Vegetarian does not equal vegetable… it drives me nuts when chefs assume a “vegetarian dish” must be vegetable based. This works the other way too; I would never assume a “vegetable dish or tasting menu” is vegetarian because frequently enough it is not. The world is filled with an overwhelmingly diverse offering of grains/pastas, beans/legumes, and dairy that vegetarians thrive on! It also drives me nuts when the vegetarian dishes are some dreary rendition of the following:
- Veggie or Grilled Portobello Mushroom Burger
- Mushroom or Eggplant Anything
- Roasted Vegetables with rice or couscous
- Tofu steak
- Ravioli or Risotto
- Overpriced and Meager Salad
Recently a friend alerted me to an episode of Hell’s Kitchen where the notorious vegetarian basher Gordon Ramsey asks the contestants to cook a “stunning vegetarian dish,” but not before saying “There is no bigger pain anywhere in the world than a vegetarian” – and why is it ok to openly offend 3% of the US population! We are a group the size of all Asians or Jews in America, just imagine the backlash if he had made an equally disparaging comment about them… but anyways – the despondent look in the chefs eyes were soon matched by mine after I hear the horridly stereotypical and boring dishes they came up with:
- Mushroom Crepe over Beet Carpaccio
- Mushroom Stuffed Eggplant with Brown rice and Mushroom Sauce
- Grilled Eggplant Lasagna with Tofu and Mozzarella
- Polenta Tower with Goat Cheese and Roasted Red Peppers
That menu sounds like an utter gag fest! Here’s my quick revision:
- Crepes filled with Brown Butter Mushrooms and Herbed Goat Cheese with Wilted Spinach
- White Bean, Wild Rice, Arugula, Pine Nut and Pecorino Stuffed Zucchini
- Butternut Squash, Kale, and Sage Lasagna with Béchamel Sauce
- Parmesan Polenta and Grilled Asparagus and Scallions in a Pool of Pesto
3 thoughts on “Rant: Vegetarian = Vegetable”
Despite Ramsay’s outspoken attacks on vegetarians, his restaurant in Midtown offers vegetarian options for every course of the menu prestige. So there you have it. The American restaurant industry can’t genuinely afford to alienate “3% of the US population,” even at the loftiest heights of fine dining.
Let me expand the statement he made on the show: “There is no bigger pain anywhere in the world than a vegetarian; but if you are a fine dining restaurant you need to cater for vegetarians” So of course his own restaurants offer “us” food, but merely as necessary business tactic, the insult still stands.
I’m also of the belief that anyone–carnivore, pescetarian or vegetarian–would be insane to refuse a meal at one of Ramsay’s restaurants. It seems to me that his “offensive” comments stem more from egoism and vanity than hatred. After all, if I had three Michelin stars and a vegetarian balked at my menu, I’d go completely ballistic!