Mark Richardson, who has run the kitchen of the exclusively vegetarian Prince George in Brighton for the past five years, said he’d previously worked in places where chefs have ‘cursed’ requests to make vegetarian dishes.
The industry stigma attached to meat-free menus is, he believes, partly the fault of cooks.
“They see vegetables as merely a garnish to meat and as opposed to the star of the show,” Richardson, told the PMA. “I don’t know how you break that cycle.”
His comments come on the back of recent research which revealed that food operators are not doing enough to cater for vegetarian customers at Christmas.
The study, commissioned by Vegetarian Express, reported that 54% of people were unimpressed by non-meat festive menus.
The Prince George’s biggest seller is ginger beer battered halloumi, chips, mushy peas, salad and tartare sauce.
Other dishes include sweet potato and coconut dahl and rice and baked flat mushroom with a leek and cheddar nut roast all priced under £10.
“We have a moussaka version where we use a rich tomato sauce with aubergine and green lentils instead of mince,” he said. “Vegetables are fantastic. [The trick is to] keep it as simple as possible.”
Richardson, who himself turned vegetarian three years ago, admits he is fortunate having a ready-made ‘niche’ market on his doorstep, but reaps satisfaction by converting those who ordinarily shun meat-free food.
“The biggest triumph is when blokes come in with their wives and don’t want to [be here],” he said. They’re usually resistant but go away very happy. That’s when you can make a difference.”