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When crafting healthier, more nutritious meals, spring vegetable season presents a host of new offerings to inspire our menus. But elevating vegetables beyond a simple side dish demands a fresher perspective to truly win with diners. So we met up with Chef Amanda Cohen for some pro-tips on creating winning vegetable dishes people won’t just eat, but love.
Amanda is chef and owner of Manhattan’s critically acclaimed 100% vegetable centric restaurant Dirt Candy. As New York’s reigning veggie queen, her insights, techniques and daring approach to vegetable cookery have made her the go-to chef when it comes to getting people to not just eat, but enjoy their vegetables. McCormick Chef Andreas Pias got behind the line with Chef Amanda Cohen to discuss the flavors that drive Dirt Candy, and get to know the chef who has turned both the traditional restaurant menu and people’s expectations upside down.
There are thousands of vegetables that people just don't know how to cook or eat or what to do with. I realized that there really is this moment in time where we can take all these vegetables, rethink what we do with them, and start having fun with them.
When I was starting to think about opening my own restaurant, there were so many meat, chicken and seafood restaurants, but no restaurant dedicated to veggies, especially for center of plate. I decided to put my money where my mouth is. It was time we rethought how we serve vegetables, and how we get people to enjoy vegetables.
I was a vegetarian for 15 years and one day I got bored of all the vegetarian offerings. I thought that I would become a much, much better chef if I can taste what other chefs care about. 15 years ago, that was meat, protein. I started eating those things to understand what flavors consumers were looking for and what was satisfying to them. I then applied this to vegetables to draw in omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans alike. Now, I don’t actually eat that much meat, but I do eat fish. I will try anything at least once.
This is a pretty surprising answer for most people, but it’s an onion. To me, it’s the unsung hero of the kitchen. It’s the backbone of almost every single dish, and people just don’t appreciate it— they genuinely just sort of forget it exists. It is a vegetable, it pretty much creates all the food in a kitchen and it’s delicious!Read more