The rise of herbal catering | Food + Drink
When Tanya Holland started planning the menu for her new Town Fare restaurant, the Oakland chef felt she had an obligation to consider her options with extra care.
It wasn’t just about satisfying a guest’s taste buds, she says. It was about a sense of responsibility to the world at large.
“If there is a philosophy [to the restaurantâs menu]is that I have to contribute to the fight against climate change, âsays Holland. “It’s knowing that we need to eat more plant-based foods and also knowing that there are more people trying to do the same.”
She calls Town Fare, which opened at the Oakland Museum in California in June, a âcutting edge vegetableâ. This means that while its menu isn’t meatless, the emphasis is on fresh produce, with options like mushroom toast, a roasted beet salad, and a veggie muffuletta.
Holland is acclaimed for Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, as well as season 15 of Excellent chef. Now she sees Town Fare as a chance to expand her repertoire.
âI knew this would give me an opportunity,â she says. âIt’s all about taste and flavor.
Customers responded positively, which does not surprise her. Residents of East Bay have a history of devotion to the healing arts and health conscious foods.
âThey are adventurous; they’re really open to it, âsays Holland.
These diners are also part of a growing movement, both locally and globally.
These days, eating without animals is mostly common. And whether you call it ‘vegan’ or prefer the modern ‘plant-based’ rebranding, the East Bay has become an epicenter with top quality restaurants, including Town Fare and Millennium, which have relocated. from San Francisco to Rockridge in 2015. There are also casual spots, such as Berkeley’s Butcher’s Son deli and Oakland’s Vegan Mob barbecue restaurant.
Even more options are on the way. National vegetarian chain Sweetgreen will soon be opening in Walnut Creek, and Sliver Pizzeria, popular with Oakland and Berkeley diners for its daily vegetarian pie, is set to expand to Danville.
The East Bay is also home to several plant-based food companies. Hodo Soy, which makes tofu products, and Impossible Foods, known for its soy and potato burgers, both have facilities in Oakland. (Gott’s Roadside, with an outlet in Walnut Creek, recently added the latter’s new Impossible Chicken Nuggets to its menu). Grocery stores sell many regional items, as well as national brands like Beyond Meat and Omnipork (vegan pork products).
Public demand for more choice is high, fueled by concerns about health, ethics and climate change. It’s also not an all-or-nothing trend. Plant-based options are popular with vegetarians (those who still eat cheese and dairy products) and carnivores. According to a 2021 study by Nielsen IQ, a global measurement and data analytics company, over 52% of U.S. consumers eat more plant-based foods, even if they don’t give up meat altogether. .
Chef Catherine Bergen says she knew it was time to launch a vegan menu at her trio of C Casa taquerias, which includes locations in San Ramon and Emeryville, after repeated requests from customers. âIt was about listening to the customer,â she says.
She’s carefully considered how best to adapt dishes inspired by her travels to Baja, items that include greens and fresh, regionally sourced fruits and vegetables. Now diners can enjoy old-fashioned potato tacos, a seven-layered dip, and nachos with dairy-free Parmesan and aioli.
âI didn’t want it to be just a nod to vegans,â says Bergen. âWe wanted to create dishes that mimic the flavor profiles of other dishes, only plant-based. “
For GW Chew, the mastermind behind Vallejo-based Something Better Foods, food is more than what satisfies our cravings; it is history and tradition.
âFood is culture,â he says.
This means that his company’s Better Chew product line, which includes plant-based fried chicken, grated steak, and fish made from soybeans and other plant-based proteins, must satisfy his toughest customer: his father. , an avid carnivore.
Chew, known professionally as Chef Chew, has no formal culinary training, but has spent years studying cookbooks and family recipes to create vegan versions of Southern Soul comfort food. with whom he grew up in Maryland. He had vegan restaurants in Arkansas before moving to Oakland, where he ran the Veg Hub, a bistro, and a food education center.
Chew says his desire to eat plant-based foods is rooted in seeing loved ones struggle or die from diseases such as diabetes and heart disease that are often linked to lifestyle.
Vegan since 2001, he always works to improve the taste and texture of his products. âIt’s the mouth feel, it’s the texture, it’s the familiar flavors,â he says.
Now, although Chew is no longer involved with the Veg Hub, he still has a local presence. Its Better Chew products are stocked in area grocery stores, including Whole Foods. They are also the centerpiece of its new Better Chew School Lunch Program, which provides 150 lunches per week at Pleasant Hill Adventist Academy in Pleasant Hill.
For Chew, this is an opportunity to approach many issues in a holistic way.
âWe are in a health crisis, especially with the pandemic, and then there is the climate change crisisâ¦ everything is interconnected,â he says. âI wanted to make good food to bring something better to my community. “
You can’t force people to change long-standing habits, especially those based on family tradition or nostalgia, he adds. Instead, Chew says his approach is rooted in love.
“It’s about educating people and also about creating this food that tastes amazing.”