Vegan and vegetarian groups take issue with lack of plant-based dishes on MasterChef:The Professionals 2021

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

Proponents of plant-based diets have taken issue with the choices made on the BBC's MasterChef: The Professionals 2021 after an analysis by The Guardian found that it featured meat and fish dishes nine times more than vegetarian alternatives.

The Vegetarian Society has said that cooking shows' focus on meat and seafood risks turning them "into dinosaurs” by failing to reflect the shift in Britons' diets to include more plant-based dishes, while The Vegan Society said the programme should look to cast more vegan chefs and alter the challenges to focus more on vegetables.

According to the publication, by the end of the semi-final stage, 10 out of 100 savoury dishes were vegetarian and only two of them vegan, but 37 percent featured red meat, 40 percent contained fish and seafood and 13 percent poultry.

As meat consumption across the UK has fallen drastically in the past decade - by 17 percent between 2009 and 2019, with the number of vegans expected to reach almost 1 million in 2022 - the concern is that programmes like MasterChef are still stuck in a world of classic cookery, where meat, fish and seafood remain the focus of savoury dishes.

This is despite the show having cast a plant-based chef, Gina, and several contestants choosing to prepare vegetarian dishes - as well as the finals challenge whereby the chefs were tasked with preparing a dish using so-called waste items, all of them vegetables.

Chief executive of the Vegetarian society said he was “endlessly frustrated” at the amount of meat and fish dishes on the show, adding: “We have been brought up since Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White on the whole machismo of the kitchen; that there is something about cooking a good steak that is an extension of being a good chef.”

“Are these programmes turning into dinosaurs, not because more people are turning vegetarian and vegan but because many people are cutting out meat, particularly in terms of climate change? Where is that being reflected in the cookery shows?”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Vegan society said: “To see just two vegan savoury dishes on a show like MasterChef is very disappointing in 2021.” 

“Vegan food has never been more accessible, more exciting and easy to work with. We have vegan haggis, vegan eggs, vegan bacon.”

A spokesperson for MasterChef retorted that “there have been vegetarian and vegan dishes set as skills tests in every recent series and the judges have also set plant-based challenges.

"For the rest of the series, the chefs choose their own dishes to best showcase their own unique skillset and in recent years we have seen an increase in plant-orientated food from contestants.”

Meanwhile, CEO of the BMPA Nick Allen said the show was probably aligned with most Britons' diets, as, in a 2018 study, 81 percent of people said they considered themselves to be meat-eaters.

“They probably are reflecting the amount of vegetarians in the country," adding that the portions of meat on the programme were modest and part of dishes showcasing “fantastic vegetables”.

He added: “It’s more interesting watching someone butcher a piece of meat than chopping up a carrot.”

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 17th December 2021

Vegan and vegetarian groups take issue with lack of plant-based dishes on MasterChef:The Professionals 2021