French restaurants are not renowned for embracing veganism. Asking tentatively for the truffled cauliflower velouté without bacon or wondering if the kitchen can “er … maybe … not use any butter in the salad dressing” will almost certainly land you with a dinner of bread basket a la cracked black pepper.
However, French attitudes towards veganism may be changing. According to industry website Big Hospitality, a French fine dining restaurant in London announced earlier this month that it would remove all meat and dairy products from its menu over the next two years, despite previously selling up to 20 kilograms of foie gras a week.
Gauthier Soho began veganising its menu in 2015, after animal rights group PETA protested its use of foie gras. Restaurant owner Alexis Gauthier ended up going vegan himself and changed the restaurant’s menu to be 75-percent vegan.
While Gauthier Soho currently still serves duck, pork, and cod, Gauthier aims to run a fully vegan restaurant by 2020.
“One of the things that upsets us is the idea that people can feel they are ‘being a pain’ or ‘making a fuss’ when visiting restaurants and asking for vegan menu,” Gautier’s website reads. “This is precisely the opposite of our intention. From the very first day we opened we have strived to make all of our guests feel as welcome as each other.”
At Restaurant Congress, a hospitality industry event held earlier this month in London, Gauthier stuck by his decision to forgo meat and dairy. “I can cook what I’ve been taught for next 25 years and make money,” he explained, “but do I really want to carry on ignoring what’s happening?”
Seitan escargots, anyone?