There is much more to vegetarian food than a tossed salad. So, says Mozambik restaurant founding member and executive chef Brett Michielin. His menus have seen a growing selection of vegetarian friendly dishes over the past couple of years with just under 10% of all meals now in the category. The surging popularity of vegetarianism over the last decade has been evident in his restaurants and, says Michielin, it is no longer a fringe movement but rather a growing lifestyle choice.
“There has been a real upward trajectory in requests for vegetarian meals,” says Michielin who says his experience on the ground matches media reports noting the steady increase in lifestyle switch. “But vegetarian and vegan-friendly dishes do not have to be boring. In fact, quite the opposite as it fuels creative thinking in the kitchen.” To this end Mozambik restaurants are launching Jack Fruit espetadas and deep fried and battered Jack Fruit this month. “On top of our current vegetarian selection we have added these adventurous dishes to our menu.”
After an initial trial period at its Waterfront restaurant in Cape Town, the Jack Fruit’s popularity inspired Michielin to take it national. Known as “vegan meat” in some corners, Jack Fruit has incredible health benefits and has been reported to aid wrinkle-reduction, benefit eyesight, conducive to healthy hair, aid digestion and muscle build amongst others. “It is rich in antioxidants and vitamins A and C with a host of other essential minerals. Most of all, it tastes really, really good,” says Michielin.
The first of October is World Vegetarian Day and recently The Economist magazine estimated that 25% of Americans between 25 and 35 identify themselves as vegan or vegetarian. In fact both The Economist and Forbes magazine declared 2019 the year of veganism with approximately 375 million people worldwide now following the lifestyle. According to the food blog Chef’s Pencil, South Africa ranks amongst the Top 25 nations in the world that have embraced the movement. “It is beyond being a trend,” says Michielin, “and it is critical for restaurants to wake up and start being creative in the kitchen. Vegetarian meals do not have to be boring. In fact, our Jack Fruit dishes make a steak and chips look rather dull.”