Earlier this year our colleague Freeke Sterckx (Project Manager @BENEO Marketing Communication) was invited to join the Northern European team to visit chef Pieter-Jan Lint in his restaurant, Amaranth. The idea was to taste and develop vegan recipes that highlight the benefits of BENEO’s plant-based portfolio. It resulted in an exchange and many exciting recipes such as The Happy Shepherd and Liberty Cheesecake, and it turned out to be much more than that! Read on if you want to find out about Freeke’s first impression.
When thinking of vegan, the first thing that comes to mind is a hippie-chic lifestyle reigned by men with buns and women with tattoos. Besides the odd festival food truck, I actually have very limited experience with the world of vegan cooking. We all know Quorn and will have a couple of die-hard vegan friends that are so hard to invite to a barbecue. So the moment I got invited to a vegan restaurant, I was happy to hear I would get a taste of the entire menu. I would surely not go home with an empty stomach.
A friendly young chef with a bun welcomed us to this chic establishment by the riverside at the banks of one of Belgium’s most innovative and sparkling towns, Gent. So far, still biased. But then he opens up his cookbook and talks about his experience with ingredients. Vegan is the way, but not the only aim. It is more than a lifestyle. It’s about sustainable and simply good food. I suddenly see a master chef envelop before my eyes with a backpack full of tricks to blow our minds. And so he did.
Whilst talking and watching him cook, we saw a passion arise. With a delicate technical finesse in gastronomy, Chef Pieter-Jan Lint conjured vegan dishes to remember. I sat there with my silver spoon and judging hat, but there could only be flowers. This friendly hipster is a master. Dish after dish came and fulfilled much more than just the promise of taste. We would for sure go home entirely satiated. 12 points for taste and many more for the surprise effect!
The thing is, if you would not have told me I had entered a vegan restaurant, I would have fallen as much in love with the food as any other place and might not even have guessed I had not had any milk or meat. The real vegan has much to go for: creamy spreads, sizzling stews, steaming stir-fries, never-enough-cheesecake, and yes-there-is-still-macchiato.
What started out as a journey to a destination unknown and unloved, turned into an adventure. There is so much good food out there that is also vegan. We now eat at least three meat-free meals per week and I only have rice milk with my cereals. It feels good, so thank you vegan wizard for opening my eyes! I must say I like your vegan style.