Flavor & Menu Trends

May 09, 2010

Written by: Vince McConeghy

Chef Yotam Ottolenghi is swashbuckling his way through the Euro foodie universe, tossing  veggie bombs everywhere, and exploding notions of what well crafted, portable vegetarian cuisine can be. His new cookbook Plenty is the Moosewood of this generation; a treatise that distills perfectly the sentiments and ingredients of the present. Here in the  U.S. food writers have already circled Ottlolenghi like hungry sharks inspecting a man tossed overboard in chef's whites full of bloodstains and kitchen scraps.

Ottolenghi takes his food extremely seriously. It says so right on his website. Now,  the whole world is taking Ottolenghi seriously with the publication of Plenty, already close to top spot in the U.K., but for some reason, a bone-headed publishing exec decided not to simultaneously publish it here. 

Plenty has not yet been officially released in the U.S. (I secured my copy through a relative that travels regularly to the U.K on business), but I can't imagine it being too much longer before it appears on Amazon U.S. for less than a king's ransom. 

I first became aware of Ottolenghi on Twitter. He's the second chef, who to my jaundiced eyes, was doing incredibly innovative work and sharing it directly through social media. That's what's so different about things today in the food service industry. If you really want inspiration, guidance and knowledge, it's easy enough to find it with a few key strokes.

The premise of a vegetarian food service operation has always been unnerving and unsettling to me, if for no other reason than the tremendous amount of prep work that it requires. But it's not hard to imagine that almost all food service operations will soon be required to have a dedicated vegetarian section on their menus.

It's the vegetarian vote that more and more sways the choice of a dining destination.  Decided protein houses cannot just ignore this category all together, and in fact, may have an advantage when competing for dollars. The burden of proof is much higher on a vegetarian restaurant than, say, a place that does some things vegetarian and well. 

That's why Ottolenghi's work is bound for all professional kitchens. It's a road map for what is possible in the veggie category. Plenty offers a decade's worth of ideas. His ideas resonate with the generous nature of the profession and that's why, we summarize, they will last.



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