Meatless Goes Mainstream

The rise of the ‘wellness movement’ is leading the way for all new sorts of diets and health concerns. Making a meal with dietary restrictions can pose a challenge when trying to replace ingredients with a standard substitute or making a dish that excludes a major food group. Chefs are reimagining dishes with dietary restrictions, creating new flavor combinations, and setting a higher expectation in restaurants that truly pride themselves in hospitality and driving innovation.

Plant-Based Diets

One diet quickly gaining new followers is the plant-based diet. In this diet, the majority of all of the food is coming from plant-based sources. Meats and some dairy is still consumed depending on the diet. Primary foods include whole grains, nuts, fruits, legumes, and healthy fats. In a vegetarian and vegan diet, no meat or dairy is consumed. The health benefit of plant-based diets is reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, and depression. One primary aspect that can turn guests away from plant-based eating is the thought of missing out on the flavor and texture of animal proteins. These balanced and well-rounded meals are full of vibrant colors, textures, and delicious whole foods. Once plant-based barbecues, burritos, pasta dishes, Asian and Indian favorites are tasted, guests find them delicious and satisfying. 

Dietary Needs and Plant-based Meals

The diversity of the dietary needs of consumers is not to be taken lightly. Many times dietary restrictions come in twos and threes. For example, a vegetarian may also be gluten intolerant. Althea in Chicago offers nut-free, gluten-free, allium-free, and oil-free options, and keeps an allergy sheet that lists the components of all of the dishes with that in mind. Since the kitchen utilizes lots of nuts, there is a great deal of training that goes into teaching staff how to discuss cross-contamination. “When it comes to serious allergens, we are very communicative with our guests. “Executive Chef Kelsey Knowles, Althea, Chicago.

Indescribably Delicious Food

The blending of cuisines and seasonal foods in plant-based cooking often has more detail than non-plant based. Chefs enhance fresh, local, and seasonal foods with culinary traditions, spices, and flavors from around the globe. Bean cassoulets, gnocchi with seasonal vegetables, vegan onion soups with melted cheese or vegan cheese, barbecue (example jackfruit or tempeh) with chef’s special sauce, plant-based meals are everywhere and making their way onto every menu!  Monk’s Meat, a vegan barbecue restaurant in Brooklyn offers a Pulled Mushroom Sandwich with Carolina style pulled oyster mushroom, cayenne BBQ sauce, shaved Asian pear, frisee, pickled red onion, and vegan mayo. Also offered is Smokehouse Salad with Organic romaine, shiitake bacon, BBQ chickpeas, cukes, carrots, roots, and choice of BBQ seitan or Cayenne spiced pulled mushrooms.

Meat Alternatives

Tofu, tempeh, seitan, jackfruit, lentil, and mushrooms have been familiar replacements for animal protein for years. Enter the new meat replacements Lightlife, MorningStar Farms, Gardein, and of course the game-changer in the world of ground beef, Beyond Beef products. These brands market chicken-less chicken, fishless fish, meat-free hot dogs, sausage varieties, meatballs, deli meats, barbecue the choices are endless.

Many meatless restaurants began with a mission to bring wholesome, healthy, great-tasting food to the community. Chefs carefully source their ingredients from local purveyors and trusted distributors to create a diverse variety of impeccable culinary delights. 

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Eat Well,


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Tony Lagana

Chef Tony is a 42-year veteran of the food industry and is often known by his peers as “The New Product Guru.” Throughout his illustrious culinary career, he’s earned several notable titles and positions including Acquisition International’s “Most Influential Product Development Expert, U.S.” in 2019.

In 1997, Tony also founded Culinary Systems Inc., a group of culinary consultants that assist with culinary training, restaurant start-ups, concept development, and more. Since then, Tony and his team have generated over two billion dollars in sales for their clients in restaurants, retail, and manufacturing.

The strategic, technical, and culinary skills of Tony and his team can be seen on the menus of national chains, in the portfolio of national food manufacturers, and on the grocery shelves of products produced by major retail companies.