(Updated July 21, 2020) | Zac Efron’s new Netflix series “Down to Earth” is all about finding solutions to the climate crisis. Along the way, he shares his love for plant-based food.
In the new show, the former “High School Musical” star travels the world with wellness expert Darin Olien learning about sustainability in different cultures.
He says in the trailer that, during the series, the pair “investigate the ways people are taking action toward a sustainable future.” He adds: “We’re trying to find some new perspectives on some very old problems.”
Olien and Efron travel to a number of different countries, including Iceland, Costa Rica, Sardinia, and Peru. “We need to start rethinking how we consume everything,” continues Efron. “From our food to our power.”
‘I Love to Eat Plant-Based’
In episode seven, Efron visits London to learn about the ways England is slashing pollution, such as reducing the number of cars in the city and creating green roofs and walls. He also visits Deliciously Ella, a vegan deli in London.
Founder and cookbook author Ella Mills shared her philosophy while walking down the street. “I do believe that the world needs more plant-based foods and the only way it’s gonna happen is by making it more mainstream, more appealing,” she said.
“That’s what prevented me from starting,” Efron replied. “Like, honestly, it was just that the food didn’t seem good to me.”
In Mills’ test kitchen, they cooked a sweet potato and butternut squash curry.
“First-time vegan eating is easier to do with familiar flavors,” said Efron. “I love to eat plant-based, and I prefer Indian and Thai curries, just like the one she’s made.”
“This curry really busts down any myth that a plant-based diet can’t have flavor,” he added. “I can see why you have such a following. This would immediately convert me.”
Efron, Mills, and Olien visit Aulis, the developmental kitchen of two-star Michelin chef Simon Rogan. While not a vegetarian establishment, Rogan serves the trio a meal featuring a millet and cauliflower croquette with black garlic emulsion and a mushroom chip made with mushrooms from Simon’s own grow house.
“Simon bases his menu on seasonality,” said Efron. “It’s not about forcing ingredients, but rather serving what’s growing at the time. The concept is to let nature dictate what’s for dinner.”
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‘It’s delicious… this would immediately convert me’ 🙏🏼🌱🥰 Thanks Zac Efron! Plant-based food winning 🥳 Here’s the recipe we made on the show for those asking: – 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks no bigger than 2.5cm – 1⁄2 butternut squash, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks (no bigger than 2.5cm) – 3 tablespoons coconut oil – 1⁄2 teaspoon ground turmeric – 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon – 1⁄2 teaspoon chilli powder – 1 teaspoon medium curry powder – 2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced – 1 teaspoon cumin seeds – 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds – 1 large red onion, finely sliced – 3 garlic cloves, finely sliced – 2 green chillies, deseeded and chopped – 1 ×400g tin of coconut milk – 1 tablespoon coconut sugar or maple syrup – Juice of 1⁄2 lime – 100g baby spinach – salt Method 1. Preheat the oven to fan 200C. 2. Place the sweet potato and butternut squash in a baking tray with a pinch of salt, 2 tablespoons of the coconut oil, the turmeric, cinnamon, chilli powder and curry powder. Roast in the oven for 30–35 minutes, until soft, adding the sliced pepper for the last 10 minutes. Once ready, remove and leave to one side. 3. Meanwhile, place a heavy-based pan over a medium heat and the remaining coconut oil. Once hot, add the cumin seeds and black mustard seeds and cook for 30 seconds, until they begin to pop. 4. Add the red onion, garlic and chilli and cook for another 5 minutes before adding the coconut milk and coconut sugar. Cook for a further 15 minutes, adding the lime juice during the last 5 minutes. 5. Add the roasted squash, sweet potatoes and peppers and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring continuously to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. 6. Finally, stir through the spinach and leave to wilt before serving.
‘I Realize How Important It Is to Take Care of Our Planet’
Efron enjoys exploring and getting off the grid. In a YouTube video last year, called “Off the Grid With Zac Efron,” he said: “getting out and experiencing the wild, stepping out of your comfort zone. It’s cool, it helps you grow as a person.”
He’s also passionate about environmental issues. Earlier this year, for Earth Day, he hosted the Discovery Channel’s “Great Global Cleanup.” The show focused on young climate activists and how they’re helping to clean up the planet.
In an Instagram post on Earth Day, he wrote: “I have always been in awe of the magic and mystery of Mother Nature. Exploring the unknown has always been a true passion in my life.”
He added: “now, more than ever, I realize how important it is to take care of our planet, our people, and every living thing we share it with.”
Efron isn’t vegan now, but he has experimented with a plant-based diet in the past for health reasons.
He told Teen Vogue in 2018 that eating vegan food “completely changed” the way his body works. He said: “it’s been brilliant. It’s been great for my exercise, and great for my routine.”
He added that staying fit and active as he gets older is important to him. “I think that I want to be able to do what I’m capable of now when I’m 50, 60, 70, years old,” he explained. “Like my great-grandfather.”
“Down to Earth” will be available to watch on Netflix from July 10.