‘Food for Thought’: Why is New Zealand’s top chef a vegan?
With the New Zealand food industry reeling from the global crisis, its top chefs are turning their back on the mainstream world and going vegan.
As part of their ‘Food For Thought’ series, Newsweek asked New Zealand chefs about the challenges of cooking vegan food.
Some were less keen on the idea.
One chef, Michael Moore, said he wanted to eat meat in his own kitchen, but felt the industry was still too narrow to cater for his lifestyle.
“I’m going to make a vegetarian dish.
I don’t want to go into the vegan scene.
I’d rather be able to make vegan food, but not in a restaurant.
It’s more a question of taste, how good it is,” he said.
Other chefs, such as the former chef of the Michelin-starred Chef’s Table, Mark McGrath, said they felt the food was too expensive for New Zealand.
“It’s not worth it, really,” he told Newsweek.
McGrath said he was also not interested in becoming a vegan chef in New Zealand because he felt it was too hard to make good food.
“You can’t just start doing this, and I’m not sure it’s a viable option.
It really is about trying to figure out how to do the right thing.
The only way I can really get a grasp on it is if I try to do something that I’m really good at.”
Others, such a chef at the prestigious Gourmet Restaurant in Auckland, are also making changes.
“The thing about the Gourmet is the food is great.
I have a great chef friend and it’s been a great experience,” chef Michael Robinson said.”
What I can’t see is being vegan.
I want to do a vegan dish, but that’s a very different thing to being a vegan.”
A former chef at a Michelin starred restaurant, Robinson said the business model was not viable for the majority of chefs.
“We’re trying to build a business and have the right staff, so we’re not trying to do what’s really popular with chefs, which is, ‘We’ll do vegan and be on TV,’ he said.”
Other chefs are also pushing for better food sourcing and packaging.
“For the most part, the food we make has gone to restaurants.
That’s where the food goes.
We want to make it right and have quality products, but it’s difficult to get the suppliers and the packaging right,” said chef Chris Taylor.”
When you have a product like a salad, you have to get it from the farmer, you’ve got to do your own packing, and you have the packaging to make sure that it’s labelled appropriately.
It takes a long time, and that’s why we’re trying something new.”
Another chef, Daniel Gage, is also looking to do more vegan food for his restaurant.
“As a chef, I’m trying to get my own hands dirty and really make good, quality food.
I’m doing things like going to local farms and buying raw food, so I’m putting the meat in the wrong place and getting rid of the fish.
It makes the food taste really bad.”
But others said it was still not something that was a priority for them.
“A lot of chefs are getting really into this.
But it’s not something I’m interested in.
I wouldn’t go to a vegan restaurant,” one chef said.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Marine said there was a wide range of food, including seafood, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, in the food chain.
“This year, NZ was home to some of the highest-quality food on the planet, and NZ’s food industry is the most diverse in the world, he said, pointing to the high quality of Kiwis’ food.
The spokesman also said New Zealand had a very good seafood industry, with a number of large suppliers.”NZ is a key supplier of New Zealand seafood products to the rest of the world and our seafood has been exported around the world for over 60 years,” he added.