While vegetable-based entrees have been gaining traction in recent years on menus long-dominated by meat and fish, it's still unusual to find them as the main attraction. For French chef Bruno Loubet, giving vegetables more than equal billing was the big motivation behind opening his restaurant Grain Store in 2013, a decision as much based on the health of the planet and his customers as it was on flavor.
"It's also about sustainability," Loubet told the Guardian. "I am trying to make my chefs at the new place understand the whys and whats. I don't want them just to do a job. I want them to know that it takes seven kilos of grain to make a kilo of beef. I want them to know what raising meat does to the environment."
After Grain Store won the 2014 London Restaurant of the Year at the Sustainable Restaurant Awards, Loubet told the UK Telegraph that he'll soon begin phasing beef off the menu altogether. "If I didn't, I would be untrue to everything," he said. "I have not eaten beef for three months. I do eat it if I am in the restaurant somewhere. I am not vegetarian or vegan but I eat much less meat."
At Grain Store, meat plays second fiddle to vegetables, and yes, even edible flowers. (Photo: J.Lovekin/Grain Store)
Loubet, who is a Michelin-starred chef well-accustomed to cooking meat, says his restaurant's philosophy aligns with his eating habits as a child. His family always ate vegetables and very rarely any meat. He also believes it's a trend that will one day be embraced by all chefs, lest future generations be left with the consequences.
"I do say to people, if nobody does anything now, your grandchildren will not live the way you live," he said. "It sounds like a dark picture, but it is a reality that not many people want to face. We will arrive at a point where some people don't have enough water because of climate change."
Loubet's future predictions reflect recent recommendations by the United Nations, which cited farmland for meat production as a serious concern.
"One of our key challenges is overusing agricultural land for growing meat,” said report lead author Robert Howarth of Cornell University. "We don’t need to become complete vegetarians, but to put this into context and to help sustain feeding a burgeoning global population, we need to reduce our meat consumption by 60 percent — which is about 1940s-era levels."
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