Le Cordon Bleu student chefs get schooled by Tal Ronnen! »
Whether he knows it or not, Chef Tal Ronnen is starting a vegan revolution in the commercial kitchens of tomorrow, and he’s starting it at the grassroots that matter: student chefs.
Last Wednesday, we at Vegansaurus were lucky enough to sit in on a workshop led by Tal Ronnen at the California Culinary Academy, where he demonstrated gourmet vegan cooking to Le Cordon Bleu student chefs. Tal is known to most of us as Oprah’s personal chef during her 21-day vegan cleanse and author of The Conscious Cook, while Le Cordon Bleu is all about heavy cream, foie gras, bacon, ducks, rabbits, and whatever else didn’t escape the French cuisine zoo in time.
But if you’re thinking this is some kind of a wacky two-worlds-colliding contradiction, it’s not. As a classically trained chef, Tal praised the Le Cordon Bleu program and even encouraged vegetarian students to stick with it and learn the basics of gourmet food. And here’s where the “revolutionary” part comes in: by focusing on the classic ideal of what makes food rich and pleasurable to eat, vegan food can be for everyone, not just vegans.
It’s something we battle with often around here. With so few vegans in the world, how can a restaurant owner ever justify catering to us? Tal started by addressing this head on. With more food writers like Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan encouraging omnivores to eat mostly plants (and we’d say, skip the “mostly” and go with “all” but, baby steps), the message is starting to sink in. Chef Tal did his market research homework and estimated that 40 to 50 percent of Americans are looking to eat meatless meals, at least part-time. Okay, so how do we get people doing it?
The short answer is, vegan food has to appeal to the general population. This may sound obvious, but restaurants get it wrong all the time, like fake meat that doesn’t appeal to meat-eaters, or “the vegan plate” that’s all sides and no protein. According to Tal, a good vegan meal should feel substantial and satisfying to whomever is eating it. (One of his secrets? Cook with saturated fat.) And if more chefs learn how and plan more menus with meatless meals, then maybe people will finally stop thinking of meat as something you “need.”
So what about the food? Tal’s menu for the cooking demo: creamy celery root soup with granny smith apples; artichoke ricotta tortellini with saffron cashew cream sauce; and Gardein “chick’n” scaloppini with shiitake sake sauce, braised pea shoots, and crispy udon noodle cakes. (DAMN. Oprah gave that up after 21 days? What were you thinking?!) Gardein was the surprise hit; feedback from the student chefs included “I’m sold” and “the texture was fabulous.” And it’s available wholesale through Sysco, so how about it, hotels and restaurants?
We only were able to try small samples of the final dishes, so note to self, don’t show up with an empty stomach to a cooking demo put on by one of the world’s top vegan chefs. Unless you enjoy torture. Seriously, just kill me next time.
Animals in space, bunches of books, 1 million events, ovine poetry, the Panda Channel, AND MORE in this weekend’s link-o-rama! »
If you missed Mine when it played earlier this year, you can catch it tonight, Saturday Feb. at 7 at Hollywoof, with your dog(s)! What? OK, it’s this crazy fundraiser by Dogopolis, and actually there will be a double-feature with Sniff. If your dog is unhappy all cooped up because of the bad weather, this is how to make it up to him/her. It’s at Dogpile Dogs, 1338 Illinois St., and the doors open at 4:30 p.m.
The BAARN Activist Showcase is tonight, at the SF SPCA (243 Alabama St.) from 6 to 9. Admission is free; there will be snacks. Don’t show up too drunk after the GDR happy hour, OK? That is seriously unprofessional.
Hey South-Central Bay! The super-cool kids of the San Lorenzo Valley High School Animal Right Club are having a bakesale for Haiti on Thursday, Feb. 11 at noon on the Senior Lawn! I am being 0 percent sarcastic when I say super-cool kids, I wish we’d had an Animal Rights Club at my high schools. Good luck, SLVARC, you guys are The Best!
Everyone’s favorite CELEBRITY VEGAN CHEF Tal Ronnen will teach a course on plant-based cooking at the California Culinary Academy on Wednesday, Feb. 10 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. You can attend! RSVP by Monday (Feb. 8) to Kristin Treat. If you can’t make it, he’ll be at the Whole Foods (ugh) at 1765 California St. on Thursday, Feb. 11 from noon to 2 p.m., giving a demonstration featuring Gardein.
Vegansaurus’ beloved Rocket Dog Rescue is holding a fundraiser on Thursday, Feb. 11 at Elixir (3200 16th St. at Guerrero Street) from 9 p.m. to last call to benefit a puppy with Parvo and a puppy with a cleft palate. Per usual, there will be a raffle with terrific prizes, plus vegan cupcakes, and local cewebrity bartenders! Be there or be a big selfish jerk!!!
Check out Soul Food For Thought/The Real Roots of Liberation on Friday, Feb. 12 at the Herbst Theater (401 Van Ness Ave. at McAllister Street). It’s sponsored by the SF Vegetarian Society, In Defense of Animals, and Go Vegan Radio, and is a celebration of Black History Month and a benefit for the International Fund for Africa. Get your tickets now; get more information from Bob Linden of Go Vegan Radio.
And now, your weekend reading
The 2010 Big Eat SF by 7x7 magazines names eight items that are verifiably vegan, in a list of 100. I believe this is better than last year’s list, even though at least two of these items are cocktails.
The President wants to decrease farm subsidies! And increase funding to school lunch programs, using the money the government wouldn’t be subsidizing devil-companies like Monsanto and DuPont! I am dreaming, aren’t I?
The greatest nation in the history of nations, Iran, put a bunch of live animals in a rocket and shot it into space on Wednesday, because Scientific Progress. The animals include one rat, two turtles, and an undisclosed number of worms. There is no word on what will happen to the animals, but Iran is totally talking to GOD, so that’s all right.
The Manolo tells Kanye and his incoherent “defense” of wearing fur to shut it.
Boldtype makes a (non-comprehensive) list of fictional works with animal points of view.
One of Vegansaurus’ founding editors returned to her hippie college for hippies this week! We’re so proud of her! We also hope she gets lots of use out of PETA’s Vegan College Cookbook, which apparently makes copious use of the microwave. One of my worst cooking-related college memories involves tacos and a grease fire; one of my best involves a vegan pineapple upside-down cake. Tell us your college cooking stories, please! If you are not yet in college, Vegansaurus does not advocate your reading so many swears. KIDDING! Swears are the best.
This is not news but we never mentioned it so: Thailand has a Panda Channel, and you can watch it online on Lin Ping’s homepage. You’ll probably need a fix since China repossessed Butterstick on Thursday.
Blue whales have changed their songs. Apparently they’re singing lower, which makes the reporter anthropomorphize them into Barry White-style manly men who are more potent and way more into boning than they used to be. Nice one, LA Times.
Valerie Laws is a poet who has spray-painted the words of a sheep-related poem onto the backs of actual sheep. Then the sheep wander around and inadvertently create new poems. Because sheep don’t have to put up with enough stupid shit from humans.
SFGate launched a Bay Area food carts feature this week, using Google Maps and Twitter. Social media! Obnoxious nouns! Honestly though this seems fairly useful, at least for those of you who don’t already know how to track your favorite food carts online. FYI: we love Bike Basket Pies and Banh Mai.
The Humane Society is currently taking entries for its annual Spay Day contest. Enter your pet and get everyone you’ve ever connected with to vote for it. Each vote costs $1 and all proceeds go to charities chosen by the human companions of the pets you vote for.
Jonathan Kauffman of SFoodie says that unpaid food writers can be excellent critics, too, as long as they hold themselves to the same ethical standards as big-time food writers. Thanks, JKauff; we do try over here.
The European Union is looking to list bluefin tuna on the endangered species Appendix 1, which includes “pandas and some whales;” this would “effectively ban international trade in the fish,” because there are so few of them. Nice job, sushi-lovers. Though should we say, nice job fish-eaters the world over: there is no such thing as sustainable fish at all! Yeah, a total lie.
Aw, has anyone seen Orion Levine’s missing ant, Ant?
I Love the Noughties: A Vegan Decade in Review »
If you had to pick a single word for vegan in the ’00s, it would be “mainstream,” as we watched veganism get wrestled away from the Birkenstocks-and-hemp set. Celebrity vegans and vegan fashion changed the public face of a movement that had been left for dead, and the food came along for the ride, with cupcakes and melty cheese pizza replacing granola. We even went political, passed some laws, lost some rights, and ran for president. Our fad diets beat their fad diets, and now here we are, 10 years later. Older? Wiser? Better dressed and topped with frosting? Let’s see how it all went down.
2000: Alicia Silverstone goes vegan and ushers in the Celebrity Vegan Decade. Yes, there were vegans before 2000, like Ian Mackaye, but it was still a fringe thing, for college activists and crusty old punks. In the ’00s, going vegan equals getting press, with celebrities coming out of the pantry left and right. It was the decade that gave us PETA’s Sexiest Vegetarian Alive award, and high profile announcements from Natalie Portman, Ellen Degeneres, Jonathan Safran Foer, Kristin Bell, and other stars like supermodel Petra Němcová and MMA cage fighter Mac Danzig. Love or hate celebrity culture, it’s here to stay, and now it’s going vegan.
2001: Stella McCartney leaves Chloe to start her own designer label, starting the first high fashion vegan shoe line. While most of what she does is out of the price range of mere mortals, in a very real way, this was a good thing for the perception of vegan fashion. “But if I went vegan, I would have to shop at Payless” would no longer be an excuse, and the false dilemma between ethics and looking good was finally gone.
2002: Atkins Diet goes mainstream and gets cred. Dr. Atkins’ book had been out since 1972, but it wasn’t until the early ’00s that people gave it a real try. In 2002, a Duke University study appeared to confirm the worst fears of vegans, that Atkins dieters lost weight and lowered their cholesterol. Of course we all know what happened in the end. Like any fad diet, the guru died and the company went bankrupt, leading to its fiery demise. Why was the Atkins diet such a big deal for vegans? It was the first fad diet to attack the “eating less meat is healthy” argument at the jugular. In the end, we were still right, but not without spending a few years in the low carb wilderness. Dark times.
2003: Dennis Kucinich announces that he will run as the first vegan for president of the U.S. of A., then wins the election with 76 percent of the vote, dissolves the Senate, and ends factory farming by executive decree. Okay I made up like half of that. But admit it, you decided to vote for this guy, sight unseen, the second you heard he was vegan, and his flappy ears or anti-abortion stance didn’t scare you away. Hell, I did. He also helped heal the left after the Green Party split in 2000 that gave us George W. Bush, by giving all of us lefties some hope that the Democratic party doesn’t have to completely suck. After all, any political party with a high-profile vegan politician couldn’t be that bad, could it? Okay don’t answer that. Anyway, give it up for the D-Kuch for making vegan history! Dennis, I present you with this gold plated dino-statue as Vegansaurus’s highest honor. As soon as I have a sec to ‘shop that up.
2004: Wayne Pacelle becomes the first vegan president of the Humane Society of the United States, making that one for two in the “first” and “vegan president” category. For the first time, a vegan is president of the largest animal protection group in the world. He completely broadened/shifted its focus on to farm animals. It makes sense because the vast majority of animals suffering in this world are the ones we eat.
2005: Vegan cheese that melts hits the stores, with the first known appearance of Follow Your Heart’s Vegan Gourmet. “It melts!” the label proudly trumpeted, reminding us of past disappointments, fraught with casein and other milk-based substances that were needlessly present in the so-called cheese replacements of the day. True vegan pizza was finally possible, and so was GRILLED CHEESE (and the great pre-Vegansaurus Mac and Cheese Bake-Off). And with that, we kicked off a revolution in the greatest vegan technology advancement of all. Teese, Dr. Cow, Follow Your Heart, Daiya—before the ’00s, such things were only found at the Whole Foods on Fantasy Island.
2006: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World takes over the world. Seriously, where would we be without this book? It combined every element of vegan baking into a single handbook, a canonical scripture to be read aloud during holy days of rest. Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World appeared at exactly the right time, just as the global cupcake phenomenon was reaching a fever pitch, and convinced a skeptical omnivorous world that vegan baking is not only passable, but preferable.
2006: The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act passes, expanding the War on Terror to tofu. Last I checked, violence was already illegal, and politically motivated violence was already doubleplus illegal, but apparently we needed a special law to target animal rights activists. I’ll be the first to admit that our cause, just like every other cause, has its extremists that could use a chill pill. However, the new law did nothing to provide exemptions for whistle-blowing and other undercover investigations, and codified the right of animal enterprises to uninterrupted profits at the expense of free speech. The ACLU, unfortunately, allowed this abomination to pass. Thanks, jerks!
2007: Spotted: Victoria Beckham carrying a copy of Skinny Bitch while shopping in Los Angeles. Skinny Bitch had been out since 2005, but it took Posh Spice to get it on the bestseller lists. While the idea of going vegan to lose weight is hardly new, this was the first successful attempt to bring animal rights philosophy and PCRM’s nutritional science to the diet frenzy mainstream, by weaving our beliefs in with the ideals of Americans who desire “skinny” over “healthy” (these ladies are NOT actual nutritionists, you guys). Those of us on the vegan-lifer side of the fence know that being vegan is anything but a fad diet (and come on, we have pizza and cupcakes now, we’re enjoying life as much as anyone else) but as a subversive social experiment, Skinny Bitch was the first of its kind.
2008: Oprah goes vegan for 21 days. You don’t mess with the Oprahnator. Oprah speaks, everyone listens, and in 2008, she spoke about going vegan. “How can you say you’re trying to spiritually evolve, without even a thought about what happens to the animals whose lives are sacrificed in the name of gluttony?” she wrote at the time. Which is a nice thought, but do we stop thinking about what happens to the animals after 21 days? I didn’t really get it. Anyway, Oprah has a way of sprinkling her magic credibility fairy dust on everything she touts, which means “You’re what?” is no longer the Jeopardy answer to “I’m vegan.”
2008: Proposition 2 wins in California! Although not the first animal protection law to win by popular referendum (voters in Florida and Arizona passed laws of their own in 2004 and 2006) we won a truly epic battle that will protect calves, hens, and pigs from horrible confinement. Prop. 2 won with 63 percent of the vote in the U.S.’s most populous state, and as they say, as California goes, so goes the nation. Put that in your gestation crate and smoke it.
2009: Martha Stewart has a vegetarian Thanksgiving, Obama adopts a breeder dog instead of a shelter dog, and Jonathan Safran Foer proposes that we all eat our pets or give up meat. It was a freaky-ass year.
Erika, Maria, Laura, Megan Rascal, and Meave also contributed to this post. We are fam-i-ly! I got all my sisters with me! OK I’ll stop now.
Interview: Paul Shapiro of The Humane Society of the United States! »
Paul Shapiro is kinda like…the greatest guy on earth. He’s the senior director of HSUS Factory Farming Campaign. He also founded Compassion Over Killing when he was basically 5. Okay, more like 7, but still. He works tirelessly for the animals while remaining the nicest, coolest guy ever. Honestly, if I did what Paul Shapiro does every day, I’d probably just go around setting things on fire and eating babies. I KID, EVERYONE RELAX! But I’d be one grumpy lady. He’s just the raddest best and you should read all about him and then follow him on twitter if you want the latest breaking animal news.
Plus, he’s adorable, right?
How long have you been vegan?
Since 1993. Old school. My recollection is that it may have been before the world was in color.
Are you vegan for health, environmental, animal rights reasons, human rights reasons, or a combination?
I wish I could say it was because in Carl Sagan’s novel Contact, our species’ first communication with non-Earthlings was with a civilization near Vega, but it’s really because it reduces animal cruelty and environmental degradation. [Ed., AHH! Jonas wrote about that too! Dorks unite!]
What is your favorite animal?
My late dog, George. Late as in passed away four years ago; he was generally very punctual. You can watch a seven-minute slide show of his life if you’d like. (Give it a few seconds to start and turn your speakers on.)
Do you have any super cute photos of animals to share with us? I just ask because this is something we’re super into. Elephants, piglets, and pit bulls are a plus.
George was a pit bull-shar pei mix, so I hope that slide show counts. Or you can see my two cats at facebook.com/paulshapiro.
Favorite vegan food to make?
Really anything that can be put inside a tortilla/wrap. It’s a very fast and clean way to eat.
Favorite vegan cook book or website for recipes?
I’m partial to humanesociety.org/recipes
Favorite vegan dish at a restaurant/fave vegan restaurant?
Currently, the vegan “chicken” burrito that’s being tested at a DC Chipotle is rocking my world. Since you’re in SF, I tip my hat to Herbivore’s shawarma, too. (Note that both of these are in a wrap.)
You travel a lot for work. Based on food options alone, which is your favorite city to travel to?
NYC is pretty hard to beat. That said, I was at Araya’s in Seattle recently and loved it. All-vegan, all-you-can-eat buffet for $8. Respect.
Any eating tips for traveling vegans?
Get the Veg Out app for your iPhone. [Ed.: we’ve got it! it is awesome!]
You started an all-vegan band in high school? Please elaborate.
I didn’t start the band, but I was the singer of the DC hardcore band Crime Against Humanity. We put out a demo tape and played about half a dozen shows in 1994 before breaking up. We were this close to making it big. And by “this close,” I mean not close at all.
We recently met Jonathan Safran Foer (we call him “JSF” around here) who mentioned that he went to high school with you? Were you guys friends? What was he like then? Was he in the band!?
Jonathan is an awesome guy and his success with Eating Animals makes me so happy. I regret to say he was never in Crime Against Humanity. We did go to high school together and knew each other back then, but we didn’t become friends until long after that.
If you weren’t working for HSUS, what would you be doing?
Begging Vegansaurus for a blogging job. [Ed., Great, now we have to get you fired! WHY DID YOU TELL US THAT!?]
Who are the movers and shakers in the animal protection world who people might not know about, who to keep an eye on to do great things?
It always surprises me how few people in the movement are familiar with the late Henry Spira’s work. If you haven’t read his biography, you should. In terms of living activists, I’m always amazed at how groups like Mercy for Animals, Vegan Outreach, and Compassion Over Killing get so much done with so few resources. Of course, I love VegNews too, and think they provide a great resource for the movement. Finally, if you don’t follow Jason Matheny’s work on in vitro meat, check it out; it’s something I think has a lot of promise for animals.
How do you think new technologies, like Facebook and Twitter, are changing the game?
They allow me to share photos of my cats and find out who’s dating who. They also enable folks to reach a lot of people fast, which is helpful for people who want to help animals. BTW, you can follow me at twitter.com/pshapiro (Ed., FOLLOW HIM. Best breaking AR news and also, he’s funny. Bonus points.)
What advice would you give people with a budding interest in animal protection?
The reality of how deplorable the scope and nature of our abuse of animals is can be depressing. Don’t let that sorrow consume you. I’m not the first to say that if you’re upset by a societal problem, don’t agonize—organize!
Animals can’t organize and advocate for their interests, so they’re dependent on us to speak up for them. It’s an immense privilege to be able to work full-time on their behalf, and it’s inspiring to see the progress that’s now being made, especially for farm animals. That said, you don’t need to be an employee of the movement to make a difference. Go at your own pace – pass out leaflets, write letters to the editor, support your favorite animal charities, get your local restaurants to add vegan options to their menus, call your legislators, be a positive example for your friends and family, and so on.
Are you a good cook?
Are you willing to have Vegansaurus over and cook us a vegan feast? If so, what day?
Any time we’re both in DC, consider the red carpet rolled out. [Ed., BOOKING TICKETS!]
Vegan Halloween candy, Oprah (!), weekend events, and FINALLY: findings from Japanese whaling research! All in this week’s link-o-rama! »
Meaverly's computer is out of commission right now (ugh computers are such pieces of shit, except this one, i love you, computer, you are very attractive, please don't explode on me) and so I'm taking over this ship. Get ready to crash into the rocks! Gloriously!
HERE WE GO:
Natalie Portman is gonna be on Top Chef. WILL IT BE AN ALL-VEGAN EPISODE, now that she is recently vegan!? I mean, we think she is but we’ve been confused before! Here’s hoping the episode is totally vegan but we’re not planning on it because OMG COOKING VEGAN FOOD NIGHTMARE HOW WILL WE FIND FLAVOR WITHOUT USING BABY BLOOD!?!? Didn’t they once have a Quickfire challenge where they had to cook fellow contestant’s children? I’m pretty sure that was in Season 3.
Even though we’re nearing the end of October, Vegan MoFo is still in full swing! If you’re interested in winning some awesome handmade cups & dishes, head to Vessels & Wares to enter! You have to put down your favorite blog entry and PLEASE GOD let it be one from Vegansaurus because I’m like srsly close to the edge today.
Vegan chef Tal Ronnen was on Oprah. THAT IS CORRECT. Now, his book is the 3rd best selling thing on ALL OF AMAZON. Such is the power of the mighty, mighty O. IF you missed it, you can check out his recipes from the show and BUY HIS BOOK. Because it’s really great. And we want him to beat out Sarah Palin and take the #1 spot on Amazon! YOU CANNOT LET SARAH PALIN WIN. I need you to fight like we did back in 2008, people.
Remember when the UN Report, LIvestock’s Long Shadow, came out and everyone was terrified and disgusted? Well, apparently that report grossly underestimates exactly how bad animal agriculture is for the earth. Blarg.
Wayne Pacelle, head honcho of HSUS, posted a great blog entry on 50 things you can do for animals. Definitely worth a read and then TAKE SOME ACTION, LAZY.
Speaking of lists, Rory Freeman has a great one up at Crazy Sexy Life. It’s all about how to be a better person and it’s not all schmaltzy and lame, it’s full of good advice. NOW IF ONLY I COULD TAKE IT.
FINALLY, the results from all the Japanese whaling research (read: killing whales and not doing any research) are in: whales eat krill; and, you can’t inject whale sperm into a cow egg and get a hybrid whale-cow. SERIOUSLY. If this makes you really mad—and it must because you have a brain and a heart—donate to Sea Shepherd so that they can get better at doing what they’re doing because even if they look crazy sometimes (read: almost 100 percent of the time), they are the only ones out there doing this and they will get better.
VegNews has up an awesome definitive guide to vegan Halloween candy because we’re all totally fat around here and gotta have it.
You’ve probably for sure seen this but if not, it’s a HOUND DOG hanging with an ORANGUTAN. Watch it and you’ll want to gouge out your eyeballs when you’re done because you’ll never see something so great again. And you’re into self-mutilation. I guess you’d need to have those two things going for you.
WEEKEND EVENTS WOO!
If you’re all about the street food, there is an event in the Mission on Saturday, Oct. 24th. I can’t tell exactly what it is, film screenings, mainly, I think. There will be lots of food carts on the scene, many vegan friendly. No guarantees obviously b/c those crazy cart food people can change at any moment because nobody is regulating their shit but here’s hoping! I know Wholesome Bakery is all-vegan and they’ll be there so yeah WOO!
Rod Rotundi, he of the BEST NAME EVER, is promoting his new book, Raw Food for Real People, also on Saturday from 3 to 4 p.m. at Omnivore Books. It’s cool that OMNIvore Books is doing a veg event so let’s all show up and turn it out for the vegans and maybe they’ll do more in the future! Oh also, there will totally be free food at this event so I’m gearing up by not eating today (lie) and most of the day tomorrow (lie).