Chef Ronnen spreads the virtues of vegan cuisine

Tue Dec 15, 2009 3:39pm EST
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By Richard Leong

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Chef Tal Ronnen plays up the virtues of meatless, dairy-free eating and busts the misconception of vegan cuisine in his book, "The Conscious Cook."

The 34-year-old, who was born in Israel and grew in New York, said vegan dishes do not have to be bland. They can be delicious and satisfying when prepared properly.

Ronnen has cooked for celebrities including Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres.

This former meat-eater, who has been a vegan for a dozen years, recently spoke to Reuters about healthy eating and what distinguishes his vegan cooking from others:

Q: Define vegan cuisine.

A: "Vegan food or vegan diet basically means you can eat anything in the world except for animal products, and you are left with so much that adds all the beautiful color on the plate, and all the healthy vegetables and the grains, mushrooms and the dense-protein, meat alternatives. You are left with what traditional cultures eat."

Q: Why did you decide to become a vegan chef?

A: "I became a vegan chef out of the sheer frustration from eating at restaurants and not having great experiences. I was growing up with a family that loved food, and I wanted to learn how to cook. I had already become a vegetarian at a young age. I wanted to create dishes of my youth - rich, hearty dishes restaurants weren't doing."   Continued...

<p>Chef Tal Ronnen is pictured in this undated handout photo. Handout/Larry Goldstein/Reuters</p>