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Help with some creativity

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Please see the thread http://www.cheftalk.com/forums/showthread.php?t=19494 for details.

Each month, I attend a catered lunch. I am vegetarian. Each month, the food is awful. I got a very nice note from the manager of the facility saying that they were going to really try for this month's lunch. What did I get? Same old, same old, bland and plain.

So, does anyone have any suggestions for what a professional chef could provide for his vegetarian customer? There are usually a couple of us at each group of 25 or so people. I have a feeling that my own suggestions proved too challenging for him, so I got the same old thing.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.
post #2 of 15
I'll be perfectly honest with you. Working in professional kitchens, I always hated when someone ordered something vegetarian or diet-related or whatever deviated from the menu simply b/c it was a major hassle. I wouldn't be surprised if this chef did it on purpose to discourage you. Not to say that you shouldn't be served properly. Its really a shame that there aren't enough vegetarian options other than the famous grilled vegetables or pasta with butter.

I love nothing more than a bloody piece of beef, but I spent 10 days in India and ate 99% vegan. I loved every minute of it. I would even consider being vegetarian if the options here were better and if I knew how to cook good Indian food. They are for me, the vegetarian masters. But I don't think your chef will cook Indian food somehow.

Anyway, the most obvious thought to my mind is portobello mushroom. That thing eats like a meal and is so versatile. I would marinade it in some olive oil, balsamic, garlic and herbs, roast it, slice it, and serve it on a bed of baby arugula with a nice little portion of some grilled squashes and roasted peppers. 1 2 3. Or even just a vegetarian risotto can be really lovely. Or polenta with some vegetables? So much easier than roasting a leg of lamb for the carnivorous majority.

Its bull if that kitchen can't or won't handle the work. A group of 25 people is not a banquet, its a large table. I used to make 80 plates by myself with 20 or so veg plates, and it was so easy. Dang, there's just no excuse for this chef, I mean there are vegetarian tasting menus out there for god's sake!!! This is the business, vegetarians are our customers too!!
post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the input, Entropy. I have offered to bring my own food or to simply attend the meetings without paying or eating at all. I can always eat lunch before or after. Also, if the place did not have a restaurant and it were only catering, then I also wouldn't fuss about it. They have specifically asked for my suggestions and have said they want to make it right. I have to go every month to these meetings and have been doing so for almost a decade. The previous chef (from 2 years ago) did much better, usually serving cheese raviolis with some sort of sauce. This one did butternut raviolis for everyone once, but put chicken stock in them.

Btw, there used to be three other vegetarians, but they have given up coming to the meetings, preferring to enjoy their lunch and pick attendees' brains post-meeting. Today, there was someone with a seafood allergy and seafood was served. She had asked for the vegetarian meal too and was disappointed. The chef has a full month's notice to prepare and a restaurant to boot.
post #4 of 15
I just remembered two other ideas, they could do a really good quiche, with artichokes, shiitakes, sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli, cheese.... Its too easy, make them a day before and slice them and heat them before serving. If you are more strict, you can always eat a veg tart too, those are so delicious. a tart shell, brushed with grain and yellow mustard, a layer of caramelized onions, then layer slices of plum tomato, yellow squash, green squash and japanese eggplant.

you've seriously inspired me. I'm making vegetarian tonight. and you shouldn't let that chef get away with his antics, I would write a letter to his boss.
post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 
To give you an idea of the size of the place:

2,100 events per year.
12,000 square feet of function space
groups from 5 to 1,800 persons
post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 
Oh boy, Entropy, that's a fantastic idea! Quiche! Carmelized onions! I'm actually getting hungry thinking about it.
post #7 of 15
I've actually been more impressed with the vegetarian options at most corporate style dinners serving over a hundred.

At the very least, the vegetarian plate often has a nice flavor and texture when cold as opposed to the beef or chicken. Andy they always arrive cold.

Really, I don't think you're missing out compared to the meat eaters meals at those sort of events. Unless the kitchen is far better than the few I've eaten at on that scale.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 
Phatch, what the meat-eaters get looks just fantastic, very vertical, if you know what I mean. And they make me pay $40 for the meal.
post #9 of 15

help with creativity

Oriental food with soy, stuff peppers or cabbage with tvp, eggplant, I have many. I make all my own veggie food all the time and I work on a cattle ranch. Too many chefs have not been a vegitarian so the do not know how to cook for you.
post #10 of 15
This kitchen is a disgrace!

OK - here are a few:

- Traditional French tarte a l'oignon (shortcrust onion tart filled with golden caramelised onions bound with egg)
- Puff pastry vol-au-vent case filled with -- anything: ratatouille with chunks of courgette and brinjal; mushrooms in cream and Madeira sauce; chilli made with mushrooms instead of beef; goat's cheese, pesto and cherry tomatoes; spiced Thai vegetables; mushroom and avocado
- Avocado or mushroom or feta cheese and herbs or brie and cranberry or spinach and ricotta: either in ravioli or baked in a filo pastry parcel
- Potato rosti sandwich filled with Roquefort and spring onion

I love Entropy's idea of a risotto - even a plain risotto (made with veg stock) with Parmesan can be a delight.

In the UK in the past I've been used to getting vegetable lasagne everywhere, but things have changed in the last 5 years and vegetarian choices, even in mainstream kitchens, are becoming much more adventurous.
post #11 of 15
At least if they want easy they can serve you some butternut squash ravioli or something else in a package. Cripes, I'd be embarassed to serve the stuff they serve.

Lesseeee... for a place like "that" maybe

Gnocchi with all kinds of mushrooms.

Rice and lentil salad with marinated grilled tofu and tomato "confit."

Vegetarian Tom Yum with grilled garlic bread.

Veggie Mousakka

Of course, veggie biryani

All easy stuff
post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thank goodness I brought in marzipan for breakfast because I'm getting hungry already. You all have been giving great suggestions.

Btw, I'm not even requesting something difficult, imho. We were once served a chef's salad. I would have been happy if they replace the ham with grated carrot for me. They serve mashed potatoes with meat and I would be happy with extra mashed potatoes (unless there is some secret meat ingredient to the mashed potatoes like there was in the butternut squash).

The other thing that puzzles me is that this is supposedly a 5-star place... vertical food, impressive resumé, and chef's name all over the place.

So I have another meeting today at which they feed me a lunch. This is done by a low-down ;) , fast food type of place... a sandwich shop. They make me a sandwich that is so delicious that I look forward to having the same thing each and every time. Whole wheat, cream cheese, carrot, spinach, cucumber and generally some other goodies that have been hanging about the place.

One of the most delicious, simple meals I've ever had was at a roadside stand in rural El Salvador. Pupusas made with cheese and pickled cabbage and carrot.
post #13 of 15
This week I made:
Farmer French Onion v
Lemon pepper lentil v
Hungarian Mushroom
Tomato Pesto
Curried split pea v
Cream of Blue Hubbard
Spicy corn and bean v
Hot Food:
Southwestern style black bean melt.
Pesto and artichoke sandwich with Maytag blue.
Cippolini dip.
Baba Ganouj v
Spinach with smoked tofu streudel v
v = vegan.

Along with the usual menu items. And the 60% of the rest of our menu that is appropriately animal strewn.
And we are not even a vegetarian restaurant....
Its what happens when you have a place run by a bunch of cooks!
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
post #14 of 15
The "chef" of that establishment should be embarrassed, he is obviously is not passion driven. I am not a vegetarian, I am a foodetarian (I eat anything), but I enjoy the challenge of vegetarian entrees and providing something other than the ubiquitous stir fry. A couple of quick and easy examples of dishes that could be produced in most kitchens on the spur of the moment with ordinary items usually on hand, or at least with slight variations, would be:
Churrasco of Portobello Mushrooms a vegetarian take on the national beef dish of Nicaragua, a Portobello Mushroom marinated with Chimichurri, grilled, thinly sliced and topped with Pico de Gallo
Grilled Eggplant Stacks slices of eggplant layered with vine ripened Tomatoes and Mozzarella and topped with a Portobello Mushroom Sauce
Stuffed Zucchini Zucchini filled with grilled Tomato Concasse, toasted Pine Nuts, and Chevre served on a bed of Arugula and Watercress and topped with a roasted Corn Vinaigrette
Farmers Market Tomatoes local vine ripened Tomatoes stuffed with Kolhrabi, Pecans, Feta, Golden Raisins, and Napa Cabbage, then baked and topped with a Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette
Grilled Portobello Cap a Portobello Mushroom cap grilled, topped with oven roasted Cauliflower, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Ricotta Cheese, and Garlic Breadcrumbs; and served with a toasted Walnut Sauce
Stuffed Jonagold Apples, stuffed with Oyster Mushrooms and Mustard Greens, baked in a hot oven and topped with an Apple Cider Sauce

with a months notice more adventurous examples would be:
Gujrati Dhal Roulade an East Indian Vegetable Stew of Eggplant, Tomato, Carrots, Zucchini, and Cauliflower, seasoned with Cumin and Brown Mustard Seeds, rolled up in an Egg Soufflé and topped with a spicy Yellow Split Pea Paste, and drizzled with a Spinach Cardamom Sauce
Turkish Eggplant and Lentil Stew with Pomegranate Molasses a slowly simmered stew of Eggplant, Lentils, Onions, Tomatoes, and Anaheim Chiles, seasoned with Mint and Red Pepper Flakes, and drizzled with Pomegranate Molasses
Tandoori Zucchini, split Zucchini brushed with a spicy marinade, from the Punjab region, of Chile Masala Yogurt, sealed with Ghee, then baked in a hot, hot oven, served on a bed of Moong Dahl, drizzled with a spicy Yogurt Sauce and topped with Tarka, fried Onions, Tomatoes, Chiles, and Mustard Seeds
Grilled Stuffed Onion Red Onion marinated with Orange Juice and Molasses, then grilled and stuffed with Apples, Walnuts, Ricotta, Swiss Chard, and Beet Greens, baked and topped with a roasted Beet Vinaigrette
Kenyan Vegetable Curry an African Vegetable Curry with Potatoes, Green Beans, Green Peas, Cauliflower, and Collard Greens served on top of Black Eyed Pea Pancakes
Stuffed Zucchini stuffed with Corn, Shiitakes, and Swiss Chard with a White Miso Chevre Sauce
Pharaoh's Pyramids an Eggplant pyramid filled with three Onion Couscous. on a bed of Sun Dried Tomato Hummous Sauce and surrounded by roasted Cauliflower tossed with Dates and Pine Nuts
Moroccan Inspired Couscous Lasagna Zucchini, Cauliflower, Eggplant, and Tomatoes simmered in Charmoula and layered with Preserved Lemon Couscous and Fontina Cheese in the manner of Lasagna and baked in a hot oven, then topped with a Cumin scented Tomato Sauce
Awendaw Stacks a Native American Cornbread, grilled, layered with grilled Portobello slices and braised Greens, topped with another slice of Awendaw and smothered with a Vegetarian Brown Sauce
Grilled Eggplant Bread Pudding a hearty custard of Sourdough, grilled Eggplant, Mozzarella, and fresh Basil, baked and topped with a roasted Red Bell Pepper Sauce
Grilled Vegetable Sachets grilled Corn, oven roasted Cauliflower, grilled Jicama, Red Bell Peppers, and Spinach seasoned with toasted Cardamom, Fenugreek, and Cumin, sealed up in an Egg Wrapper, grilled, with a grilled Sweet Corn Sauce
Tea Crusted Tofu and a trio of Greens Tofu seasoned with Green Tea sautéed with Asian Pear Apples, Radishes, Cherry Tomatoes, Enokii Mushrooms and served on a bed of pan seared Bok Choy, Dandelion, and Beet Greens
the possibilities are endless
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 
Wow, all of that sounds fantastic. Thanks for the suggestions. I'll forward them along in an abbreviated list because he asked for some suggestions.

Just to prove that I'm not unwilling to accomodate the odd, I had to "bake" a cake for someone who is gluten-intolerant this weekend. I made a layer of chocolate mousse and a layer of blackberry mousse separated by meringue. Put it all in a springform pan to form it and, as a finish, sprinkled it with chocolate curls. Hopefully none of the ingredients have gluten because I really have no clue about that sort of thing.
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