Perhaps you don’t know Derek Sarno, but you probably know his food. Former Global Executive Chef for Whole Foods Market, Sarno was responsible for pushing plants at the grocery giant. Sarno left Whole Foods in 2015 took and took time off before teaming up with United Kingdom-based grocery giant chain Tesco as their Director of Plant Based Innovation and to create Wicked Kitchen, a new line of convenient vegan to-go food items. After falling in love with the 20 items Wicked Kitchen launched with, including the Carrot Pastrami Spiced Wrap, Moroccan Inspired Bowl, Naked Burrito, and Caponata Sourdough Pizza, we wanted to find out more about about how Sarno’s newest project is helping to change the perception of vegan in the world retail market.
VegNews: How did the working relationship begin between you and Tesco supermarket?
Derek Sarno: I was living in Portland, OR, working on training some ninja squirrels in the backyard, when grocery giant Tesco reached out to me about the opportunity to work together. We dated for the better part of two years before I finally moved to the UK.
VN: How has your experience as a chef at Whole Foods helped inform your process of starting Wicked Kitchen?
DS: When I think of creating plant-based food items, I think first of meat-eaters. We know the vegans are going to eat it. My goal is to create foods that meat-eaters will eat, enjoy, and crave. The whole range of Wicked Kitchen is grabbable, easy, affordable, and delicious meals leading with tons of flavor, so you don’t miss the meat.
VN: How do you make sure your flavors and textures are just right?
DS: Testing, testing, testing. I’m always in the kitchen running on new ways to create flavors and textures with plants. We always say there’s no need to kill for flavor, and it’s true. We operate in a no-kill zone! I try new recipes and techniques on myself and serve it to my friends for their feedback for my “Sunday Roast” get-togethers.
VN: How do you think a vegan lifestyle can help change the world?
DS: Being more compassionate is so beneficial for the planet, for animals, and for our health. The vegan lifestyle ideally translates as compassionate action and is integral to being a wicked badass and changing the world. Practicing compassion on the regular helps me overcome ego and our constant human obsession with thinking only about ourselves. When you lead with compassion in your work and your choices, you can’t help but to examine your role in relation to other beings and wanting to be of benefit to others.
Christa Alexis loves to find new vegan friendly restaurants and convenient on-the-go healthy foods.
Photo courtesy of Wicked Healthy.