What does it mean to be a top chef? For decades, upscale restaurants and cooking shows rejected plant-based foods, but vegan cooking is finally getting a well-deserved seat at the table. This week, Top Chef Canada premiered its first-ever plant-based episode, challenging the participants to experiment with vegan recipes. Montreal-based chef Camilo Lapointe-Nascimento impressed the judges, taking first place with a cucumber granita with white chocolate ganache, white chocolate crumbles, and grilled cucumber.
“This season, our feast will focus on a food philosophy at the forefront of some of the best restaurants in the world,” Eden Grinshpan, Top Chef Canada host, said in the episode. “This is the Top Chef Canada Vegan Feast.”
Top Chef Canada invited Amanda Cohen, the founder of New York City’s Michelin-ranked vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy, to judge the vegan feast challenge. Cohen judged the vegan feast along with ET Canada‘s Cheryl Hickey. This episode –– airing during the show’s tenth season –– required the chefs to create as many plant-based dishes as possible within a 30-minute time slot. The showrunners provided the vegan chefs with popular plant-based products from Upfield, including both vegan cheese from Violife and margarine from Becel.
“The chef contestants for Top Chef Canada are continually pushing boundaries with creative dishes, and it was a thrill to watch the judges’ reactions to all the menu items they came up with for this first-ever vegan feast elimination challenge,” Shoshana Price, Head of Marketing, Upfield Canada, told VegNews. “Camilo’s cucumber granita with white chocolate ganache was so inventive, and we were delighted to see the way Violife Original Creamy was an integral part of that recipe, with Becel’s plant-based butter also included.”
Lapointe-Nascimento won the $5,000 courtesy price provided by Violife and Becel. In the final round, Lapointe-Nascimento faced off against fellow competitors whose plant-based dishes included cabbage rolled stuff with rice, pine nuts, raisins, and tomato sauce as well as cauliflower with carmelized cipollini sauce, green onion vinaigrette, and hazelnut onion cream.
“The talent we’re seeing this season of Top Chef Canada is truly impressive — a testament to the incredible culinary scene in Canada,” Price continued. “Overall, the show is a fantastic way for Canadians to recognize just how versatile dairy-free products from Violife and Becel are for a wide range of recipes, with top-caliber chef approval.”
Vegan Cooking Hits Primetime
Until recently, cooking competitions rarely feature plant-based cuisine in competition and judges almost never gave vegan dishes the proper credit. Now, several major television shows have started introducing vegan competitions, and more importantly, vegan chefs on popular competitive shows are giving plant-based fare a shot. This July, even Gordon Ramsay revealed that he “actually loves vegan food” on an episode of MasterChef, challenging his contestants to prepare him a roasted beet wellington.
Last May, Ramsay first actively acknowledge plant-based chefs when he invited vegan and vegetarian contestants Josie Clemens and Emily Hersh to compete in the “Young Guns” season of Hell’s Kitchen.
This January, chef Bobby Flay was beaten in his own kitchen by vegan chef Tamearra Dyson on an episode of Beat Bobby Flay. Dyson impressed the judges with a seitan-based double-decker burger served with dairy-free cheese and fresh pickles.
A New Era of Plant-Based Cooking Shows
While well-established cooking competitions have started inviting plant-based chefs to the kitchen, several exclusively plant-based competitions are starting to heat up. TikTok superstar Tabitha Brown announced that she would help The Food Network usher in a new era of cooking shows. It’s CompliPlated premiered as the first vegan cooking competition, featuring four chefs preparing food based on the judges’ dietary preferences.
This September, Peeled debuted on UnchaniedTV’s new streaming service, featuring a fully vegan cast of judges, hosts, and competitors. The four contestants faced off to prove their cooking skills to an impressive panel that included chef Chris Tucker, Dr. Miles Woodruff, Elysabeth Alfano, and chef Clemens –– the first vegan chef to compete in Hell’s Kitchen.
“We are excited to make history as the first platform streaming Peeled,” Jane Velez-Mitchell, Founder and CEO of UnchainedTV, said. “The show advances an interest in compassionate, healthy, low-carbon-footprint lifestyle choices, which our audiences will appreciate.”
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