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A challenge to chefs: Make me a delicious vegetarian entree — or stop claiming to care about sustainability | Grist

February 18, 2012

In his 2000 bestseller Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain swatted down vegetarians on behalf of the foodie elite:

Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, and an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food.

A lot has changed in the last decade. Now all the hot new chefs, and most of the big-name old-timers too, preach the gospel of local, seasonal, and sustainable. They flaunt their friendships with the organic farmers in their foodsheds. Their menus are paeans to the small-scale and the artisanal.

But one thing hasn’t changed: Vegetarians still get no respect.

These days, sustainably raised meat is the star of most hip restaurants’ menus. Don’t want to eat any meat? Then you get to content yourself with afterthought sides or wan pasta — if they haven’t been spiked with meat too.

As I took pains to clarify in my last post on vegetarianism, I wholeheartedly support the shift to more ethical and eco-friendly meat production. But a key component of conscientious omnivorism is eating meat sparingly. Why is it that chefs who claim to get sustainability don’t get this one simple fact?

If you care about a healthy food system and environment, your menu should include meat-free options — not just for vegetarians and vegans, but for the many other people who are eating less meat these days. And you need to offer not just side dishes, but at least one thoughtful and delectable meat-free entrée — with protein. Dare I even dream of two?

Far too often, the popular new bistros and gastropubs springing up in foodie enclaves around the country don’t have a single damn main dish I can eat. I live in Seattle, supposedly a mecca for sustainable food (just ask Frank Bruni), and I can’t enjoy a decent meal at most of the talked-about restaurants in town.

Please don’t put meat on it!

…A chimpanzee could make bacon appealing. But, chefs, I offer you this challenge: What magic can you work with chickpeas? (This is a particularly relevant question for chefs in my hometown considering that Washington state is the No. 1 producer of chickpeas in the nation.) With lentils? With quinoa? With beans? And without animal products?

You say you care about sustainability? Prove it. Add to your menu a vegetarian entrée so appealing that even omnivores won’t be able to resist. I dare you. And I can’t wait to come taste the results.

via A challenge to chefs: Make me a delicious vegetarian entree — or stop claiming to care about sustainability | Grist.

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