I would like to start by giving a big shout out to Chef Keith Mayer for supporting my plant based dinning out efforts. We began working with Chef Keith when we first started a Meet-up group of Plant Based Foodies. His restaruant was host to our Thanksgiving Meetup. Part of my nutrition education program has been how to select entrees when eating out. As most of you know that can be a difficult and nutrition derailing proposition. You cannot go into the kitchen, you have know idea of the ingredients, and you are at the mercy of the chef and his cooks. A lot of restaurants have no leeway in choosing the core ingredients of their food. Dishes may be prepared in advance and only reheated or grilled. Chef Keith was willing to listen and understand our concerns early on. We could count on him to have fresh ingredients and to avoid sugar, salt and oil as additives. It helps that he is very creative and enjoys making unique sauces and recipes seasoned with fresh herbs and spices. Although he enjoyed and liked healthy cooking, the demand was not enough to support a vegan option on a regular basis. I approached him when I changed my practice to offer a vegan menu one night a month if we would support him. It was an opportunity for the members to mingle with like minded people while their non vegan friends and family still had choices. Over the past year, it has caught on enough that he has now added a Dr. Dulaney approved vegan entree on the regular menu. A win for all. My members have a lovely spot to dine and the plant-based message is getting out to more and more people. When folks see a beautiful plate of colorful vegetables that is healthy, how can you not want to give it a try.
So what makes it so difficult for restaruants to offer a vegan entree? I heard a quote from a famous vegan chef that salt and oil fixes anything. And, salt and oil are cheating if you really want to be a good chef. A man after my own heart. Fear is the real reason. Restaruants are just like anything else. It takes courage to be an early adoptor. It takes courage to be different when that could result in an empty seat or restaurant. It takes creativity and education to be able to make a well balanced meal with vegetables and whole grains. We have all been to the restaurant that serves 100 calorie portions of zucchini and romaine to hungry vegans. It is much easier to do a piece of meat as a center piece with garnishes of salted, oiled vegetables and a potato or rice. Not much creativity there. The highly creative chefs are usually into highly creamed and buttered sauces over a fatty piece of meat.
So how do we get more chefs to have the courage of Chef Keith? We vote with our dollars by supporting restaraunts that serve plant-based foods. Ask your favorite restaruant to make you a plant based dish without oil or salt. If there is a chef, ask if she would be creative with any ingredients on hand. Look at the menu and ask if the vegetable selections could be combined into a meal if not already seasoned? You have to do your part by staying true to being plant based. If you order SAD items sometimes and vegan others, then you are not helping your cause. Your nutritional needs will not be taken serious by the restaurant or the people you are dining with. I cannot emphasize this point enough. Being a part time vegan will just annoy your dinning partners and enforce the misconceived idea that a plant based diet is not sustainable and not appealing. You also have to be willing to pay for creativity and the extra time it takes for a regular restaurant to prepare your special dish. There is extra effort in the preparation that is well worth it if you are truly concerned about your health.
Thank you Chef Keith for setting an example of that plant based dining can be fine dining. We will continue to shout out those making a difference.