Throwback Moments – Vegetarian is the Pivot: I have something interesting to share with you today. Whenever we do a dinner round with a mix of vegetarians and nonvegetarians the curious onlookers are always the nonvegetarians looking over the plates of the vegetarians. As a Chef and orchestrator, I would just muse over such incidents, and why they happen. It’s all in good light of course. On the same note, I remember quite clearly when Chef’d club launched a spicy in-house innovation- the spicy Green Biryani, you wouldn't be surprised to know why everybody was so keen to know what was going on at the vegan table. As it unfolds, the king asparagus beat the chicken. Or can we concur that the conversations happening at the vegan table were more powerful? It’s natural with that moment of surprise and delight. With that moment of joy, I do feel your pain as some might agree, great Vegetarian food is hard to come by.
A common comment we have heard from many Vegetarian guests- “We get the same Vegetarian food everywhere; it gets boring”
This is the opportunity for us at Chef’d club. What we bring to our cuisines that you might have not experienced purely because of some pure visualization and research happening in-house. Hence these dishes are not available commercially or for that matter even on YouTube . As a rule of thumb, I would work much harder to create a delightful vegetarian dish. Why the bias? I’m not entirely sure or am I trying harder to please the vegetarian audiences? I would frankly say no.
Visual thinking delivered:
Here’s a showcase of some all-time hits from several vegetarian rounds (now that’s fair)
1. Roast minced cauliflower with spices, lemon zest, and nuts in banana leaf (Are you serious this is happening?) This could be served as a standalone dish as an entree, or it could be paired with the light green peppercorn cream. If there is a mom in the audience, this will score more brownie points.
2. Well, Biryanis are a popular dish. No doubt. But think ALL GREEN: Vegetables such as broccoli, Green stemmed cauliflower, Chinese pea, string beans, king asparagus, all grilled separately with different spices under a common base - an oil marinade made with herbs, green chilies, and pistachios. All of these come together under one roof - the ever-popular DUM technique. Seriously- HOW did the vegetables stay that crunchy even after a bake?
3. French influences - an example could be his citrus Beurre Blanc paired with rich cauliflower cream. This took a while to imbibe, given the amazing, planned spread, but to have one common winning dish across all guests has happened just once. That is the power of pairing.
4. Premium Roast Beet Root broth in premium coconut milk. Toss in toasted pinenut, and we can assure you today that the journey has started on a high note.
I hope this was convincing and not something you have heard of before or in any combination. The point we're trying to drive at is if you're looking for real innovation and some creative thinking it would generally come from vegetarian cuisine.
Here are some of the top reasons we believe vegetarian cuisine is here to stay:
1. Vegetarian cuisine is generally quite light and for the reasons we know, obviously healthy. Whether it’s blood sugars or cholesterols or your LDL levels, vegetarian food is packed with antioxidants, fiber, protein, and minerals for healthy living – be it the ever-useful moringa leaves, sweet potato, chia seeds, or red spinach - they are all packed with some great health benefits. However, be aware there’s a term – “in moderation”. A whole lot of lentils or a continuous dose of French beans (excess purines) will not do you any good, however safe it might seem.
2. Thanks to globalization, the immense knowledge transfer one could earn on social media/ blogs, one could deliver flavors that would enunciate artistic class. For example- we've learned that using the coriander stems would deliver the flavor in pesto, or for that matter, the use of shallots in a sauce enhances the taste (again- not all onions are the same). Torch it and the smokiness will leave a flavor note that you will always remember.
Our Challenges: Not all are perfect, and neither are we in a perfect world. We have our challenges. Here are a few that you could relate to if you were a chef.
1: There is often a need to create foams, gels, and emulsifiers in modern cuisines. I must admit there are limited options here that qualify as vegetarian. To our knowledge, only a select few like agars or gellen will do the job. Admittedly the results are slightly different than the conventional gelatin (gelatin is never vegetarian FYI; currently not the scope of our discussion on a topic that’s 100% Vegetarian ).
2: Getting the right flavor and ultimate balance be it a sauce or a gel is particularly hard with vegetarian cuisine preparation. We’ve witnessed instances using advanced techniques, a vegetarian sauce could be twice as hard compared to a sauce that was made with non-vegetarian ingredients.
3: When it comes to baking, for those who don't eat eggs delivering a classic dish is quite challenging. You might not agree with me but where we come from is the texture, which is more of a compromise than the science behind it. Though an egg is vegetarian (I stand corrected) coming from Indian descent, I can tell you, particularly for Indians it’s not.
4: As choices were quite limited within the confines of the country of origin, vegetarians can be quite picky, as there wasn’t a choice beyond. For example – “vegetables with no seeds, please”. Or “no leafy vegetables, since I had it all my life”. At this juncture, we can only request our vegetarian aficionados to be a bit more open-minded, given the world is now an endless opportunity - I haven’t eaten fennel in my life, but once I did, it was well on my to-do list.
So, what makes Chef’d Club unique? -
1: it's not a misnomer anymore that premium means better. In our learning journey, premium vegetables do create very distinctive flavors and tastes. They are a different grade altogether, or even better if they are organic. We only use premium ingredients in our vegetarian spread. You must trust a Chef’d verdict - A Roma Tomato soup levitates your taste buds more than any tomato would ever do.
2: Besides vegetables, our oils, butter, and salts are all premium and top-grade. Use of Maldon smoked salts, premium organic A2 Ghee, or pure vanilla bean extracts are just a few examples. No wonder I often hear that the same vanilla ice creams which are so passé with just the mention of it, taste so different and creamy at chef club (ref- recent review on google dated April 15th) After all choices in the world of desserts- Vanilla ice cream? (I hope you are smiling. For us, it’s a winning tease.
3: We visualize, we draw, we experiment - All the time! What you will see in most instances is something you have never seen before. It’s worth taking that risk, given a 5-star rating after 3 consecutive years on this journey.
What's Next? : Thanks to globalization and e-commerce, the choices to experiment are unlimited. Food will be continuously evolving and at Chef’d club, all it takes is to oil our experience, pull some levers and make it work. Think Jerusalem artichokes from the US and Europe continents, White asparagus from Peru, amazing Squash or purple Cauliflower or broccolini from Australia, Tarragon from France, Red basil once from India, Porcini mushrooms native to Europe, Orange Capsicums from Cameroon Highlands, and lion mane mushrooms from the USA. Admittedly I was not brought up eating any of these but as a chef, it’s an open playground to thrive.
All you need to do is come hungry, and we shall handle the rest!
Our motto: At Chef’d Club we hope that our food will be remembered