Top Chef Serves Up Tofu Ceviche  »

Last night’s Top Chef was bad. The challenge was so contrived: a “battle of the sexes” in which teams were separated by gender and had to cook for a bachelor and bacholorette party. The latter would have been fine (I GUESS) had there not been several lesbian chefs complaining about having to cater a wedding-related event when they themselves could not get married. I get it, but it was irrelevant. This is a cooking show, not your platform.

To make matters worse, the challenge was to create dishes based on shots. Of alcohol. No, the wedding was not fraternity themed. I’m sure it was some producer’s idea, but how dreadful. However, vegan dearies, the bride specified that she had one vegan friend, and that she wanted that person to be able to eat.

Unfortunately, it would appear only one chef made that vegan an actual dish—Hector Santiago created a tofu ceviche (to go with a shot of tequila), which looks super-refreshing and amazing. I could see it being very comfortable on Millenium’s menu. This dish got high raves from the judges, proving they can deal with proteins that are not meat-based [ed: SHOCKING].

It’s too bad the vegan lady was not around for the Quickfire, because the winner of that challenge ended up being a vegan dish! This time it was a gazpacho made with liquid nitrogen. Laurine Wickett, the lady who made bacon donuts last week, also made a vegan asparagus lemon soup.

The other non-meat-tastic dishes were all sides: apple sorbet (also made with liquid nitrogen!), watermelon carpaccio that would have to be modified to get rid of the cheese, ginger carrot soup (minus the sour cream for “garnish”), and someone snuck some arugula in somewhere.

A dish that I would love to see veganized was the winner of the Elimination Challenge, Bryan Voltaggio’s sweet & sour macaroon [ed: actually a meringue; thanks, Bravo] with guacamole, corn nuts and corn puree. It’s meant to be a take on chips and guacamole, and looks like a unique taste sensation. Surely, one of our brilliant, enterprising, resourceful readers could create something similar? Please let us know if you do!


Seitan Equals Downfall For First Eliminated Top Chef Contestant  »

On last night’s Top Chef season 6 premiere, cheftestant Jennifer Zavala was told to pack her knives and go for a chile relleno dish stuffed with seitan. It was incredibly ballsy of her to start the show off using seitan; Top Chef is completely obsessed with their use of “proteins” and it would have been a great coup if she’d been able to pull it off. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

At judges table when asked why she used seitan, Jennifer defended her choice saying she wanted to stand out amongst all the other contestants. Judge Gail Simmons (our favorite!) said it just wasn’t very good. On Tom Colicchio's blog, he mentioned it wasn't the fault of the seitan: “In Jen’s dish, it wasn’t the seitan that did her in, underwhelmed by that protein as we were. The dish was poorly done: the breading was falling off because it wasn’t breaded properly, whatever was thrown on the side of it was just a mess…”

Here’s the recipe on BravoTV; it’s not vegan, but could easily be altered by using egg replacer and whatever vegan cheddar cheese you like. I’m perplexed by the use of honey in the tomatillo salsa, so I’m just going to pretend that’s yet another error on the part of Bravo’s copy editors. The dish actually looks pretty good on its own. If anyone wants to try it at home, let us know how it went!


Friday link-o-rama: Tomato cocktails, Michael Pollan has a sad, “dangerous” foods & more!   »

Top Chef's Richard Blais, who owns a fancy burger joint in Atlanta that'll likely horrify you with its menu, is looking for partners in a new vegetarian eatery. This follows a monthlong experiment in veganism.

Zooey Deschanel is vegan-ing up Top Chef Masters next week. Yes we talk a lot about Top Chef around here, but if they’re going to put veganism on TV, we’re going to tell you about it.

However, grumparella Michael Pollan thinks “food shows” are detrimental to Our Nation’s cultural heritage—if we’re all watching people mix up soup from cans and pre-cut vegetables, then how will we ever loose our own culinary imaginations? Perhaps a valid point, but then he goes on to criticize first-wave feminism for “thoughtlessly trampl[ing]” the notion that a lady can find satisfaction in her food work “in their rush to get women out of the kitchen,” which is just the most privileged-white-dude thing to say he might as well be crying over the Stars and Bars. Shut up, Michael Pollan.

Oh my god, a job: Santa Rosa needs an operations manager for a “new vegetarian fast-food franchise business.” Go on, “qualified” hopefuls, send an application already. DO IT.

Elle magazine is killing me with its “10 Most Dangerous Foods" list. Smartly, milk and beef are on it, but so are tomatoes, bagged spinach, alfalfa sprouts, cantaloupe, and "nuts" (illustrated with a photo of peanuts!). What these non-animal devil foods share is that they’ve all made people sick with salmonella and/or e. coli contamination; what Elle fails to mention is how produce comes to be contaminated with bacteria that can only come from inside animals.

You can get heirloom tomato cocktails at Range! Including the famous (and vegan!) Sungold Zinger, with Sungold cherry tomatoes, No. 209 gin, lemon, agave syrup, and salt. If you are a tomato-lover, you should probably try this; it sounds like the perfect summery respite from your bland-ola bloody mary.

According to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, after reviewing 50 years’ worth of scientific papers, “there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority.” The full results were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, but having read what’s available I do not fully understand the conclusion.

Seoul on Wheels, the Korean food truck, returns to the streets in August! The menu has just one definite veg item, though possibly the chap chae, and—I hope and pray—perhaps the kimchee could be veg as well. My first solid food was Korean and I would do terrible things for some vegan Korean that went beyond bibimbap.


Vegan Top Chef!  »

Vegansaurus loves Top Chef. Strictly speaking, 25 percent of us write about the show for money, and another 25 percent of us have this problem called “an inability to turn off the TV, despite not actually owning one.” So!

When the sixth season of Top Chef begins later this summer, we vegans are getting an extra-special treat, and I mean aside from the return of Gail’s dresses and Padma’s bizarrely apt diction. This season, one of the guest judges is Natalie Portman! A vegan! And presumably the cheftestants will be cooking her vegan food! One can only hope they didn’t also make it a “raw” challenge, to give the whiny-baby omnivores even more to complain about.

Viewers have many, many criticisms of the show, but my foremost complaint is that the meals are, with rare exceptions, entirely meat-focused. When they talk about a “protein,” they mean “a piece of a dead animal, probably cut in a particular manner.” We haven’t heard anyone ever turn down foie gras, and I don’t give a shit if it’s a “chef’s indulgence” or whatever the fuck, the process by which foie gras is obtained is totally inhumane, and no one needs to eat a bird’s liver.

I don’t expect one episode with one vegan actor to make some enormous difference on the cheftestants, and certainly not on this season of the show. But if we watch Natalie Portman’s episode, and give Bravo our feedback en masse, that could encourage repeated vegan-focused episodes. Should they fuck it up, we can tell them how to improve. We can make this an opportunity to promote a cruelty-free diet without even leaving the house, and that is all right.

Please, dudes, I can’t take another season four-style kitchen full of gutted pigs’ bodies, waiting for dismemberment, all bleeping out the curse words and shooting close-ups as they hacked the pigs apart. I mean, what the hell kind of conclusions can you draw from that segment: Say, that when confronted by the fact that their dinners were once living animals, the chefs take responsibility for that and eat them, good? Or, it is beyond fucked-up, them looking those pigs’ bodies and getting all thrilled about cutting them up?

In sum: Natalie Portman, a vegan, is a judge on this season’s Top Chef; and, the show is actually pretty obscene and gross, so we are hoping the vegan food will mitigate that a bit.


Chef Tom Colicchio of Top Chef fame was at Bryant Park this afternoon discussing his sandwich cookbook, 'wichcraft. In this video, he talks about the sandwich recipe he is most proud of, which just so happens to be vegan! The sandwich was created by a group of kids who interned at his restaurant via an annual partnership with the Fresh Air Fund.

Not only is the sandwich vegan, but Tom mentions that he was impressed with the kids for coming up with the “sophisticated” sandwich, in response to the number of people who came into the restaurant asking for more vegan options.

The sophisticated sandwich consists of: Marinated eggplant with chickpea puree, roasted peppers, and watercress.

[exclusive video by Vegansaurus’ own Maria! We miss you, MD!]

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