Eddie Shepherd: “If vegetarian food was boring, they wouldn’t be served in the world’s best restaurants”

Award-winning Eddie Shepherd is a professional vegetarian chef from Manchester. Thanks to his innovative and experimental approach to cooking, he was awarded the title of “Heston Blumenthal Vegetarian Cuisine”. Why a British chef switched to a plant-based diet and what it’s like to be a vegetarian in a professional environment where meat is the dominant ingredient. I gave up meat at the age of 21 while studying philosophy at university. It was the study of philosophy that made me come to the realization that there was “something wrong” with eating fish and meat. At first, I was uncomfortable eating meat, so I soon made a choice in favor of vegetarianism. I do not believe that this is the only right choice for everyone and everyone, and I also do not impose the refusal of meat on anyone around. Respect the views of others if you want yours to be respected. For example, my girlfriend and other family members eat meat, organic and from trusted suppliers. However, I feel that this does not suit me, and therefore I make my own choice. Likewise, many people go vegan, which I’m not ready for yet. I try to source dairy products as ethically and organically as possible. By the way, it was with vegetarianism that my love for cooking came. Finding something to replace meat with and diversify your diet so that it is balanced and tasty added a sense of excitement and interest to the cooking process. In fact, I think this is what set me on the path of a chef who is willing to experiment with products and culinary techniques. It was difficult at times when I first started my career as a chef. However, in my experience, most chefs are not nearly as “anti-vegetarian” as they are often portrayed in the media. I guess 90% of the chefs I have worked with have had no problems with vegetarian cuisine (by the way, this is one of the main skills for a good cook). I started my career in a restaurant where they cooked a lot of meat (at that time I was already a vegetarian). Of course, it was not easy, but I knew for sure that I wanted to become a chef, so I had to turn a blind eye to some things. However, even while working in such a restaurant, I stayed with my diet. Luckily, after several “meat” establishments, I got the opportunity to work in a vegan restaurant in Glasgow (Scotland). Frankly, I often lacked dairy ingredients, but at the same time, cooking dishes from exclusively plant products became an interesting challenge to myself. I still wanted to learn more, improve my skills, start inventing signature dishes and expanding my own style. Around the same time, I learned about the Chef of the Future contest and decided to enter it. As a result, I became a joint winner of the competition, received a scholarship to take a course in professional chefs. This opened up new opportunities for me: varied experiences, job offers, and eventually a return to my native Manchester, where I found work in a prestigious vegetarian restaurant. It’s unfortunate, but the misconception that meat-free meals are bland and boring still exists. Of course, this is not true at all. Some of the best restaurants in the world offer a vegetarian menu along with the main menu: it would be strange if their chefs prepared something ordinary, thereby undermining the authority of the institution. From my point of view, people with this belief simply did not try to cook really delicious vegetable dishes, as is done now in many restaurants. Unfortunately, the opinion that has developed over decades is sometimes extremely difficult to change. It totally depends on the circumstances and what mood I’m in. I love Indian, especially South Indian cuisine for its color and unique taste. If I cook late at night, tired, then it will be something simple: homemade pizza or Laksa (- easy, fast, satisfying. But what I really love to cook is modern, avant-garde dishes.

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