One in eight Britons are vegan or vegetarian, according to a recent report by Waitrose
With a surge of people following a plant-based diet, and a growing group of curious non-vegans wanting to try vegan food, restaurants are struggling to recruit enough chefs skilled in plant-based cooking.
To help meet demand, a new plant-based cookery school, The Vegan Chef Institute, has launched in London, run by co-founders Day Radley and Chantal Di Donato.
In a statement sent to Vegan Life magazine, Day Radley said: “As a vegan chef you are acutely aware that the dish you serve may convince someone to become vegan or help them to remain vegan. Each good plate of food adds weight to the vegan choice, it says ‘this is delicious, you are not missing out, so yes, you can do this’. For people on the vegan cusp, that single plate could mark the deciding moment. For the V-curious, wanting to dip in a tentative toe, if that dish is bland they will ascertain that ALL vegan food is bland and steer clear of it in the future.”
Chantal explains that the scheme was in response to restaurateurs who must resort to training their own staff. “There’s a lot of really good chefs in the industry, but it’s really hard to find enough of them because it’s so new. A lot of the food on offer was uninspired. But vegan food can be more than just a salad or a roasted cauliflower – that’s why we think this is important,” said Chantal.
Day said that the institute’s goal is to: “Provide the vegan movement with a progressive centre of learning and innovation, so that we can develop a cuisine that it truly deserves and needs. We kick off the Institute with a fast-track vocational course designed to propel keen home cooks into their first job as a professional vegan chef. The combination of careful and personal tutelage, with an internship element to the course, will give students everything they need to take that first exciting step on the cooking career ladder.”
The Vegan Chef Institute opened on November 1st, and courses will begin running from January 13th, every Sunday, for 12 weeks. The kitchen site is based in Battersea, South London, and gives eight students their own station and hobs, and plenty of space to create.
The students will be able to celebrate and showcase their work at student-led supper clubs, which family, friends and the vegan community will be invited attend.
The innovative institution isn’t the only place launching plant-based cookery courses. Chico Francesco, owner and trainer at the London Vegetarian and Vegan School in Bermondsey, will also be launching a professional vegan cooking course in January, focussing on high-end catering.
Chico said: “We have to, there’s so much demand for it. We often get enquiries from restaurants and hotels asking if we have any students we can recommend to them.”
Similarly, Jamie Taylor, head chef at Bath-based vegan restaurant, Acorn, has found employing skilled staff so difficult, that he’s launched an apprenticeship scheme to teach people on the job.
The launches are great news for vegans and the vegan-curious. Hopefully, it won’t be long before vegan restaurants, as well as restaurants that offer vegan options, are able to provide diners with thrilling and delicious plant-based dishes.