Vegan television shows have yet to premier on the Food Network, but that doesn’t mean plant-based cuisine has gone without recognition from this mainstream foodie conglomerate. In fact, vegan restaurants and chefs have delighted the palates of several Food Network stars, and cruelty-free eats have appeared on shows such as Cupcake Wars, Chopped, and Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. To celebrate the herbivorous offerings featured on the channel (and to maybe convince program directors to produce a completely vegan show), we’ve compiled a list of the best vegan cooks, bakers, and eateries that have made it to Food Network status.
1. The Herbivorous Butcher
Located in Minneapolis, MN, The Herbivorous Butcher is changing perspectives in the meat-and-potatoes-loving middle America. This completely vegan yet uncannily meat-like butchery and “cheese” shop sparked the interest of Guy Fieri and was featured in a 2016 episode of the long-running show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. On the show, Fieri travels across the country in his red convertible Mustang to sample and showcase meals made by small, local, and/or family-owned food establishments. Aubry and Kale Walch, siblings and founders of The Herbivorous Butcher, treated Fieri to two of their cold cut sandwiches that were piled high with specialty vegan meats and cheeses. Fieri bit into each sandwich with gusto and swallowed with a surprised delight. In his 10 years on this show, he has sampled plenty of cold cuts, and he admitted that the duo’s Italian Cold Cut Sandwich was just as tasty as its animal-laden counterparts.
2. Sticky Fingers and Fare Well
Doron Petersan, co-founder and owner of Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats and Fare Well in Washington, D.C., has graced the stage of Cupcake Wars three times. Petersan took home two wins with her divine cupcakes such as the Rolling Stones brown sugar cupcake with coconut custard filling, spiced rum frosting, and cracked brown sugar brittle. Petersan’s victory was made even sweeter by the fact that she competed against non-vegan bakers—and won. She first appeared on the show in 2011 in the “Ice House” episode, in which she created a 1,000 cupcake display to honor the 50th anniversary of a famous comedy club from which the episode took its name. Although she was eliminated in round two of the “Tony Awards” episode later that year, Petersan reclaimed her title in the 2012 all-star show. Judges Candace Nelson of Sprinkles Cupcakes and French pastry chef Florian Bellanger were impressed by Petersan’s creativity and perfect execution of her multi-component cupcakes.
3. Chloe Coscarelli
Chef Chloe Coscarelli was the first vegan chef to win a culinary competition on national television after winning gold during the first season of Cupcake Wars with her classic chocolate strawberry shortcake cupcakes on the “Matchmaking” episode. Her cupcakes—which were described by the judges as “perfect,” “flawless,” and “beautiful”—beat the three other traditional bakers … and Coscarelli had only three months of professional baking experience at the time! Coscarelli created an elegant display of 1,000 impeccable sweet treats, each individually held in a martini glass. Since her victory, Coscarelli has received mainstream acclaim in the world of baking and business. Most recently, she was included in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 2017: Food and Drink.
4. Two Birds Baking Company and Michy’s Foods
Two other Cupcake Wars contenders, Lesli Lonegran of Two Birds Baking Co. and Michelle Della Penna of Michy’s Foods, prove that vegan baking can impress even the most classically-trained, butter-dependent pastry chefs. The two Southern California bakers competed in the first all-vegan episode for the coveted $10,000 prize and the opportunity to serve their creations at the inaugural Los Angeles Green Festival. Not only were the plant-based contestants judged at the same caliber as traditional bakers, but they were also required to work with difficult savory ingredients such as artichoke, fava beans, lemongrass, asparagus, and fennel. New Cascadia Traditional, and the winner, Bliss Cakes by Stephanie Sparkles, were also featured in the episode. (Note: Bliss Cakes and New Cascadia offer vegan options, but they are not exclusively vegan).
In a surprisingly plant-based episode of the series Chopped, chef and co-owner Rich Landau of Philadelphia’s Vedge reigned supreme. Chopped is an elimination-style, three-round competition show in which contestants are challenged to produce an appetizer, entrée, and dessert based on mystery ingredients in a just 20 minutes for the appetizer, and 30 minutes each for the entrée and dessert. The baskets typically contain an assortment of animal-based items; however, Landau’s episode, “Wheatgrass Roots,” featured chia seeds, dandelion greens, and tempeh. Overall, Landau was praised for his use of textures and well-crafted flavors. Judge Alex Guarnaschelli said she was “astounded” by his full-bodied morrell stock, and she openly admitted that she learned animal products are not necessary to create rich and bold flavors.
Photo courtesy of Minnesota Monthly