Chefs adding vegan items on menus no longer a weird hippie thing

Illustration for article titled Chefs adding vegan items on menus no longer a weird hippie thing
Photo: Milkos (iStock)

Even as recently as a decade ago, it seems restaurants would reluctantly include a vegan item on their menu, usually buried near the bottom by the desserts, something obligatory and unimaginative like black bean burgers. Vegan menu offerings felt like afterthoughts, a cover-your-ass tactic to mitigate complaints from the ~2 percent of diners who inconvenienced chefs by not eating meat.


Those days, seemingly, are long gone, and the idea of meat-free dishes is becoming more appetizing to even the most voracious of meat-eaters. In fact, a new study from food consumer research group Foodable Labs found that 51 percent of chefs have added vegan items on their menu in the past year, compared to 31 percent from the previous year. That trend, according to Foodable, is expected to grow in that direction in the years to come.

While we can’t infer the motivation behind this trend, within The Takeout staff, we’ve noticed how we—and we’re all unapologetic meat eaters—have included more dishes on our dinner table that are “accidentally vegan.” We don’t even realize there’s no bacon lardons, pads of butter, or melted cheese in it—we’ll eat an entire menu and realize only afterward that no animal products were involved. Maybe it’s us growing older and being more cognizant of our dietary habits, or maybe it’s a reflection of just how normal it is now to not involve meat with every single meal, and it’s not just some hippie-crunchy ideal. This news feels refreshing.

Kevin Pang was the founding editor of The Takeout, and director of the documentary For Grace.




Ive been vegetarian since a small small child (no one else in my family is) and the biggest thing that pisses me off is on cooking shows where professional chefs are all “COOK a VEGETARIAN meal?!? That’s not FOOD. I NEVER cook like this! How can you get FLAVOR without MEAT??” Come on, bro.

Second to that annoyance is fancy restaurants that offer NO veg options, and charge you the same amount to remove meat from a dish. I have no problem paying a similar amount to meat entree for a fully conceived vegetarian dish, I know about ticket averages, etc. But when I remove meat because I can’t eat it, you shouldn’t charge the same high price because I’m now getting an incomplete dish and you didn’t offer any alternative.

Or restaurants that have no vegetarian-adjacent meals at all, and when I ask the waiter "I'm vegetarian, what can I eat?" the answer is either "sides" or "whatever you want, the chef can figure something out". If I wanted to Just Put Random Vegetables in Pasta I would have eaten at home. /r