In the last few years a new trend in cuisine has taken over the way chefs cook, the way they choose ingredients, and ultimately how all of us eat. It’s more of a lifestyle than a diet choice but veganism is the new black. Some people wonder why? Why change the way humans have lived for thousands and thousands of years? Well, ultimately it’s because we are civilized enough to know better.
Bringing a vegan to dinner used to be a huge annoyance for anyone at the table, specially the chef, who for years largely considered vegan sort of a joke for fine dining. However, like with most things, time has made vegan cuisine not only more popular but delicious. We are currently in this revolutionary way of cooking that maybe - just maybe vegan dishes can taste similarly, if not better, than their traditional counterparts.
This has mostly affected the food industry because of the cruel treatment of animals and intensive factory farming to get what chefs need, the people demand, and at the large consumption that we gobble it all in.
Chefs do agree on one thing, a succession of global issues have plagued animal and fish production, such as bird flu, mad cow disease, cancer links with cured meats and links between some animal fats and heart disease. Not to mention the dangers of foie gras production, excessive hormone use in feed and over-fishing. All these things have decreased the quality of meals they prefer to serve.
One country is really leading the race on turning over for the new vegan leaf on foods, Australia. That’s right, the land down under is officially the third fastest growing market in the world for vegan foods. Vegan-labelled food was valued at $135.9m in 2015 but it has since exploded to $153m in 2016, according to research by Euromonitors International. A big part of that has to do with those choosing to first cut off all dairy products from their diet.
Another big part of that increase in value has to do with a new found demand in plant-based cuisine. Top restaurants throughout the world have moderated their menus to offer a new range of variety for those vegan or vegetarian. In the U.S. Eleven Madison Park, Del Posto, Beyond Sushi, and Blue Hill, in Italy the famous Osteria Francescana, have all been happily dishing out new and creative menus for the trend. At Momofuku Nishi in New York, David Chang’s meat-free burger that looks, tastes, and even bleeds like meat.
Europe is even jumping on the bandwagon, in London the raw vegan menu at Nama in Notting Hill, is all the new rave, Vanilla Black has a vegan fine dining menu crowds seem to flock to, and the vegan degustation at Lyle’s in London’s East End is incredibly popular.
Even the fancy chefs in Paris have accommodated their lavish meals to better serve the vegan/vegetarian diet. 3 star Michelin rated L'Arpège and it’s chef Alain Passard, have announced a sort of “golden age of vegetables” in France. Alongside Passard, chef Alain Ducasse have spawned vegetable driven menus, which is a big deal considering how they can’t let go of using butter and therefore not fully vegan. But the point is they are trying!
It is, however, another city in Europe that capitalizes on all that is vegan, Berlin. There are reportedly 80,000 vegans living in Berlin and the city does well to satisfy the hunger of all of them. One way to look at it- 10% of Berlin’s population says, “Hold the bratwurst sausage.”
As good as this all sounds for eating out and not being that complicated vegan person at the table, we also have to consider those of us who are too busy for every meal to be a great vegan delicacy prepared by a famous chef. Good news is, in Australia, vegan fast food is also picking up traction and gaining popularity. Companies such as Subway, Domino’s, Nando’s and Go Sushi have began offering vegetarian and vegan menu options. And for those who like to cook at home and want to learn how to prepare vegan dishes, there are shops solely dedicated to your needs. No more looking at confusing labels, long lists of ingredients, and spending hours in the grocery store avoiding the deli department.
Shops such as The Cruelty Free Shop offer a number of products to cater to any one’s vegan/vegetarian needs. The company currently only has stores in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, offering more than 3500 vegan products, including 50 vegan cheeses for sale. One thing that really stands out from this trend is that people who aren’t exactly tied to the lifestyle or diet of being a vegan will buy vegan products solely because they are stated as such. Seems like vegan is the new black.
However, unlike most trends, this one comes with a cause. Yes, it may seem like going vegan is simply the cool new thing to do but when you really break it down, the more people that hop on this trend the better. Unlike other trends when too many people do it and we grow tired of it, this one is here to stay because people are starting to care. More research, and therefore understanding, of the environmental cost of meat production, including its impact on greenhouse gas emissions, and the issue of agricultural run-off, have made this trend irresistible.