Plant-first caters to more than vegans

Zoe Schor, (left) chef at Split Rail, talks with Brad Saylor, regional chef for Macy’s, after their workshop on foodservice trends for fresh produce.

CHICAGO – When chefs think about plant-first menu items, they think about pleasing more than just vegan diners.

Four Chicago-based chefs gave their views about incorporating more fruit and vegetable items at a foodservice workshop at the United Fresh convention June 11.

“Vegetables can’t be about taking something away,” said Zoe Schor, chef at Split Rail. “The number of vegans hasn’t gone up in the last 30 years. It’s more that people are more aware and want to be healthier.”

Brad Saylor, regional chef for Macy’s, said it’s important to have vegetable-based entrees though and have legitimate dishes, not just a collection of side items.

Mimi Mostofi, personal chef at Friend That Cooks, said she creates the menus for clients and then cooks the meals.

She said people want meatless dishes for a variety of reasons.

“We cater to people who can’t have dairy items with plant-based meals,” she said.

Schor said many of her plant-based menu items simulate meat dishes.

“We have a vegan fried chicken with seitan,” she said. “We’re recreating flavors of meat with non-meat, which recreates the texture and flavor.”

All the chefs said social media has been an important aspect of their business.

“Social media is everywhere,” said Lamar Moore, partner and executive chef for The Swill Inn, “and we have to be there.”

He said his challenge is to create the best meals all the time, and he sees dishes and learns on social media, and then makes them appealing to diners.

“Instagram is important because people see something and want it,” Schor said. “We can sell anything if it has a good story.”

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services