Plant-based cooking is making its way into the highest levels of cooking: Michelin-starred chef Alexis Gauthier has made the rare decision to switch his London restaurant Gauthier Soho to an all-plant-based menu, explaining that he wanted changing offerings and spent many years fine-tuning the brasserie’s new menu.
“There are no animal products in the restaurant, not even in the chef’s pocket,” Gauthier told Big Hospitality. “I am a vegan myself; it would be unethical for me to profit from the sale of dead animals.
The French chef has changed his restaurant’s dining experience to leave behind traditional animal-based dishes despite huge customer pushback. Gauthier was worried about customer reactions, but decided it was best to launch his vegan menu regardless of consumer opinion.
“It was a big problem. I was aware that I would have a fight on my hands; I understand that people feel disappointed,” he said. “But I say ‘trust me, what we cook is as good as it gets.’ Some people are in and some aren’t.”
Before the change, the brasserie offered traditional French cuisine that used large amounts of butter, milk and meat. Once Gauthier himself moved away from animal products, he found it necessary to address this decision in his career. The evening tasting menu will feature experimental plant-based cuisine tailored to the dining experience. The decision marks a significant shift in the way fine dining is viewed, especially from a chef known for his use of conventional animal products.
“We’ve been at it for a number of years and for at least five years all of the most creative effort has gone into vegan dishes,” he continued. “Now there are no animal products in the dishes, and I’m a vegan myself.”
The brewery’s menu change follows the opening of Gauthier’s new vegan cafe in Fenwick’s Mayfair named 123 Vegan. The casual eatery serves vegan burgers, salads, and croissants, giving shoppers a much more accessible entry point to plant-based eating. The menu consists of a California Cheeseburger with a Beyond Meat patty, a Red Yuzu Bowl with watermelon sashimi, and a dark chocolate cake. From Gauthier’s dedication to plant-based cuisine, the French chef will continue to redefine French food, no matter the criticism.
Earlier this year, Origine Non-Animale (ONA) became the first entirely vegan restaurant in France to be awarded the prestigious Michelin star. Founder and chef Claire Vallée’s commitment to avant-garde dishes has changed the French gastronomic scene. The growing acceptance and willingness to experiment with vegan cuisine is spreading, and with chefs like Vallée and Gauthier, it’s likely that more chefs will turn to plant-based cuisine.