World Meat Free Week might be over, but the penchant for plant-based meals shows no sign of slowing, as an increasing number of people embrace veganism (at least some of the time).
Not only did a record number of people sign up to Veganuary this year, vegan cookbooks are still in Amazon’s top 20 best sellers list, and in London, two pubs that have turned vegan – the Blacksmith and Toffeemaker in Islington and The Spread Eagle in Homerton – are boasting record profits.
If further proof were needed that what was once labelled a ‘fad’ or ‘niche’ has permeated the mainstream, just look at French fine dining restaurant Gauthier in London’s Soho. Owner Alexis Gauthier announced last week that the restaurant will go ‘fully vegan’ within the next two years. So far, it’s one of the most high profile eating places in the capital to make such an unequivocal move towards plant-based cooking.
It’s even more amazing when you consider the typical French-food-lover goes gaga for meat and fish-centric dishes. But there’s clear demand. As Gauthier explained in a recent interview with Eater.com, the restaurant’s vegan tasting menu gift cards have been outselling classic tasting menu gift cards by 2:1.
The proliferation of plant-based business stories and developments this year demonstrates that the movement is just getting started. As Gauthier, speaking to the National Restaurant Congress, put it: “If you work in hospitality in 2018 and still look at veganism and plant-based eating as a ‘fad’ or ‘weird’, you are ‘a dinosaur, living in denial… If a classically trained French chef can be vegan, then, believe me, anyone can.”
In the fast-casual sector, restaurant group Smashburger has just launched a plant-based burger as one of 26 ‘alternative’ additions to its menu. In an open letter that challenges the industry to join the company on its plant-based mission, managing director Tracy Gehlan said ‘The clock is ticking on the environment and we can no longer think of this as something that might need to happen in the future. The customer is showing us the way and we must follow.’
While at a recent panel event for World Meat Free Week, it became clear that – far from just following – chefs are leading the way. Nearly all of the chefs involved in the panel said they eat meat-free meals at home at least twice a week. And several serve plant-based tasting menus at their establishments.
Discussing the shift, the panel put particular importance on the role of young chefs: the so-called ‘Netflix generation’ – so heavily influenced by documentaries about intensive farming, a rising population, and unsustainable levels of meat consumption. Open to embracing new challenges, and eager to experiment with new ways to create delicious plant-based meals, this next generation of chefs can only accelerate the shift towards reduced meat consumption.
All the signs point to one thing: plant-based dining is very much on the menu for 2018 and beyond. Is it on yours?
Click here to learn more about World Meat Free Week.