Words: Catherine Black | Images: Supplied

Vegetarianism, and to an increasing extent veganism, is no longer the sole domain of dreamy hippies living o­ff the grid. Restaurants in cities all around the world – Jozi included – are now embracing the move away from meat-heavy menus. We spoke to three top Jozi chefs for their input.

James Diack, Coobs, The National Eatery and Speakeasy, La Stalla and Il Contadino

Q: How is the movement away from eating meat affecting how you create new dishes?

A: We’ve seen vegetarianism and veganism growing over the last few years, certainly since I first opened Coobs. It’s good for us because it links closely to provenance: more and more people are caring about where the ingredients for the dishes they’re eating come from. We’ve always included vegetarian and vegan dishes on our menus – for us, it’s more about what’s seasonal and ready for harvest from the farm. Whereas most restaurants decide on a dish and then source the ingredients, we work the other way around.

Candice Philip, Grei at the Saxon

Q: How is your restaurant embracing this trend?

A: At Grei, we o­ffer a six-course vegetarian menu, which was conceptualised separately from the other menus. Each dish was conceived as a complete dish as is, not as an echo of a dish from another menu but without meat. In all honesty, we do live in a country rich in culture nurtured by open-fire cooking or braaing. This is a heritage we should embrace and be proud of, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to change this perception, either by showing that a meal can be just as complete without meat as it would be with it, even while using the same cooking techniques.

Jane-Therese Mulry, Saxon

Q: Some feel that a dish isn’t complete or substantial enough if it doesn’t have meat in it. What do you think?

A: I think you are only limited by your own imagination when it comes to food. If you create dishes that tick all the boxes, no one is going to complain that it wasn’t substantial enough. South Africans have always been big meat eaters, but as the world becomes more aware of sustainability and reducing carbon footprints, I think palates are changing and people are becoming more focused on healthier eating practices that are good for the environment too. Mother Nature is a great provider of all things good for us, and it’s up to the chefs to respect the integrity of the ingredients and showcasing them in their most creative and inspiring way.

Coobs
011 447 0710
coobs.co.za

The National Eatery and Speakeasy
011 327 3030
facebook.com/TheNationalJHB