Good Food, Clean Conscience
Ranging from fl exitarians and vegetarians to the purist, hard-line practitioners that go by the name of vegans and who eat no meat, no fi sh, no meat products, no eggs or egg products and no dairy products, there is a growing proportion of restaurant customers who are looking for vegetable dishes as part of the food they eat away from home, either occasionally or on a permanent basis. With a reputation for its uncompromising stance, the L214 association created the VegOresto site in 2015, which currently has 525 catering establishments on its books (restaurants, hotels, food trucks, bakeries).
They have all signed up to the VegOresto (www.vegoresto.fr) charter, which commits them to serve vegan alternatives every day; this entitles them to display the VegOresto symbol in the window to highlight their vegan and vegetarian dishes. Of this group, 187 restaurants are 100% vegan and/or vegetarian, with a minimum of at least one completely vegan option on the menu. 338 are ‘mixed’ – which means that they offer meat dishes as well as the vegan menu.
“Those chefs we have canvassed, who do not yet have menus with 100% vegan dishes, are concerned about exactly how to make it work. ‘What food would I be able to offer?’ There is often a trial period in the kitchen to start with, so as to be able to try out new techniques, new products, new textures and allow the staff to let their imaginations loose on this new approach,” explains Bérénice Riaux, Campaign Manager at VegOresto. She continues: “The question that keeps recurring is that of sourcing; where do you find products that change things and that create a surprise? Where do you find practical alternatives for everyday things in a restaurant – mayonnaise, chantilly cream, ice cream? Where do you find vegetable ‘milk’, vegetable ‘cream’, vegan cheese? At the moment, in France, suppliers for the hospitality industry offer only a limited number of alternatives of this kind; we hope that in a few months from now, these few specialised supply chains will extend their ranges of vegan products in response to this ever growing demand.”
How, then, can we recognise a ‘true’ vegan restaurant concept? “If you want to go down the ‘healthy’ path, you go organic,” confi rms Rina Azria, owner of the 5 Lorette restaurant in Paris (9th arrondissement). Her 35-seater restaurant has been open for a year and is full every lunchtime. The menu is 100% organic and offers no meat at all. All products are gluten and lactose free and all cooking is done from scratch on the premises (‘fait maison’). The menu, which changes every fortnight, is built round 4 starters (€8), 4 mains (€15.5) and 4 desserts (€8). Velouté,
gazpacho, salad and savoury tarts: the ingredients of the starters change according to season. During the week, there is a set lunch menu with starter and main, or main and dessert at €21. The restaurant opens three times a week in the
evening. “Vegan customers are gratifi ed to find a menu that fi ts in with their philosophy. The others are content to eat vegan food; they know that there will be an appropriate nutritional balance on their plate and that they will not go hungry. On top of that, the fact that it’s organic and made from scratch is seen as a guarantee of quality,”
the owner explains. There are three indispensable items of equipment in pride of place in the kit chen of her chef Faical Ouertani: the cold extractor for juices, the mixer for sauces and smoothies and the dehydrator for slow cooking, which preserves the vitamins and nutrients.
Rina Azria is not going to be content to leave things as they are. “In the medium term, I should like to fi nd another place, near to this one, to put in an organic grocery store and a take-away restaurant.” She is also planning to develop a catering service; so convinced is she of the potential demand (especially from companies).