Josef Centeno, who has a Michelin star for Orsa & Winston in Los Angeles, has given one of his menus a partial vegan-friendly revamp. The celebrated chef at Bar Amá—a Tex-Mex restaurant that’s also in Los Angeles—is now using dairy-free and vegan cheese from So Delicious in many of Bar Amá’s most popular dishes.
Currently, Centeno is using vegan cheese in his cheddar almond “queso” and chile relleno, which is a green chile pepper stuffed with dairy-free cheese. While customers can order the chile relleno with chicken, Centeno offers a plant-based soyrizo option as well.
“Cheese is a key ingredient in all of my cooking, but especially at Bar Amá, my Tex-Mex restaurant,” the acclaimed chef said in a statement shared with LIVEKINDLY. “After trying the So Delicious cheese alternatives, I realized that it’s possible to swap traditional cheese out with this delicious plant-based substitute with delicious flavor and texture.”
As Centeno sees it, using vegan cheese in a handful of his dishes makes them more accessible to customers with a variety of dietary requirements and preferences. “Whether guests are dairy-free, vegan, flexitarian, or just enjoy great food, I’m excited to be able to provide them with more to choose from on the menu, knowing that the experience won’t disappoint,” he added.
Centeno was able to experiment and ultimately cook with So Delicious vegan cheese because the brand is offering free 32-ounce bag samples of their product to chefs and foodservice operators. “I encourage other chefs and operators to try out this new line for themselves,” Centeno noted. “You’ll see that you can give your guests more options that still deliver great flavor and texture guests will love.”
Michelin-starred restaurants are embracing plant-based foods
Centeno may be the latest chef with a Michelin star to his name to cook with vegan food, but he is not the first, and certainly won’t be the last. Most notably, 3-star Michelin restaurant Eleven Madison Park made the decision to go (almost) entirely vegan in May. While the renowned New York City restaurant still serves milk and honey with coffee and tea, the food menu consists only of dishes made from plants.
The idea to go plant-based came from the restaurant’s award-winning chef and co-owner Daniel Humm, who has been the executive chef at Eleven Madison Park since 2006. “I’m excited to share that we’ve made the decision to serve a plant-based menu in which we do not use any animal products—every dish is made from vegetables, both from the earth and the sea, as well as fruits, legumes, fungi, grains, and so much more,” Humm said in a statement at the time. “My goal is to create these beautiful dishes, give people beautiful experiences—unexpected, surprising experiences that make you feel satisfied, as a meal with meat would.”
While some critics questioned whether diners would want to shell out $335 on a plant-based tasting menu, Eleven Madison Park currently boasts a 15,000-person waitlist for reservations. The 11-course menu includes dishes such as summer squash with grilled tofu and lemongrass, and roasted eggplant with tomato and coriander.
Believe it or not, Eleven Madison Park is actually the second 3-star Michelin restaurant in the world to serve no meat or seafood. The other plant-based restaurant is King’s Joy in Beijing. Additionally, France got its first Michelin-starred vegan restaurant in January. That eatery, ONA, is helmed by self-taught chef Claire Vallée and features a variety of organic, plant-based dishes made with seasonal and local ingredients.
And last but not least, Michelin-starred chef Alexis Gauthier veganized his renowned restaurant Gauthier Soho in April, removing dishes such as foie gras and risotto from the menu. Gauthier has also opened a plant-based cafe called 123 Vegan (123V) in London that serves meat-free dishes like smashed avocado on toast and chickpea fries.