Josh Eggleton talks to The Sustainable Restaurant Association about his new restaurant, Root

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th August 2017

This month The Sustainable Restaurant Association speak to Michelin starred chef, Josh Eggleton about his new vegetable based restaurant, Root.

Current eating habits - the Statistics

American comedian Will Ferrell once quipped: “Hey vegetarians, if you love animals so much, stop eating all their food!” It’s a matter of personal taste whether that’s funny or not. What’s in absolutely no doubt at all is the huge shift in our eating habits towards a less meaty menu. A string of consumer surveys in recent years show that our perception of what makes a meal has changed beyond recognition. Just 18% of us say that meat is an essential part of lunch or dinner. Almost half of people asked by Kantar Worldpanel identified themselves as flexitarian. The figures become ever more compelling the younger the demographic. Among 16-25-year-olds, half say that we should all be eating less meat predominantly for environmental reasons.

Vegetable Tart, Root
Vegetable Tart from Root

Whether it’s environmental factors, and livestock production is responsible for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions, health concerns – most of us are eating at least 50% more than the recommended daily protein intake, or worries about the welfare of the animals being farmed for our plates, or a combination of all three, soon it’ll be hard for the French to justifiably call us Les Rosbifs!

Take a look at the menus of many restaurants and you’d be hard pressed to know that this behavioural change was going on. Meat dishes still tend to dominate, giving anyone even vaguely inclined to look beyond the beef, as it were, little choice.

That’s why, throughout August the Sustainable Restaurant Association is championing those chefs Serving More Veg and Better Meat to inspire all restaurants to grasp the nettle and make veg based dishes as irresistible to diehard meat eaters as they are to those more flexitarian customers, make meat a treat and give promote plant-based dishes the menu-prominence they deserve.

Josh Eggleton on his restaurant, Root

Josh Eggleton, of Pony & Trap fame, is one chef who has seen the future and believes it’s green, and in his take on the Will Ferrell gag, says of his new breakthrough restaurant, Root: “This is absolutely not for vegetarians, but for the love of vegetables.”

Taking a lead from the likes of Bruno Loubet at Grain Store, Josh and his business partner, SRA director Amelia Twine, have decided on a radical shake-up.

“I really wanted to create something new,” Josh adds. “I’ve done sustainable fish and chips and we’ve been doing fried chicken. You can elevate a burger but I’d struggle with the ethics of that and I think we’re ready for something a bit more radical.

“We’re turning things upside down a bit with the menu at our new restaurant. It’s got ten vegetable-based dishes and then you’ll be able to add a side of meat or fish.

Wiltshire Burrata - Pistachio Dukkah, Smoked Rapeseed oil

Wiltshire Burrata -

Pistachio Dukkah, 

Smoked Rapeseed oil from Root

“Those dishes will be things like a couple of oysters, or some blood pudding, a nice slice or two of pork neck or ox heart. And these dishes will be very simply done – just grilled generally or maybe blow-torched like the mackerel.”
Josh is adamant that vegetables present chefs with much greater opportunity for invention and creativity.

“My head chef Rob, from the Pony & Trap, is so excited about this. As a chef, this is an amazing opportunity. I mean you can be so much more creative. It’s astronomical the amount of things you can do with veg. I’ve always liked dishes that focus on one main ingredient, so we’ll be doing that with these small plate dishes – using fabulous fresh produce like the best carrots or cauliflower and creating dishes around them. There’s nothing like restricting the menu to make a chef even more creative!

“One thing I really hope people appreciate is the time, effort and creativity that goes into these dishes. Anyone can whack a bit of meat on the grill but to cook a really nice looking, delicious vegetable dish takes a lot more skill and thought. So the main veg dishes will cost more than the meat sides which start at only £3.50. It gets my goat when people question how much vegetarian dishes cost – I mean have you any idea how long it takes to make something like pumpkin ravioli?”

This is no marketing stunt either but part of a concerted effort by a vegetable loving chef to put plants front and centre of the menu.

Josh adds: “There might be some people who say that it’s just a gimmick. Frankly, I don’t care. I’d just tell them to come and try it. There’s a strong message here and we’re being creative. We’re not the first to put veg at the heart of the menu – I mean Bruno Loubet been doing it at Grain Store for a while now. Just having meat and fish on the side will get people thinking and realising that they don’t need meat with everything to make a delicious meal.”

What is the Serve More Veg and Better Meat campaign?

This month’s SRA campaign is a celebration of all things plant not an imposition of a vegan’s charter. This is not a manifesto for penance or punishment, but an opportunity to capitalise on a shift in eating habits and to create a whole new culinary canvas.

Follow Josh’s lead and Serve More Veg and Better Meat. Be inspired by other top chefs finding new techniques to tantalise their customers with vegetable dishes that look, sound and taste terrific. Visit www.foodmadegood.org/morevegbettermeat and sign up to support the campaign. Take the opportunity to promote your plant-based dishes on social too @FoodMadeGood #FlipTheMenu.

The Sustainable Restaurant Association is a not-for-profit membership org that helps foodservice make smart, sustainable decisions through the Food Made Good campaign.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th August 2017

Josh Eggleton talks to The Sustainable Restaurant Association about his new restaurant, Root