Mark Reinfeld is an award-winning chef, author of eight cookbooks and an educator with over 25 years of experience in plant-based cuisine. We were fortunate to sit down with him to hear his thoughts on the trends in plant-based diets and the flavours that inspire him the most.
You’ve been a leader in this field for over 25 years now. What are some of the early trends in plant-based diets that have now disappeared that you’re really happy to see gone?
I would say there has been an evolution of trends over the years. That’s resulted in improved creativity with plant-based foods, especially in the ‘analogue’ market. It is so easy now to find tasty alternatives to animal-based products such as cheese, milk, yogurts and meat-alternatives.
In an interview with Sharon Palmer a couple of years ago, you highlighted vegan cheese and vegan butcher shops as the trending thing. What do you think is trending now?
Those trends are definitely still on the rise. I would add to that increased availability of a variety of plant-based milks and dairy products using oats, cashews, and even flax seeds. The use of the aquafaba, the liquid portion in a can of chick peas, is also exploding on the culinary scene..using it to create fluffy merengues, mayonnaise, butter and other applications.
What has been the most inspirational destination that you’ve travelled to in terms of ingredients, flavours and cooking methods?
I would have to say India. I have visited the country on three occasions and the last time, I was there for six months. I love the variety of spices and colors that are incorporated into their cuisine…also how there is variety of dishes from one region to another.
I remember watching a sadhu make his chapatis over an open fire in the Himalayas..those memories always stay with you.
Where have you always wanted to go to check out the food scene, but haven’t been yet?
Visiting Thailand is definitely on our bucket list. I love the cuisine and the use of tropical flavors.
As veganism and plant-based lifestyles are becoming more mainstream, we’re seeing an increase in brands entering this space. What advice would you give to companies and individuals looking to have an impact in the industry?
First by tuning into what you feel your unique gifts are and what you enjoy doing…then carve out your niche’. There is still a lot of room for unique contributions as the vegan/plant-based market continues to explode in popularity.
What ingredient do you think is often overlooked by home cooks just starting a plant-based diet? One that they’re a bit frightened to cook with? How could they start experimenting with it?
I would say nutritional yeast is a big one. I like using a variety that is fortified with vitamin B-12. It adds a nutty and cheesy flavor to dishes as well as providing protein and b-vitamins.
Start sprinkling on your salads, popcorn, and other dishes as a condiment. We love it.
You can also start blending it with a seed or nut like cashews to create a plant based cheese, that can be used as a spread in wraps or sandwiches or over pasta like in mac ‘n cheese.
You’ve referenced monk bowls in a few interviews, including on our site and for good reason; they’re so versatile! But if we put that to one side, what would be your desert island dish, the one dish you couldn’t live without?
Since you mentioned a desert island, I would say a coconut rice. That can have a variety of herbs, veggies or legumes added to it…all washed down with fresh coconut water.
When you read the headlines about everything that’s going on in the world with climate change, geo-political events, extreme weather and the like, what are you most afraid of? And what are you most hopeful about?
I like to view this in terms of what is inside of and outside of our circle of influence. For me, it is important to manifest, as much as possible, what we see as the solution to what is going on in the world in terms of climate change.
So for me, every meal we eat plant-based counts and is important. And the more people we can educate on the benefits of the lifestyle, and on how easy it is to embrace and how much flavor and nutrition are possible, the sooner we can make the global changes we need to create a sustainable future.
You can find a few of our favourite recipes from Mark in the Food & Drink section. Check them out!