Are you a “foodie;” someone who stays up on new food and restaurant trends? Or are you just interested in good health and flavor? Either way, here’s a tip you are going to be hearing a lot more about: plant-forward cuisine. Different than plant-based (all plants) or our traditional meals with meat as the main dish, plant-forward cooking catapults vegetables, grains, beans, nuts and seeds to new heights. If meat is included, it’s reserved more for a side dish or condiment. This way of eating allows everyone to benefit from more plants, but takes the pressure off meat lovers who don’t want give up flavors they love.
For instance, one plant-forward trend is replacing part of the beef in your burger with mushroom. Tastes tests show that cooks can replace up to 30% meat with mushrooms and eaters can’t tell the difference. The substitution is more than just a healthy choice for people. On average, the U.S. consumes 10 billion hamburgers a year. A 70% beef/30% mushroom burger blend would translate into (annually) 10.5 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions eliminated, with associated agricultural changes equivalent to removing 2.3 million cars off the road, as well as saving 83 billion gallons of water.
Who’s eating more plants? The statistics are unexpected.
But while only 5% of the population has tried a vegan diet, a full 57% of us eat “flexitarian.”
Organic foods have been the high-growth sector of the food industry for awhile, but the Food Party! predicts plant-forward is the future. And who to lead the way toward our collective enlightenment but the premiere culinary institute - the Culinary Institute of America. In April, they will host the second Global Plant-Forward Culinary Summit, a conference and hands-on immersion into plant paradise. Copia in Napa, CA, is the location
where 300 chefs will gather, as well as foodservice operators, and experts in food, flavor development, cooking, agriculture, media, and food system transformation from around the world.
Key to this style of cooking is craveability; even though the meal is mostly, or all, plants - cooks and eaters still insist on deep flavors, deliciousness and presentation.
I went last year. Here’s some of the dishes we tried using plants in unconventional ways….
Peanut Hummus, Herb-Roasted Carrots with Feta
Black Bean Patty Melt, Caramelized Onions, vegan Swiss Cheese on Rye
White Mole with Fermented Carrots Nuts Seeds and Charcole
Sorghum, Purple Barley, Marinated Shittake and Leek Salad with Rockfish Confit
Legume Kefta with Lamb
Jackfruit and Pork Posole
Smoked Carrot Lox from vegetable superstar chef Tal Ronnen
And for dessert
Butter Lettuce Panna Cotta
Vegan Popper Amaranth Peanut Butter Cups
Over the next 10 years, the plant-forward juggernaut will transform our expectations of restaurants, and how we cook at home. It is the growing passion of young people—and older generations are showing interest too. Plant-forward is the need of our time, and it is what’s cooking, right now. Join us!
Global Plant Forward Summit
The Culinary Institute of America at Copia
April 29 – May 1
Photos by LSIC