Interview with a vegetarian chef about food and more

Chef Doug McNish is a very busy man. When he’s off work at his Vegetarian Public Kitchen in Toronto, he consults, teaches, and actively promotes plant-based nutrition. McNish is also the author of three vegetarian cookbooks that are sure to find a place on your shelf. So it was hard to catch him to discuss the new book, the vegan trend, and what else? I’m going!

I started cooking professionally at the age of 15 and fell in love with my job. But then I was not a vegetarian, I ate both meat and dairy products. The kitchen has become my life, my passion, my everything. Six years later, when I was 21, I weighed 127 kg. Something had to change, but I didn’t know what. When I saw the video about the slaughterhouses, it turned me over. My God, what am I doing? That night I decided to stop eating meat, but fish and mayonnaise were still on my table. Within a few months, I lost weight, felt better, and began to take a serious interest in environmental and health issues. After five or six months, I completely switched to a vegetarian diet. This was over 11 years ago.

I have my own business, a beautiful wife and an interesting life, I am grateful to fate for everything that I have. But it took time to understand and feel it. So a change in diet should not happen in one day. It’s my personal opinion. I always tell people not to rush. Gather information about products, ingredients. Understand how you feel when you have lentils in your stomach. Maybe for a start you should not eat it two plates at a time, otherwise you will spoil the air? (Laughs).

There are a couple of answers to this question. First of all, I think it’s a mentality. People have been accustomed to certain foods since childhood, and it is strange for us to think that something needs to be changed. The second aspect is that, until the last decade, lean food was not tasty. I’ve been a vegetarian for 11 years now and a lot of the foods were just awful. Last but not least, people are afraid of change. They do, like robots, the same things every day, not suspecting what magical transformations can happen to them.

Every Saturday I visit the Evergreen Brickhouse, one of the largest outdoor markets in Canada. Produce lovingly grown on local farms excites me the most. Because I can bring them into my kitchen and turn them into magic. I steam them, fry them, grill them – how I love it all!

That’s a good question. Vegetarian cooking does not require special skills or equipment. Frying, baking – it all works the same way. At first, I was discouraged. I didn’t know what quinoa, flax seeds or chia were… I was interested in working with these ingredients. If you are well versed in traditional cuisine, a vegetarian one will not be difficult for you.

Hemp seeds are an easily digestible protein. I love tahini, there is where to roam. I really like miso, wonderful for soups and sauces. Raw cashews. I dared to make traditional French sauces with cashew purée instead of milk. Here is a list of my favorite ingredients.

Honestly, I am unpretentious in the choice of food. It’s boring, but my favorite food is brown rice, steamed greens and vegetables. I love tempeh, avocado and all kinds of sauces. My favorite is tahini sauce. Someone interviewed me and asked what would be my last wish? I replied that tahini sauce.

O! Good question. I deeply respect Matthew Kenny for what he and his team are doing in California. He opened the restaurant “Plant Food” and “Wines of Venice”, I’m delighted!

I think the realization of how we harm animals and the environment and our own health made me become a vegetarian. My eyes were opened to many things and I got into ethical business. Through this understanding, I became who I am now, and I’m just a good person. 

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