As consensus rises for the need to eat less and better meat to tackle both human health and environmental challenges, chefs are increasingly looked upon as trends setters who can drive change in meat consumption and introduce more plant proteins in our diets. With this in mind, I surveyed 32 global chefs - many of whom are part of the Chefs’ Manifesto, a chef-led project championing sustainability to improve the food system for ‘a better food future for all’. This study aligns with the Manifesto’s Area 6: A focus on plant-based ingredients!
In the study, I looked at chefs’ current attitudes and knowledge on cooking plant-based dishes in a restaurant setting. The key message that chefs repeatedly emphasized was the need for more plant-focused culinary training if plant-based eating is to become mainstream.
Here are my top findings:
'I feel like there is a lot of education and experience missing in the culinary world on how to prepare plant based food. The meal should not only be delicious and live up to the standards of mainstream food, but the meal should also be nutritious and satisfying. For this reason, also knowledge in nutrition is important, since if the meal is lacking nutrients the client will still have the feeling he didn't have enough in the end.'
-Chef Alexander Gershberg, Vegan Sundays.
In summary, evolving culinary education is a must if we are to adapt to current trends and growing interest in flexitarianism. Technical training and apprenticeships can address this gap by offering creative spaces for learning and sharing ideas. Chefs can and want to play a role in shifting proteins consumption from animal to plant sources. To do so, however, the narrative needs to focus on taste rather than ethics alone, but especially so in plant-based cooking due to the stigma surrounding vegetarianism.
We need a clear definition and understanding of the term plant-based diet/dish. Chefs used a wide variety of creative language to describe what plant-based means to them, and while this is a sign of the broad appeal of plant-based, a consistent message would benefit those who are trying to promote these dishes particularly in policy circles and in business. A common understanding would facilitate growth and interest in what appears to a be an unstoppable global trend. Policy makers can ride this wave while momentum is high, and the topic is of high interest to both businesses and the public.
The Chefs' Manifesto in support of the Sustainable Development Goals, developed with over 130 chefs from 38 countries, serves as a great hub and information point for chefs to take action and inspire others.
I’m interested in building on this research, particularly the novel idea of setting meat and fish dishes as sides or reducing quantities through nudging, choice editing and menu reengineering. Feel free to get in touch if you have questions.