It was a pleasure to attend the conference by renowned chef, three-star restaurant owner Alain Passard. I wasn’t lucky enough to participate in the lunch he prepared last Tuesday, but according to the pictures I saw on Twitter, it looked amazing. It was nice to have him at EPFL and I’m sure he inspired many people, including me, to reconsider their relationship with food and seasons.
However, I was surprised to hear him saying things like "cooking vegan food is hard", or that this cuisine excludes butter, milk, or cream. Actually, cooking decent vegan food is anything but difficult. It’s really easy to prepare very simple meals packed with flavors and essential nutrients: chilis, stir fry, lentil dals, couscous, pasta, risotto, curries, pies,... and so many more.
Ingredients like milk, cream, and butter can all be obtained from plants; oat, soy, almond, coconut, rice, cashew for milk & cream, margarine (without palm oil) for butter. All supermarkets have a wide range of these nowadays. In sweet treats, it’s very easy to use these instead of cow milk, cream, or butter for a similar result in terms of taste and consistency. It's also more sustainable, way more ethical, and healthier. Eggs can be replaced by flax or chia seeds, apple sauce, banana, agar-agar, chickpea water, and many more ingredients, see https://vegan-pratique.fr/cuisine/remplacer-les-oeufs/ for a comprehensive guide. For savory meals, coconut cream/milk is best for curries, dals and soups, and oat/soy/cashew cream is great for more traditional dishes like risotto or a creamy mushroom sauce.
I believe Alain Passard is an incredible chef and artist, but he may not be aware of all the current possibilities of vegan food. For the EPFL public, which is mostly students, I think he did not provide information on what they can cook if they want to switch towards a nutritionally adequate vegetarian or vegan diet, or at least increase their amount of plant-based meals. Vegetarian/vegan cooking is much more than fruits and vegetables, and it is very important to include legumes, grains, nuts and seeds for an optimal health.
In this regard, for the next edition of the Act4Change Food Challenge, why don't we invite a more versatile chef, who would be able to give proper meal ideas for students?
Gaz Oakley, who goes by the name of Avantgarde Vegan online (https://avantgardevegan.com), is a talented 26-year-old vegan chef from Cardiff, Wales, with more than 500’000 subscribers on YouTube and hundreds of free recipes online, written and filmed. He shares new recipe videos every week, from healthy quick snacks to indulgent, fancy and festive menus.
I suggest you check his website/Youtube channel and have a look at some of his videos:
Butternut risotto with eggplant bacon: https://youtu.be/ARUAWygvfrc
15 minutes Satay Bowl: https://youtu.be/hFiGCw6zrgU
High protein vegan meal prep: https://youtu.be/P_wD2zydD_g
Christmas roast Wellington: https://youtu.be/CJeRaNapXOY
Vegan steak with peppercorn sauce: https://youtu.be/Ad4kA8e51g4
« Fish »’n’chips: https://youtu.be/bdcCaqCDg74
Cooking seasonal vegetables is great, but people, particularly students, need substantial meals, and if we want to encourage them to switch towards a plant-based diet (for environmental, health or ethical reasons), they need inspiration and proper advice on how to do it. I'm sure a conference and a cooking class from a vegan chef like Gaz Oakley, who is more accessible and closer to the public in terms of age and experience, would resonate more with those looking for concrete solutions to cook and enjoy vegetarian and vegan food.
Let me know what you think in the comments!
All pictures in this article by Gaz Oakley/Avantgarde Vegan https://avantgardevegan.com