The rise of vegetable dishes across the board is also inspiring Chefs to go above and beyond in designing their bar menus. Once a minor player represented by simple dips, amped up fries, sweet potato wedges or lettuce leaf cups, the vegetable as major bar snack is now coming into its own. And the change is justified.
Swapping out tried and tested ingredients to elevate everyday seasonal vegetables not only makes economic sense, it will also offer a point of difference. As the price of proteins rises, looking to vegetables as main ingredient is worth the investment and experimentation. There is no reason why the nose-to-tail trend in the hospitality trade should not apply to vegetables either.
Root to leaf is the same principle, so use carrot tops as a pesto dip. Or see what can be salvaged from other prep. Deep fry those throw-away potato peels to make great crispy curly fries, sprinkled with parmesan. Or ask your supplier what leaves or roots they throw away, as Bentley Group Executive Chef Brent Savage does.
On the bar menu of Bentley Group (Monopole, Cirrus, Bentley Bar and Yellow), Savage offers items such as quinoa and Sichuan crackers; tortilla with sweet potato, chipotle and lime yoghurt; Jerusalem artichoke tartlet, with mushroom and koji; baby corn in the husk with soured cream and miso milk crumb; and crisp potato with chives and smoked sour cream. So successful has the vegetarian menu been at Savage’s Yellow restaurant, that even the much-loved bacon has disappeared from the weekend brunch menu altogether.
Melbourne’s Smith & Daughters’ Chef/owner and vegan cookbook author Shannon Martinez, says kitchen staff need to leave their ego at the door when designing vegan and vegetarian dishes. Despite her classic training, she says the rise of vegan and vegetarian dishes is pushing her to be more creative in the kitchen as no traditional training will teach you the best way to salt-bake celeriac, make vegan souffles or vegan blood sausage which all create the “How did they do that!” moments that she thrives on. “There is no one doing what we do. No one knows how we make the things we make. You don’t learn it, you are taking it on yourself and you are experimenting with things people haven’t done before.” Case in point is pastry made with replacements for butter, cream and eggs, and fillings of “ham” and “turkey” that are all made from scratch and are vegan. Her new Italian winter menu is fully vegan. “Vegetarian and vegan is not a trend anymore, it’s not a joke. It’s changing the atmosphere of (restaurant) dining. It’s not a hippy thing, it’s just a different way of eating.”