Tom Moran, corporate executive chef at Nestlé Professional, is passionate about cooking plant-based foods without sacrificing flavor.
Plant-based food options are one of the year’s hottest menu trends, according to a 2018 Nielsen Homescan survey, which found that 39% of Americans were actively trying to eat more plant-based foods. Sales of plant-based alternatives, for examle, grew 17% over the past year, but overall U.S. food sales rose only 2%.
“Today’s consumer demands delicious, craveable food wherever they are, whatever time of day, sit down, or grab and go,” Tom Moran, corporate executive chef for Nestlé Professional, said in an interview with FastCasual. “The challenge is to offer a variety of plant-based foods without sacrificing on flavor.”
Even burger-centric chains — Wahlburgers, Fatburger, Burger King and White Castle — are adding meatless burgers to the menu in an effort to grab a piece of the plant-based market, which reached $3.7 billion last year. And since that number should hit $5 billion by 2020, restaurants that haven’t taken the plant plunge need to go for it, said Moran, who shared a few tips on how hefs could add more veggies to their menus. Check out our interview below.
Q:Why are so many fast casuals embracing plant-based menu items?
A: Brands are embracing plant-based menu items to stay relevant and to adapt to today’s educated consumer. We are seeing an important shift in consumer dietary patterns that is creating new opportunities for fast casual operators, which will allow them to provide plant-based dishes not only to the traditional vegan or vegetarian but also to those who are interested in a semi-vegetarian lifestyle or those wanting to eat more vegetarian or meatless meals during the week.
Q: Is the trend winding down, or do you expect it to stay center plate for a while?
A: This will stay center of the plate for sure. There are more and more studies, statistics and bits of information for consumers to grab on to about the advantages of plant-based diets. We are seeing more consumers that are also interested in plant-based proteins in the form of nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes but also in grains such as quinoa and spelt. Whether it’s for ethical, nutrition, health or environmental reasons, more and more people are eating this way and chefs are creating more flavor forward, technique driven, delicious plant-based menu items to meet this demand.
Q: What other new plant-based products is Nestlé Professional working on?
A: Nestlé Professional has over 100 plant-based or plant-forward products that we have launched in the foodservice industry over the years. Coming this fall, we will introduce the first plant based Coffee-mate creamer to our out of home creamer portfolio. This new creamer product will be almond based and vanilla flavored.
We are also launching 11 Sweet Earth products for foodservice ranging from the Baja Breakfast Burrito to the Protein Lovers Pizza. The philosophy behind Sweet Earth is to provide plant-based and minimally processed food that is delicious, nutritious, worldly and local.
Q: What is your favorite plant-centric dish to make?
A: Most recently, I have made parsnip & walnut hummus garnished with spicy pickled cherries, a Middle-Eastern inspired roasted carrot hummus and a very indulgent, charred broccoli dish for a steak house inspired side.
Q: What would you say to chefs who think a plant-based menu is too expensive and/or difficult to source for their restaurants?
A: Focus on naming and flavor profile — plant-based or not — it has to sound delicious and deliver on taste! Avoid the negative (and dated) connotations with meat-less and vegan. Play up what is actually in the dish – its country of origin, cooking technique, ingredients used, etc. Do not over complicate things! Experiment with different cooking and preservation techniques for vegetables.
Tom Moran is a highly creative culinarian with 20 years of professional cooking experience. Tom started cooking professionally in ahigh-endcountry club, moved to independent fine dining for 10+ years and then branched out to start his own culinary consulting business, which led him to Nestlé Professional in 2010, to focus on National Accounts. Some of his career highlights include cooking at the James Beard House, being selected for “Top 10” Cleveland Chef showcase by IFEC (where he met his now wife!) and earning C.E.C. certification.