Gaz Oakley, who spent four years working in restaurant kitchens in Cardiff as a full-time chef, has just released his debut cook book Vegan 100 and praised pub groups for showing diversity on menus, but said there was scope to appeal to vegans.
He said: “Chain pubs like JD Wetherspoon, always seem to have a [vegan] offer but I wouldn’t go to independent pubs to get vegan food.
“It would be nice if more pubs were putting vegan offerings on the menu, but I know it is still early days, and it will eventually happen, especially with the rise of veganism and the way it is growing, more pubs will put vegan offers on their menu in the future.
Oakley started his Instagram page Avant-Garde Vegan in February 2016 and has gone from strength to strength since.
His passion for cooking is family inspired, thanks to his dad putting together meals each night. Oakley told The Morning Advertiser: “I was always interested in cooking when I was a young kid because my dad cooked every night for the family.
“At 16, I left school and became a full-time chef, working in professional kitchens in Cardiff for a few years, learning as much as I could. After about four years of cooking in professional restaurants at such a young age, I was burnt out so left the industry and got a totally different job for a while.
“It wasn’t until I went vegan three years ago that I re-found my passion for cooking and started experimenting in the kitchen. I started uploading pictures of my food to Instagram and that is how Avant-Garde Vegan started.”
Oakley issued advice for pubs that want to expand their vegan food offer and suggested including traditional dishes with a twist.
He said: “[Pubs] definitely need to make sure there are plenty of hearty dishes. I like to ‘veganise’ traditional dishes by recreating meals that not only appeal to vegans but non-vegans too.
“If I was a pub chef, I would make sure there was a really good vegan burger on the menu or a vegan hotdog."
He added: “Include some light salads and ensure there is a variety of different colours and ingredients in there so all the right nutrients are getting into the dishes.”
Simply putting vegan dishes on the menu isn’t quite enough though, according to Oakley. Pubs need to shout about it from the rooftops too.
He added: “[Operators] need to ensure staff are trained properly and chefs understand why people go vegan.
“Lots of vegans worry about cross-contamination in the kitchen so that is something to be aware of too.”