When chef José Andrés opened his fast-casual vegetable eatery, Beefsteak, two years ago, he resisted calling the restaurant vegetarian. “We want to call it tasty, fun, sexy, good-looking,” he told The Post at that time.
The Culinary Institute of America agrees. Along with EAT, an international foundation dedicated to reforming the global food system, they’ve put Andres on their first “Plant-Forward Global 50” list, a collection of the world’s most innovative chefs who elevate the profile of vegetables. He was awarded the distinction for his work with Beefsteak, which is rapidly expanding, and for Zaytinya, where vegetarian dishes such as falafel have long been crowd favorites.
Andres is joined on the list by other boldfaced names like chefs Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Alain Ducasse, Yotam Ottolenghi and Alice Waters — all of whom turn out beautiful plant-based dishes that make guests reconsider the potential of vegetable cooking. And while several of the world’s longtime best restaurants make the list, such as René Redzepi’s Noma, there are some surprises, too.
“In much of the world of restaurants and food service, we’ve tended to see a lumping of options together into sort of regular and unleaded. Chefs will do their regular menu, which is spurred by their interests and creativity, and there’s the unleaded, which is vegetarian, or vegan,” said Greg Drescher, vice president of industry leadership and strategic initiatives at The Culinary Institute of America. “What we wanted to do is show the many ways that you can be plant-forward.”
And that doesn’t necessarily mean vegetarian. Many of the chefs on the list serve meat at their restaurants, but they received the distinction because they highlight vegetables in new and creative ways. Dan Barber, the chef at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, has garnered attention for his work with food waste and agriculture, and Alex Atala, chef of São Paulo’s D.O.M., was recognized for shining the spotlight on indigenous Brazilian ingredients. Still other restaurants were recognized for highly specific contributions to vegetable cooking — such as the father-son chef duo Michel & Sébastien Bras, of Le Suquet in Laguiolle, France.
“Michel Bras’ Gargouillou de jeunes legumes, a celebration of seasonal produce that evokes a walk through nature, remains to this day, nearly forty years after its invention, one of the most well-known vegetable dishes ever created; it has inspired two generations of chefs — and countless imitations,” a write-up of the list explained.
The list also gives vegetarians, who may feel less enthused about the meat-heavy options on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, a bucket list to check off.
Typically, restaurant rankings might have “a great deal of focus on dazzling technique, but behind that was a big focus on animal proteins paired with luxury ingredients,” said Drescher. “Now, to see so many of the world’s chefs embrace seasonal high-flavored vegetables and other plant-sourced ingredients is really a significant development.”
The United States dominates the list with 16 chefs, from Vedge’s Richard Landau and Kate Jacoby to Dirt Candy’s Amanda Cohen. But it’s also noteworthy for its geographic diversity, honoring restaurants in cities and countries that are overlooked by World’s 50 Best, or aren’t in one of Michelin’s geographic regions. For example: Midunu in Accra, Ghana, was lauded for its contemporary take on African culinary heritage with native ingredients; Baekyangsa Temple in Bukha-myeon, Korea, is a vegan restaurant with a Buddhist philosophy; Little Eater, a restaurant by Cara Mangini, Eataly’s first vegetable butcher, is in Columbus, Ohio.
The CIA and EAT plan to add to the list each year, said Drescher, who hopes it will serve as inspiration for other chefs who are looking to focus more on vegetables.
“This is a way forward for diners that love great food and care about maintaining the pleasures of the tables even as we pursue more interests in health and sustainability,” said Drescher.
The full list, in alphabetical order, follows.
José Andrés, Zaytinya and Beefsteak (Washington, D.C.)
Selassie Atadika, Midunu (Accra, Ghana)
Alex Atala, D.O.M. (São Paulo, Brazil)
Eneko Atxa, Azurmendi (Larrabetzy, Spain)
Dan Barber, Blue Hill at Stone Barns (Pocantico Hills, N.Y.)
Michel & Sébastien Bras, Le Suquet (Laguiolle, France)
Floyd Cardoz and Thomas Zacharias, Bombay Canteen (Mumbai)
Rodrigo de la Calle, El Invernadero (Madrid)
André Chiang, Restaurant André and Raw (Singapore and Taiwan)
Amanda Cohen, Dirt Candy (New York)
Kyle and Katina Connaughton, Single Thread (Healdsburg, Calif.)
Enrico Crippa, Piazza Duomo (Alba, Italy)
Mathias Dahlgren, Rutabaga (Stockholm)
Semsa Denizsel, Kantin (Istanbul)
Alain Ducasse, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée (Paris)
Jeremy Fox, Rustic Canyon (Los Angeles)
John Fraser, Nix (New York)
Bertrand Grébaut, Septime (Paris)
Mehmet Gürs, Mikla (Istanbul)
Rodolfo Guzman, Borago (Santiago, Chile)
Dan Hunter, Brae (Birregurra, Australia)
Bruno Loubet, Grain Store (London)
Tony Lu, Fu He Hui (Shanghai)
Thomas Keller, The French Laundry and Per Se (Yountville, Calif. and New York)
David Kinch, Manresa (Los Gatos, Calif.)
Dan Kluger, Loring Place (New York)
Jeong Kwan, Baekyangsa Temple (Bukha-myeon, Korea)
Richard Landau and Kate Jacoby, Vedge and V Street (Philadelphia)
Cara Mangini, Little Eater (Columbus, Ohio)
Virgilio Martinez and Pia Leon, Central (Lima, Peru)
Claus Meyer, multiple businesses (USA, La Paz, Bolivia)
Patricia Miranda, Cerro Brujo Gourmet Restaurant (Volcan, Panama)
Yoshihiro Narisawa, Narisawa (Tokyo)
Daisuke Nomura, Sougo (Tokyo)
Enrique Olvera, Pujol, Cosme, and Atla (Mexico City and New York)
Yotam Ottolenghi, Ottolenghi (London)
Alain Passard, L’Arpège (Paris)
Eelke Plasmeijer and Ray Adriansyah, Locavore (Bali, Indonesia)
René Redzepi, Noma (Copenhagen)
Tal Ronnen, Crossroads Kitchen (Los Angeles)
Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, Malabar (Lima, Peru)
Kamilla Seidler and Claus Meyer, Gustu (La Paz, Bolivia)
Duangporn “Bo” Songvisava and Dylan Jones, Bo.Lan (Bangkok)
Ana Sortun, Oleana (Cambridge, Mass.)
Paul Svensson, The Restaurant at Fotografiska (Stockholm)
Jorge Vallejo, Quintonil (Mexico City)
Jean-Georges Vongerichten, abcV (New York)
Kai Ward, Richie Lie and Long Xiong, MUME (Taipei, Taiwan)
Alice Waters, Chez Panisse (Berkeley, Calif.)
Jock Zonfrillo, Orana (Adelaide, Australia)
Updated June 15 to reflect that Daisuke Nomura’s restaurant is Sougo, not Daigo, as the CIA had originally stated.