For a vegan or vegetarian, the very thought of cooking and eating meat can be unpleasant, uncomfortable, or just plain wrong. However, if chefs eliminate meat from their diets in favor of a vegetarian lifestyle, this does not necessarily mean that the customers who come to their restaurants should follow their example.
Chefs preparing meat obviously need to taste it to make sure it is properly cooked and can be served to the customer. Thus, those who choose to give up meat may need to put their beliefs aside in order to fulfill their professional responsibilities.
Douglas McMaster is the chef and founder of Braytan’s Silo, a food-free restaurant that offers food for meat lovers (like pork with celery and mustard) in addition to delicious vegetarian options like shiitake mushroom risotto.
McMaster is a vegetarian who made his choice for ethical reasons after watching a Joaquin Phoenix documentary on human dependence on animals (Earthlings, 2005).
“The film seemed so disturbing to me that I began to dig more into this topic,” Douglas told reporters. I realized that people shouldn’t eat meat. We are frugivorous creatures and we must eat fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts.”
Despite his lifestyle choices, McMaster still cooks meat in the restaurant, as it is already deeply rooted in haute cuisine. And he understands that in order to cook a good meat dish, you need to try it. “Yes, I prefer not to eat meat, but I understand that this is a necessary part of my work. And I don’t condone it, and maybe someday it will happen,” he says.
McMaster says he does continue to enjoy cooking meat even when he no longer eats it, and doesn’t think it’s a good idea to preach his lifestyle to his customers.
“Although I know that eating meat is unfair and cruel, I also know that the world has its problems, and just my position of fanatical radicalism is not a reasonable approach. Any changes require a strategy,” the fashion chef explains his position.
Pavel Kanja, head chef at the Japanese-Nordic Flat Three restaurant in west London, is a vegan who embraced the lifestyle after he started exercising and running marathons. Although his reasons for avoiding meat and dairy are based only on personal ethics, he believes that eating meat negatively affects society as a whole.
“I do my best to stay away from animal products, but I work in a restaurant,” Kanja says. – If you are in this area, then you should taste the meat. If you’re going to sell it, you have to try. You can’t say that “it’s really delicious, but I haven’t tried it.” Pavel admits that he loves meat, but simply does not eat it and refrains from the temptation to take a sample in a restaurant.
McMaster has a whole change plan in place to develop vegan and vegetarian options at Silo that he hopes will appeal to even meat-eaters. “I’m trying to disguise vegetarian food,” he says. – When someone mentions “vegetarian food”, it really can make you cringe. But what if there was a new interpretation that would make this food desirable?
It is this approach that has led to the creation of a menu called Plant food wins again, which invites diners to choose from a three-course meal of plant-based food for the reasonable £20.
“The most important thing is to understand that ignorance will give way to prudence. It may take longer than we’d like, but it’s inevitable and I hope the work I’m doing to promote a vegan lifestyle will pay off,” McMaster added.