As a newbie vegan chef I expected to dive into a world where my fellow chefs adored their work; creating dishes with love, pushing back the boundaries of cruelty free food…...how wrong I was.
It was 2010 and I was working in my first pro-chef job. The kitchen was a maelstrom of grumpy, tetchy chefs, barking at each other whilst churning out food with as much care as a factory robot.
Any love for food resided solely with me.
The rest of the 'team' were not vegan or vegetarian and couldn't care less about cross contamination.
They were grown boys stuck in a career that was the best of a limited choice given them at age 16; work as a mechanic, builder or chef. For many, becoming a chef seemed like the easy choice.
The long unsociable hours, minimum wage and sweaty, greasy conditions soon makes it clear that it is far from easy.
This is a persistent problem in UK kitchens and one that adds to our terrible reputation for a severe lack of culinary finesse.
When you pair that with the vegan movement the consequences could be even more severe; it has the potential to limit the growth of veganism.
As a vegan chef you are acutely aware that the dish you serve may convince someone to become vegan or help them to remain vegan.
Each good plate of food adds weight to the vegan choice, it says 'this is delicious, you are not missing out, so yes, you can do this'. For people on the vegan cusp that single plate could mark the deciding moment.
For the V-curious, wanting to dip a tentative toe, if that dish is bland they will ascertain that ALL vegan food is bland and steer clear of it in the future.
The culinary art of vegan, sustainable and compassionate cuisine needs to be showcased by talented vegan chefs.
Vegan Chef Institute
This is the reason I have created The Vegan Chef Institute with co-founder and health coach, Chantal Di Donato.
The Institute launches on November , World Vegan Day. Our mission? To provide the vegan movement with a progressive centre of learning and innovation so that we can develop a cuisine that it truly deserves and needs.
We kick off the Institute with a fast-track vocational course designed to propel keen home cooks into their first job as a professional vegan chef. The combination of careful and personal tutelage, with an internship element to the course, will give students everything they need to take that first exciting step on the cooking career ladder.
The course runs from January 13, every Sunday, for 12 weeks.
Our kitchen site in Battersea, South London, allows each of our eight students their own station and hobs, with plenty of space to make and create.
We will celebrate and showcase the work of our class at a student-led supper club. Family, friends and the vegan community will be invited to eat with us.
You can find out more and book a place onto the course from November 1 here