeled the organic garden on a natural ecosystem, with minimal intervention. Using applied homeopathy, he “improved the immune system of plants to allow them to grow healthier”. The garden is now home to over 700 different fruits, vegetables and herbs.
âThe free reproduction of plants among so-called weeds creates a lot of exciting things that are rarely found otherwise: buds, seeds, flowers, roots. It’s productive enough to provide almost everything for a restaurant, âexplains Mr. Caminada. âIt’s a garden like no other. Creating it was the biggest challenge on the way to Oz.
There are no plans to transform Oz (which translates to “today” in the Romansh language of the canton of GraubÃ¼nden) into a fully vegan restaurant as it relishes “having the freedom to celebrate” local products, including its organic mountain cheeses.
However, Mr. Caminada’s culinary activities are not limited to a single township. He also runs a chain of three restaurants across Switzerland called Igniv, with its first overseas outpost since October 2020 at the St. Regis Hotel in Bangkok, where it offers plant-based tasting menus.
Mr Nick Bril, chef-owner of The Jane in Antwerp, is also working on plant-based tasting menus from a purely vegan cuisine that will occupy the mezzanine of his spectacular space. Although The Jane is ranked 66th in the world (yes, the world’s 50 best restaurants now have 100 doors) and has two Michelin stars, Bril says his evolution as a “regular protein chef” is still ongoing, so he’s in conversation with a local vegan chef to collaborate on this new approach.
âI would like the experience to reflect my main restaurant – a fine seven or eight course menu, developed from the same level of knowledge and intellect, and having the same depth of flavor,â he says. âWe rely a lot on animal products such as dairy products or eggs in our Hollandaise sauce for example, to add depth to our vegetarian menu, so for a totally vegan vegetarian we have to focus on the obtaining a similar umami flavor, but from plants. “
He says the clientele that vegan cuisine attracts may be different from “the typical Michelin star restaurant” – he expects them to be “younger, energetic and already embracing plants” as a dietary choice.
âWe need to change our eating habits, with vegetables placed in the center of the plate,â he says. âThe plant movement is here for the long term, and I want to be open to it. SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST