Progressive Grocer

Grocerant February 2017

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33 SOLUTIONS FEBRUARY 2017 Vegetarian, flexitarian, veggie-centric: Call the cuisine what you will, but vegetables were the culinary stars of 2016. And by all predictions, 2017 will continue to see vegetables ascend. An- drea Norby, head chef at Purple Carrot, shared her insights about what has made the Boston-based vegan meal kit company one of the leading lights in a crowded market. Who are your customers—are they typically 100 percent vegetarian, more flexitari- an or "other"? Andrea Norby: We have a good mix of hardcore vegans and people that are really just trying to better themselves and the planet by eating plant-based a few times a week. What has changed in terms of consumer tastes, behavior and food choices to make plant-based eating more popular? AN: ere's so much more awareness out there now with all of the great food literature and the social media explo- sion—blogging and Instagram—much of it highlighting how certain foods can positively affect you. Be it weight loss or overall health or better productivity, mental clarity, more people are looking at food as fuel. Farmers markets [and] farm to table have exploded. How can chefs build on this momentum and turn more people on to vegetables and eating more plant-based foods more often? AN: First and foremost, the food has to be delicious, but we also have to tell a story. Why is this produce special? Where's it coming from? What good are you doing by eating this? How is it benefiting you? As chefs, it's also important that we show that plant- based eating can be easy and [that we] highlight seasonality. Some specific produce items have become really popular in the past couple of years—kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts. Any insights on why certain veggie ingredients grab atten- tion and become on-trend and why others don't? AN: As mainstream cooking became more creative and people began experimenting with treating vegetables differently (not just roasting or steaming), some of the underdogs came to light. For example, kale chips are absolutely delicious and a more appealing way to eat kale for a mainstream audience. Cooking techniques have also raised the bar on how people regard vegetables. What are some of your favorite techniques, and how do these techniques help bring out the best in produce? AN: I absolutely love charring. Most vegetables really take to high-heat cooking methods, as it allows you to get a bit of caramelization without sacrificing that crunch. Charring scallions is one of my favorite riffs on that. Add them to salads and vinaigrettes, eat them on avocado toast—so good! — Kathy Hayden Planting the seeds for more veggie dishes Chef Q&A: Mapo tofu with steamed bok choy and jasmine rice Fabcakes with collard slaw and Old Bay aioli Purple Carrot head chef Andrea Norby

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