Tal Ronnen Veganizes Toronto

Celebrity Chef captivates our city with his Conscious way of eating.

If you had asked me five years ago about attending a workshop focused on vegetarianism, I would have thought twice about it before even considering it. Now a days it would be a hard thing to refuse because, in all honesty, after all the talks regarding animal rights, genetically modified food, mad cow disease and even global warming, not being a vegetarian in the XXI century seems a rather inefficient way of living. There are really no excuses and yet we find ourselves falling into one or more of the following categories:

• We need animal protein to function (false)
• Vegetarian meals are boring (false)
• There is no variety within a vegetarian meal, not to mention veganism (false)
• I cannot live without meat because there is nothing that will replace it (false)

I am guilty of being in all of the above, so I had nothing to lose by going to see what Tal Ronnen had to say. I went with an open mind, not knowing what to expect.

Before the event started, they gave each of the members of the audience one of Chef Ronnen’s recipes (courtesy of Chef Douglas McNish, head of Toronto’s Raw Aura organic and raw food restaurant): Celery root soup with Granny Smith Apples and chive oil. That was absolutely DELICIOUS! I found out later on that this is Oprah’s favourite soup and now I can see why. The soup was very rich (without being extravagant) and the apples gave it a nice contrast. The dish was a full experience: appearance, variety of flavours, texture and colour. After this treat, he got my full attention.

Chef Ronnen explained the importance of being a vegetarian in the XXI century and how conscious eating can have a tremendous positive impact, not only on each individual but also on a larger scale. Armed with facts, Chef Ronnen illustrated how a carnivore consumes over four times the resources a vegetarian does and over eight times those the vegans use. By resources, he meant water, animal treatment, maintenance, soil cultivation, processing factories and many other things that go hand to hand with the production of meat. In other words, if we all suddenly became vegetarians, there would be enough resources available to significantly diminish world hunger; not to mention that we would be making a great contribution towards decreasing global warming. In other words, being a vegetarian makes sense! End of the story.

To a carnivore like yours truly, it would be very hard to simply give up meat all of a sudden. This is where everything gets more interesting… There are tasty alternatives that will make the transition VERY smooth! Chef Ronnen himself has been working to promote a product branded under the name of Gardein, which features a complete line of delicious meat-free products made from a variety of alternative protein sources such as organic ancient grain flour (kamut®, amaranth, millet, quinoa). According to Chef Ronnen, the secret success behind this new line is that unlike previous vegetarian lines, which are made out of processed soy and taste like rubber, Gardein’s products take on the flavour of the spices you prepare them with. This product has been featured in shows such as Hell’s Kitchen and Oprah and is now being used in over 30 restaurants in the United States. Gardein’s line is perfect for the conscious eater who doesn’t quite have the heart to give up meat but still wants to give vegetarianism a try.

If you are still sceptical about finding a variety of options within the vegetable world, you should most definitely check out Tal Ronnen’s book The Conscious Cook, which not only will provide you with endless combinations to make every meal an unforgettable experience, but it will also introduce you to the world of Vegetarian and Vegan options which are both tasty and healthy. As Chef Ronnen tries to recreate some of which used to be his favourite dishes as he was growing up (not vegetarian, by the way), he offers new approaches by substituting the meat products for other interesting ingredients making them solely vegetarian, without forgetting the importance of texture and flavour. The Conscious Cook is the first full-colour vegan book to make it into the list of the New York Times’ Best Sellers. Before this book was released, vegetarianism was not taken very seriously. Chef Ronnen has created a cooking revolution, which he hopes will be adopted by the conscious eaters from all corners of the world.

Right after hearing his message, I seriously thought of becoming a vegetarian. Even though I am still pondering about it, who knows, maybe I will join the thousands of people that have given up meat for good, or maybe I am not yet ready to take such a serious step. The only thing I can say for sure is that in the meantime I will be searching for the complete line of Gardein products and try to teach my palate that vegetables can also be fun .


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  1. I have his cook book. Some very interesting and inspiring recipes.

    Posted by Debra | December 30, 2010, 3:43 pm
    • So far I have only recreated the Celery root soup. Not only is it easy to make, it is also quick and really delicious!
      I am certainly looking forward to try many more of his tasty suggestions very soon 🙂

      Posted by Andbrice | January 1, 2011, 4:04 pm