Friday, July 16, 2010

Putting Vegetables On Top

(Image: Gauthier Soho)

> Speaking of vegetables... quite a few high profile chefs are highlighted in this article for making vegetables the part of the main attraction. Tidbits below.

Straight to the Source
By Jemima Sissons
July 16, 2010

"We need to have more of a relationship with vegetables," says chef Alain Ducasse.

Mr. Ducasse is just one of a number of top chefs who, while still offering meat dishes, is placing vegetables center stage, offering creative vegetable dishes and haute vegetarian tasting menus that start at £95.

"Vegetables are important to me," says Mr. Ducasse. "I grew up at my grandmother's farm in Gascony, always eating seasonal vegetables. It can actually be more challenging preparing vegetables than meat. You have to let them speak for themselves."

Another chef drawing from his bucolic upbringing in France is Alexis Gauthier, chef and owner of his eponymous new restaurant in Soho, London. "I come from Avignon, and most of my food intake was vegetables," says Mr. Gauthier. "There was always the expectation of the different seasons and what fruit and vegetables [each] would bring."

"I love vegetables but I am not a vegetarian," says Mr. Gauthier. "I thought it was such a pity to leave vegetables only for vegetarians. I wanted to develop a side that makes vegetables the star. If they have the right texture you can play with vegetables like meat or fish," he says.

Mr. Gauthier has found that, for both health and environmental reasons, more patrons are opting for his vegetable tasting menu. He estimates that 25% of his diners are now "vegicentric," meaning they are happy to eat vegetables cooked in animal stock, but not happy to have a whole piece of beef.

Katrina Roberts, a public relations executive in London, says she often chooses the vegetarian tasting menu in restaurants, despite being a committed omnivore. "Vegetarian menus are a good way to see the skills of the chef without over indulging too much. Also, I don't want to fall asleep after lunch."

"I think people nowadays are more conscious of the fact that vegetarian dishes can be exciting with a high level of nutrition too," says Mr. Cracco.

"People are definitely getting closer to vegetables than meat nowadays. People also choose more vegetarian options because of the hot weather here in Southern France," he says. Mr. Colagreco grows much of the produce himself, including 50 different varieties of tomato and six different type of beetroot.

"There is still so much to do with vegetables," Passard says. "My personal will is to make them like a vintage wine, and gardening the profession of tomorrow. The gardeners and I will, one day, discuss carrots and beetroot like others speak of Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc. The more chefs bend over this creative basket, the more cooking will grow rich."

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