Forget lentils and tofu. Vegetarian cooking is enjoying a makeover,
prompting meat-eaters to put down their steak knives. New green
cuisine is tapping into the rise of the "flexitarian", the occasional
vegetarian who is helping their waistline and the planet by eating
A new crop of vegetarian restaurants is springing up, catering to
rising demand for meat-free dining options. Even established
restaurateurs, such as Aldo Zilli, are jumping on the bandwagon: Zilli
is considering axing meat from one of his London eateries to cash in
on the new trend. He is even mulling rechristening one of them Zilli
Green. And other chefs, including Oliver Peyton, are increasing the
number of meat-free choices on their existing menus.
From Sir Paul McCartney, who wants us all to eschew meat on Mondays,
to Lydia Guevara – granddaughter of the revolutionary Che – who is
starring in a new anti-meat campaign for Peta, there is no shortage of
high-profile figures banging the vegetarian drum. This is boosting
sales of meat-free foods in supermarkets as shoppers swap minced meat
for substitutes such as Quorn. The meat-free market was worth £739m
last year, up by a fifth in the last five years and is forecast to
enjoy similar growth until at least 2013, according to research by
Vegetarian food is no longer the crunchy preserve of a small minority
but is hitting the mainstream. A recent poll for the Food Development
Association showed that 86 per cent of Brits eat non-meat meals once
or twice a week, forcing restaurants to follow suit.
"Historically, chefs haven't liked vegetarians but that is changing.
Younger chefs particularly understand the need for vegetarian food,"
said Peyton, who owns several restaurants in London. "So many more
people want vegetarian food these days and it's my job to cater for
them." His restaurants, which include Inn the Park, in St James's
Park, now offer up to three meat-free alternatives per course, he
said. He is one of a band of chefs, including the IoS's Skye Gyngell,
who is backing Sir Paul's "Meat Free Monday" drive, which wants people
to cut out meat to help slow climate change since livestock production
pumps more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere than
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