VEGETARIAN MENU INTEGRATION
The challenge in vegetarian menu development is maintaining control of labor and food cost while adding innovation to the menu. This is a formidable task, even for seasoned veteran chefs due to the nature of our trade in that they work with an agrarian product, volatile energy cost and continual increase in labor cost. Any menu change will impact the foodservice operators bottom line. And chefs like to be creative since they are culinary artists. Challenging the chef to keep a lid on his or her creativity in order to maintain a profit is a formidable challenge. Chefs can be too creative adding excessive labor, expensive food inventories and end up losing money.
I became a vegetarian in 1976 and in 1980 developed a vegetarian menu for a national convention for about 700 guests with many more during the ensuing 32 years. The constant complaint was the menus are too labor intense and the ingredients expensive. The chef’s concerns are valid and were an awakening for me to address the challenge with both a culinary and managerial strategy.
The key to developing cost effective vegetarian menus is in merging vegetarianism into existing menus and integrating existing menus into vegetarian cuisine. The American Natural Foods Certified Vegetarian Cook program will teach professional cooks the art of seamless vegetarian menu integration working off a meat based menu. Not every vegetarian dish has to be spin off a meat dish. But they do have to remain within the constraints of the restaurants food and labor cost.
The menu is the “Bible” of the restaurant determining the success or failure of the business. Every component of it must fit together like a puzzle if it is to be successful. As a piece of that puzzle, vegetarian cuisine must seamlessly fit into the menu.