The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) has been training food-lovers to become professional chefs since the 1940s. In the modern era, the world’s leading culinary school—which counts the late Anthony Bourdain as an alum—is looking toward the future of food. What’s on the horizon for the culinary world?
CIA recently hosted its most recent installment of the Global Plant-Forward Culinary Summit in Napa, CA where it explored how plant-based food is taking hold of the culinary world. Discussions among chefs and attendees here centered around vegetables as a star ingredient on menus and in consumer goods.
“Plant-forward is the way forward,” Ixta Belfrage, a cookbook author, said at the event. “Make plants the star of the dish in order to eat less animal products.”
Food producers such as Wholly Veggie, Jack & Annie’s, Fable Foods, and Unilever also highlighted how vegetables make their way from chef-crafted menus into products such as artichoke burgers, meatless jackfruit patties, and mushroom meats.
Ultimately, the future of food, as the CIA sees it, will be about moving vegetables to the center of the plate. “It’s about fundamentally prioritizing produce,” Rupa Bhattacharya, executive director of the strategic initiatives group, CIA New York, said in a statement.
Michelin chefs embrace plant-based food
While some of the message from the CIA-hosted summit was around using animal products as flavorings rather than centerpieces, completely animal-free cooking is already being adopted by some of the world’s greatest chefs.
A prime example of this is Chef Daniel Humm, who transformed New York City’s famed Eleven Madison Park into a plant-based restaurant in 2021. Here, Humm embraces whole-vegetable cookery in inventive ways, using the magic of fermentation and food technology to elevate dishes without the addition of animal products.
Last year, Humm proved that removing animals from his menu does not hurt his standing in the culinary community as he was able to retain Eleven Madison Park’s three Michelin stars—becoming the first plant-based restaurant in the world to hold them.
Humm has since taken his plant-based culinary vision on the road. In March, Humm collaborated with three other top chefs (namely Tal Ronnen, Nancy Silverton, and Michael Volatggio) to create the 10th-anniversary menu for Crossroads Kitchen, a vegan mainstay in the Los Angeles dining scene. Humm’s dish here embraced fungi with Maitake Mushrooms with Juniper and Pine served as the third course.
And this weekend, Humm is collaborating with chef Massimo Falsini, culinary director of luxury Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel and Spa in Montecito, CA. Here, the duo will present an eight-course plant-based dinner that highlights the produce suppliers of California’s Central Coast.
“The most difficult thing to cook or treat are the vegetables … and they are more interesting, too,” Falsini told VegNews earlier this month.
“It requires more love because you deeply have to know the nature of the particular variety of vegetable … and how you extrapolate flavor from it,” he said.
The future of food in action
While many non-vegan establishments and chefs are now beginning to explore plant-based food, the CIA’s vision of the culinary world’s future is at the center of the table in many places. One example is a recent dinner collaboration between vegan food pioneer and chef Miyoko Schinner and chef Roy Elam (of California eatery Donna Jean).
Held on June 21 in Sherman Oaks, CA, the five-course vegan dinner sold out quickly, with the late seating selling out in less than one week.
Donna Jean reached out to Schinner to spark the collaboration as a way to raise funds for Rancho Compasión, a farmed animal sanctuary founded and operated by Schinner.
“Donna Jean and Miyoko share a love for Italian and Mediterranean food,” a spokesperson for Schinner’s team tells VegNews. “Miyoko is an unabashed Italian-o-phile who had just gotten back from one of her regular Italian excursions, and Chef Roy loves to marry traditional flavors with a modern spin.”
The dinner here embraced vegetables to the fullest with a menu featuring dishes guided by what is locally available and informed by the chefs’ shared creativity.
“The approach to this shared love by both Miyoko and the restaurant results in dishes that are not only delicious but are extremely approachable, much like rustic Italian cuisine that satisfies the soul,” the spokesperson says. “In the age of food tech, we wanted people to see the beauty of simple, traditional, handcrafted dishes.”
The resulting dishes were an antipasti platter, Elam’s signature Calabrese eggplant, a light risotto, Lion’s mane cutlet, and a fresh lemon tart.
“Our whole goal at Donna Jean is to legitimize vegan food as good food,” Elam tells VegNews. “We focus on whole plant-based ingredients instead of processed meat alternatives to make our dishes comfortable and approachable to everyone.”