Vegan cooking, with its new-found popularity, has formed the diet-regime of the health-conscious. To take this further, Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach, the picturesque beach-property hosted an exclusive Vegan Masterclass with Chef Sebastien Kardinal, a prominent activist and culinary expert from France, who promotes veganism on the global food scene. During his India tour, Chef Kardinal hosted various experiences at Novotel properties in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Kolkata and New Delhi to showcase unique gastronomical skills.
The cheerful and dapper Chef Kardinal demonstrated bourguignon (a kind of stew) and scrambled eggs (without eggs) with mushroom and also showed ways to adapt French and international delicacies to their vegan versions with the ease of his expertise.
At his Masterclass, guests were thrilled as he shared the secrets to great vegan cooking – of how soya and plant proteins can replace meat. An array of delectable dishes like blanquette and vegan burger were a part of his vegan menu.
What influenced you to become vegan?
I became a vegetarian at the age of 14. My reason was simple: I didn't like meat or fish. So turning vegetarian was a personal choice, a matter of taste. But later many problems were roused by my vegetarian diet that I thought was perfect. I realised that the majority of my health problems came from the consumption of dairy products and eggs. That the milk and meat industry are closely linked, causing appalling suffering to animals. So when I understood that animal production is the most polluting, even more than cars.... I decided to act at my level. And the easiest way is to stop consuming these products completely and adopt veganism.
The food you grew up with?
It was mainly classic French cuisine, but also international cuisine and even a little bit of fast food. I was fortunate to have access to a wide range of tastes and products at a very young age. I am thankful to this culinary education based on curiosity that my palate was formed.
How has your concept of veganism been received globally?
Not so long ago, veganism was seen as being radical or at least as a way of distinguishing oneself from others. There was a lot of mockery and even more rejection. But now, time has changed, people are more concerned about their health and the environment at the same time. We see much more curiosity, benevolence and even admiration sometimes, it's moving in the right direction.
Ingredients you love cooking with…
All plant-based proteins. It’s so much fun to reproduce traditional dishes and convert them into the vegan fare. This is clearly what we prefer to do. At Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach, dishes like Basquaise and Shepherd's pie, Blanquette Old and Stuffed Tomatoes were prepared by using the interesting spices to bring flavours and colours to the dishes.
Your favourite international food destination?
I have been to many international places but my favourite till date is Berlin, Germany. Veganism is very developed there and one can get a wide range of cuisine from all over the world, often with generous portions at a very affordable price. And as a bonus, the city has an interesting cultural aspect to showcase.
Your non-food interests?
I have a long list of things I don’t like. It starts with what I drink; I am really passionate about speciality coffee and the art of tea. Otherwise, I am very interested in new technologies in general.
Food and France?
In France we have a cultural approach to food that goes far beyond the simple vital function of eating. We don't just put fuel to run the machine, there is a huge part related to pleasure, to sharing and conviviality. Of course it would be wrong to say that all French people are great gastronomes, but it is nevertheless an important part of our way of life.
Your kitchen hacks...
Use vegetable broth instead of salted water for cooking.
Add a touch of Umami flavour with miso paste and soy sauce.
Whenever possible, save time by using quality frozen vegetables.
Don’t hesitate to use meat substitutes to reproduce classic dishes you love.
Always have a can of chickpeas in the cupboar so you can make a good hummus in an emergency.