KnifeofBrian on: Veganism and if he can change from a lifetime of carnivorous behaviour

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Is veganism here to stay? A conflicted KnifeofBrian questions if he could ever ditch meat completely.

With World Meat Free Week just around the corner, Brian Powlett AKA KnifeofBrian talks about the rise in popularity of veganism, his conflict with veganism and a run in with a 70lb pig.

vegan food image
Trend or movement?

A conflicted chef

Chef?!…. A customer wants to know what’s vegan on the menu tonight?” comes the cry from the front of house team member, yelling over the drone of the full power extraction system. A shudder courses over the chef’s body as they wrack their brain to try and come up with a sensible response.

Suppressing the urge to holler back something abusive, sarcastic and really unhelpful. It’s 6.15pm and it’s already busy, one chef has not turned up and the kitchen has been playing catch up all day. This could be the straw which breaks the camel’s back. Now is not the time to respond with “my arse is vegan!”

As chefs, most of us have been there. As Front-Of-House staff, we’ve been on the receiving end of uncooperative chefs. NEWS FLASH!! It’s 2018 and the days of serving up that mushroom risotto as your standard vegetarian option has gone. Coupled with the “I guess I can make that vegan if you want?” this has to end.

Could I become a vegan?

I’m not vegan, I don’t think I could ever be vegan. My willpower is terrible and I feel my relationship with meat is deep rooted in my DNA. So many good memories with feasting of roast rib on beef, shoulders of pork, even dipping into a bargain bucket of fried chicken. It’s not necessarily the food, just the associated memories. I can’t recall any nostalgia connected with eating broccoli. This is just me. I have total respect for the reasons behind veganism. I get it.

We eat the animals

The I sometimes imagine the scenario of Aliens landing on earth, on their intergalactic quest for knowledge. They would turn to us humans and ask, “What do you eat?” … obviously, they’d speak English! We’d then turn and point out to them that we eat pretty much everything. “Yes, the animals too!” At this point, they run for the hills or beam up to their mothership.

Could Brian switch to a vegan-based diet?

We eat the animals. This sounds a little weird when said out loud right? In its first few years, my own event catering business “Knife of Brian Cookery” had offered a Hog Roast as one of the services. I have sold my roaster recently…. I had to. Making eye contact with a 70lb Pig as I loaded it into my Hog Master Oven left me racked with guilt. It’s unbelievably human-looking eyes felt as if they were looking into my own soul and this chilled me to my core. That was the point I decided that I didn’t want to do Hog Roasts any more.

It didn’t influence my diet. In the words of comedy legend Chris Rock “I’d eat a pigs’ ass if you cooked it right!!” But the events of last summer had started to sow the seeds in my own mind that I should try to make some changes. I know Ethically it makes sense. You don’t have to search too hard on Netflix or YouTube to find a documentary highlighting the malpractices of the meat and dairy industry. Not to forget the shocking statistics raised by cattle farming.

A glimpse of the future

My eldest son, who, now in his twenties, has dived into veganism. This happened a few years ago and my wife and I joked that it would never last. He’s still vegan and loves it. He lives in London now and although more expensive, the food choices are always vast. Especially when it comes to street food, pop-ups and events. I recently visited Brighton. I was there to support friends during the marathon and I took the opportunity to see if I could “go vegan” for the weekend. It was ridiculously simple. I wasn’t checking for isinglass in the beers or wearing Pleather shoes, but I was doing my best to make vegan choices. In a town like Brighton, it was so easy. Every other café, pub or restaurant was totally vegan-friendly. A glimpse of the future maybe?
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Just another food trend?

So, what next? As chefs and food industry professionals, we are on the front line of seeing the food trends and how half-arsed the governments and legislators tackle issues with Sugar, fast food and food labelling. We see the gluten-free tourists who request a specially designed menu, then proceed to gorge on bread rolls anyway because they looked nice. The vegan who eats dairy, milk and fish….and some chicken!

We see the food trends first hand and this time, I think it’s here to stay. It’s not a trend. This is an awakening. A movement. A revolution. I’m not on board yet, but I’m walking the platform. The recent cookbooks which landed on my doorstep recently have been vegan or plant-based. Like I’ve said, I don’t know if I could ever go vegan. I love cheese. I love bacon. I am currently

addicted to Nduja salami. But my overall meat consumption has fallen by 80%. I try to make those meat-free choices when cooking at home or eating out.

Jump on, or be left behind

There are those chefs who’ll stand their ground. With their never say die attitude. Tearing the flesh of a turkey leg like some old-school cartoon character. They sneer and snarl at the mention of a vegan in their restaurant. I was one of those chefs. I’ve even seen the famous anti-vegan Gordon Ramsay tweet about “Giving this vegan thing a try…” It is time for us to move with the times. Jump on, or be left behind.

Getting inspiration

Look on social media. Scroll through the images on Instagram or Chef+ and you’ll see that it’s not all avocado toast and sourdough. A quality chef can filter through the bullshit and discover some new flavour combinations. A new challenge to keep the daily graft more interesting.

Tell me about it

I’d love to hear if you have made similar changes. Would you consider becoming vegan? Are you vegan? How are you finding it in a non-vegan kitchen? I’d really love to know. Thanks for reading!

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Brian Powlett, KnifeofBrian

Knife of Brian

Knife of Brian is head chef at the Greyhound Ipswich and Knife of Brian Cookery & Catering. He supports CALM (campaign against living miserably) male suicide charity and has just finished his first pop up event at the Suffolk Show and would be a gigolo if he wasn't a chef.

For more blogs like this from Knife of Brian visit his website

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 7th June 2018

KnifeofBrian on: Veganism and if he can change from a lifetime of carnivorous behaviour