Michelin-Star Chef Josef Centeno Redesigns His Menu With Vegan Cheese
Acclaimed chef Josef Centeno just dropped dairy cheese from the most popular dishes at his Los Angeles-based Tex-Mex restaurant Bar Ama. Centeno – who holds a Michelin star awarded for his other LA restaurant Orsa & Winston – announced that he teamed up with vegan dairy company So Delicious to incorporate plant-based cheese to his menu. The nominee for Best Chef at the 2020 James Beard Awards redesigned his two most popular dishes on Bar Ama’s menu to feature dairy-free cheese. The new plant-based plates include the Cheddar Almond “Queso” and the Chile Relleno.
“Cheese is a key ingredient in all of my cooking, but especially at Bar Amá; my Tex-Mex restaurant,” Centeno said. “After trying the So Delicious cheese alternatives, I realized that it’s possible to swap traditional cheese out with this delicious plant-based substitute with delicious flavor and texture. Whether guests are dairy-free, vegan, flexitarian, or just enjoy great food, I’m excited to be able to provide them with more to choose from on the menu, knowing that the experience won’t disappoint.”
So Delicious is working to distribute its products across the entire food sector, working to reach the service industry to give customers inventive dairy-free options. The vegan dairy company launched a campaign to offer chefs, restauranteurs, and food services establishments free samples of its Cheddar and Mozzarella-style products. The samples come in two 32-ounce bags, encouraging chefs to experiment with vegan cheese in conventionally dairy dishes.
“I encourage other chefs and operators to try out this new line for themselves,” Centeno said. “You’ll see that you can give your guests more options that still deliver great flavor and texture guests will love.”
Across the fine dining scene, chefs and restaurants have started adapting to the rising consumer demand for plant-based foods. Typically dominated by meat and animal products, several chefs have felt motivated to enhance their plant-based options. With the climate crisis and personal health in the spotlight, chefs worldwide shifted their focus onto vegan food in hopes of elevating their menus.
Fellow Michelin-star chef Alexis Gauthier removed foie gras from his french restaurant Gauthier Soho in London. The removal resulted in customer pushback, but the chef determined that it to be the best decision to promote sustainability in its food sourcing. The chef began offering a vegan menu in 2015 as a counterpart to its regular menu, but this year decided to transition the restaurant to become completely vegan following his own adoption of a plant-based diet.
Earlier this year, legendary New York City-based Eleven Madison Park removed all animal products from its menu. Chef Daniel Humm announced that following the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant needed to reinvent its menu to change the discourse around food and food production. The Michelin-awarded restaurant retained its three stars and immediately found itself with a 1,500 person waiting list to try its plant-based menu.
“In the midst of last year, when we began to imagine what EMP would be like after the pandemic—when we started to think about food in creative ways again—we realized that not only has the world changed but that we have changed as well,” Humm said. “It was clear that after everything we all experienced this past year, we couldn’t open the same restaurant. With that in mind, I’m excited to share that we’ve made the decision to serve a plant-based menu in which we do not use any animal products—every dish is made from vegetables, both from the earth and the sea, as well as fruits, legumes, fungi, grains, and so much more.”
The plant-based movement is inspiring high-ranking chefs all over the world to rethink their menus, incorporating new plant-based or even cell-based foods into familiar dishes. In May, Michelin-star restaurant Din Tai Fung introduced the JUST Egg to five dishes at its 13 locations across the United States. The mung bean-based egg replacement will allow Din Tai Fung to bring its plant-based consumers familiar and popular dishes for the first time including the Vegan Noodles with Sesame Sauce and Vegan Wontons with House Spicy Sauce.
Earlier this week, Michelin-star Dominique Crenn announced that she would be bringing cell-based chicken to her menu at Atelier Crenn, making her the first chef in the United States to include lab-grown meat on the menu. Crenn’s decision is motivated in sustainability, advocating for environmentally ethical foods. The three Michelin-star chefs will work with food tech company UPSIDE Foods to bring environmentally conscious food supply and production to the forefront of fine dining.
“Chefs need to lead the way in making more conscious product choices,” Crenn said. “I am excited to be collaborating with UPSIDE Foods and am looking forward to bringing meat back to Atelier Crenn that is delicious and better for the world.”