Back in my days as a chef, if a vegetarian walked through the doors, we could manage as we already had a wide variety of ingredients in the kitchen. But if a vegan walked in, it was considered a real pain in the neck; it threw the kitchen off-kilter because we were uneducated and ignorant to their needs.
Roll on 30 years and how the world has changed. We now live in a much-travelled and more informed world where people take a more ethical stance on the source and environmental impact of their food, driving the popularity of vegan dishes. There has never been a better time to encourage a vegan customer into your business – but be different and add value to your offering; the days of a veggie burger and a slice of tomato are gone.
Here are a few practical ideas to spruce up your offerings:
Dressings are an integral part of dishes. So, where possible, buy vegan alternatives to mayonnaise, pickles, coleslaws etc – this saves you having to duplicate as you can also use them on meat dishes. But more importantly, it eliminates any risk of getting meat or dairy products into vegan products, and of course, reduces the allergen risk.
The vegan go-to on every menu is a burger. So offer a Vegan Filthy Burger by adding things like a spoon of vegan chilli con carne, vegan mac and cheese, jalapeno, pickles and onion rings. Before you know it, you’ve got an excellent burger that everyone starts shouting about. You may want to provide a list of ingredients for the customer to spruce up their burger.
Brioche Buns, have you tried the vegan ones on the market? They are incredible, and the question is, do you need two types?
Ethnic foods are excellent go-to items for satisfying the taste buds. Commonly served with rice, mango and salsas, they are pretty predictable. As a point of difference, try alternative options like filling butternut squash, aubergines, peppers to add value and increase revenue.
One of the most popular chicken dishes is Hunters Chicken. This is easily converted to a vegan option by doing the same as you would do using a vegan chicken fillet – serve with BBQ sauce, vegan cheese slice, faux bacon and voila!
These are a few suggestions; also, look at vegan restaurants on what they are serving. You may find a little gem that requires no more to your shopping list but gives another point of difference.
We are at the cusp of a Vegan revolution. Jump on board as it’s not about to go away 😊
Contributed by Paul Hunt, Development Chef, food stylist and chef trainer with 40 years of experience working in the UK and Europe