A Top Chef First: Competing to Make the Best Vegan Dish

|Updated Oct 27, 2022
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What does it mean to be a top chef? For decades, upscale restaurants and cooking shows rejected plant-based foods, but vegan cooking is finally getting a well-deserved seat at the table. This week, Top Chef Canada premiered its first-ever plant-based episode, challenging the participants to experiment with vegan recipes. Montreal-based chef Camilo Lapointe-Nascimento impressed the judges, taking first place with a cucumber granita with white chocolate ganache, white chocolate crumbles, and grilled cucumber.

“This season, our feast will focus on a food philosophy at the forefront of some of the best restaurants in the world,” Eden Grinshpan, Top Chef Canada host, said in the episode. “This is the Top Chef Canada Vegan Feast.”

Top Chef Canada invited Amanda Cohen, the founder of New York City's Michelin-ranked vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy, to judge the vegan feast challenge. Cohen judged the vegan feast along with ET Canada's Cheryl Hickey. This episode –– airing during the show's tenth season –– required the chefs to create as many plant-based dishes as possible within a 30-minute time slot. The showrunners provided the vegan chefs with popular plant-based products from Upfield, including both vegan cheese from Violife and margarine from Becel.

“The chef contestants for Top Chef Canada are continually pushing boundaries with creative dishes, and it was a thrill to watch the judges’ reactions to all the menu items they came up with for this first-ever vegan feast elimination challenge,” Shoshana Price, Head of Marketing, Upfield Canada, told VegNews. “Camilo’s cucumber granita with white chocolate ganache was so inventive, and we were delighted to see the way Violife Original Creamy was an integral part of that recipe, with Becel’s plant-based butter also included.”

Lapointe-Nascimento won the $5,000 courtesy price provided by Violife and Becel. In the final round, Lapointe-Nascimento faced off against fellow competitors whose plant-based dishes included cabbage rolled stuff with rice, pine nuts, raisins, and tomato sauce as well as cauliflower with carmelized cipollini sauce, green onion vinaigrette, and hazelnut onion cream.

“The talent we’re seeing this season of Top Chef Canada is truly impressive — a testament to the incredible culinary scene in Canada,” Price continued. “Overall, the show is a fantastic way for Canadians to recognize just how versatile dairy-free products from Violife and Becel are for a wide range of recipes, with top-caliber chef approval.”

Vegan Cooking Hits Primetime

Until recently, cooking competitions rarely feature plant-based cuisine in competition and judges almost never gave vegan dishes the proper credit. Now, several major television shows have started introducing vegan competitions, and more importantly, vegan chefs on popular competitive shows are giving plant-based fare a shot. This July, even Gordon Ramsay revealed that he "actually loves vegan food" on an episode of MasterChef, challenging his contestants to prepare him a roasted beet wellington.

Last May, Ramsay first actively acknowledge plant-based chefs when he invited vegan and vegetarian contestants Josie Clemens and Emily Hersh to compete in the "Young Guns" season of Hell's Kitchen

This January, chef Bobby Flay was beaten in his own kitchen by vegan chef Tamearra Dyson on an episode of Beat Bobby Flay. Dyson impressed the judges with a seitan-based double-decker burger served with dairy-free cheese and fresh pickles.

A New Era of Plant-Based Cooking Shows

While well-established cooking competitions have started inviting plant-based chefs to the kitchen, several exclusively plant-based competitions are starting to heat up. TikTok superstar Tabitha Brown announced that she would help The Food Network usher in a new era of cooking shows. It’s CompliPlated premiered as the first vegan cooking competition, featuring four chefs preparing food based on the judges' dietary preferences.

This September, Peeled debuted on UnchaniedTV's new streaming service, featuring a fully vegan cast of judges, hosts, and competitors. The four contestants faced off to prove their cooking skills to an impressive panel that included chef Chris Tucker, Dr. Miles Woodruff, Elysabeth Alfano, and chef Clemens –– the first vegan chef to compete in Hell's Kitchen. 

“We are excited to make history as the first platform streaming Peeled,” Jane Velez-Mitchell, Founder and CEO of UnchainedTV, said. “The show advances an interest in compassionate, healthy, low-carbon-footprint lifestyle choices, which our audiences will appreciate.”

For more plant-based happenings, visit The Beet's News articles. 

Sandra Oh and 20 Others It Might Surprise You to Learn Are Plant-Based

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1. Paul McCartney

Sir James Paul McCartney is no stranger to a meat-free life as he's been vegetarian for 45 years. He initially went vegetarian in 1975 with his first wife Linda McCartney and began his advocacy for animal rights.

Jason Bahr

2. Sia

If you find yourself constantly singing along to the song The Greatest, then you're already a Sia fan. Sia tweeted that she is "fully vegan now" back in 2014 and stays true to her word

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3. Sandra Oh

Way back at the start of Grey's Anatomy, Sandra Oh took the cast out for a plant-based lunch at Truly Vegan in Hollywood. In her effort to inspire contemporaries to eat vegan, the TV star is known to invite her friends for vegan meals that are delicious. She adopted the vegan lifestyle years ago and continues to quietly live a cruelty-free life.

4. Gisele Bündchen

Giselle revealed that when she was at the peak of her modeling career, her diet consisted of "cigarettes, wine, and mocha Frappuccinos," according to an interview in People Magazine. Now 39 and the mother of two children, Gisele eats a "mostly" plant-based diet to nourish her body and stay fueled.

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5. Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin has made a bigger commitment to plant-based eating since he was first told by doctors that he was pre-diabetic and needed to change his diet. That was decades ago. But, over the last few years, he's been vocal about the benefits not only to his health but also the impact plant-based eating has on the environment.


7. Pamela Anderson

We all remember Pamela Anderson as the curvaceous blonde in the hit series Baywatch as she played Casey Jean in the red one-piece swimsuit that brought her world-class fame. She is a life-long active animal rights advocate and teamed up with PETA to join the Animal Protection Organization.

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8. Kristen Stewart

"We shouldn't eat as much meat guys," Kristen Stewart told GQ in an interview in January. The Twilight star has made a full 180 from vampire to vegan. When she appeared on the game show "Hot Ones" she chose to skip the wings and instead compete by eating increasing spicier sauce on vegan cauliflower wings.


9. Jared Leto

This award-winning actor eats a high-protein diet consisting of only plants. Leto, who has been plant-based for 20 years, says it keeps him "shredded" in an interview. Now, 48, Leto looks half his age.


10. Jaden Smith

Jaden Smith switched up his diet from vegan to vegetarian, meaning that he doesn't eat meat but does eat dairy from time to time. In a recent article by Plant Based News, Smith admits he skipped meals and was not getting the proper nutrition when he was vegan, but this hasn't stopped him from espousing the plant-based life.

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11. Meghan Markle

Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex has never admitted to being fully vegan, but sources say, she eats a plant-based diet most days during the week. She is teaching Prince Harry vegan cooking and in a Plant-Based News article, Markle explained how she hopes to raise baby Archie on a mostly vegan diet.

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12. Serena Williams

As a professional athlete, fueling the body is a key factor to Willaim's successes. In a Bon Appetite article, she explained that she adopted a plant-based diet back in 2012, she was eating a lot "healthier" for her sister, Venus, who eats a strict vegan diet for health reasons.

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13. John Mackey

The popular grocery store, Whole Foods Market sells vegan products and nonvegan products which arises black lash from ethical vegans as CEO John Mackey follows a strict vegan diet. The successful businessman grew up in Houston Texas and told Business Insider that he would traditionally eat processed foods for dinner while watching TV with his family. Now, Mackey steers clear from the processed isle and eats a clean vegan diet and feels amazing at the age of 65.

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14. Jason Mraz

Jason Mraz, singer of the popular song, I'm Yours, committed to a vegan diet to support his friend diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Mraz says he eats mostly raw food and told magazine sources his favorite vegan dish is "Chocomole, a mixture of avocados, dates, cacao, agave nectar, and coconut oil."


15. Leona Lewis

Long time vegan, Leona Lewis grew up in a vegan household and continues to eat a plant-based diet. Lewis first adopted the diet at 12 when she learned about the health risks of eating animal products but told Women's Health Magazine she occasionally eats an omelet. She also mentioned her 2:30 lunch is normally a kale salad topped with dried cranberries and she loves a veggie stir-fry for dinner.


16. Hannah Teter

Hannah Teter changed her diet after watching the documentary, Earthlings when she discovered how "horrible" factory farming is. After a strict vegetarian diet, Teter liked the way she performed as an athlete and believes that her diet helped her win gold at the 2006 games.


17. Maggie Q,

You may recognize Maggie Q as the star of the Nikita series, but in the plant-based world, she's well-known for her heroic activism. Maggie Q has followed a strict vegan diet for 19 years, making her a true veteran of the lifestyle. She made the plant-based diet transition because she felt sluggish and had low energy, she has said. The famous actress keeps in shape by eating veggies and plant-based protein and working out with a passion.

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18. Madelaine Petsch,

Winner of the first Masterchef vegan cook-off with Gordon Ramsay, Madelaine Petsch was raised vegetarian and went completely vegan at age 14. She claims that she started this diet before it was "trendy" and shot a campaign for PETA last year wearing a dress made of bok choy. Petsch says her vegan diet allows her to feel "healthier" and not "lethargic."

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19. Millie Bobbi Brown

After doing a little sleuthing on her social media platforms we think Millie Bobbi Brown qualifies as plant-based. Whether or not she is actually skipping all meat and dairy, one thing is for sure: She eats mostly salads, vegetables and grains and lives a predominantly plant-based lifestyle full of healthy foods.


20. Chloe and Halle Bailey

The grammy-nominated sisters went vegan for a week with their mom but liked it so much they decided to stick with it. For one thing, it helps keep their "voices in shape" by eating a vegan diet and they emphasize the fact that dairy helps to limit extra mucus build-up, according to a PETA interview.

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21. Hilary Duff

Best known for her role as Lizzie Mcguire in the long-running series, Hilary Duff is a recent vegan advocate and entrepreneur. She recently launched the vegan and cruelty-free eyeshadow palette, "Day Dreamer" and changed her diet to plant-based last fall.