Many myths and ridicule abound about vegan eating; from “it’s boring”, to unhealthy and makes you weak, that it’s not filling enough, that veganism is an eating disorder, and is for “hippies”.
Veganism is defined as a way of living that attempts to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty, whether for food, clothing, entertainment, or any other purpose.
For these reasons, the vegan diet is heavily plant-based and devoid of animal products, including meat, eggs and dairy.
By all appearances, plant-based eating seems to have gained a firm foothold in Australia. According to research company Roy Morgan, about 12.1 percent of Australians – nearly 2.5 million people – were on mostly vegetarian diets in 2019, showing an increase from 11.4 percent in 2014.
Although the number of actual vegans – people who do not consume or use any animal products (and by-products) – is uncertain, Vegan Australia estimates that there are about 400,000 to 500,000 in the country. Numbers have also been on the rise in major Western countries like the UK and US.
According to the Vegan Society: “Eating vegan is like other ways of eating: take care with what you’re putting in your body, and your body will take care of you.
“However, vegan diets also have numerous advantages over others. Vegans are far more likely to reach the recommended 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, have lower rates of obesity and reduced risk of colorectal and prostate cancer.”
Of course, like any other form of eating, if you limit the variety of foods you consume and your recipe repertoire, or don’t make an effort try to learn about the nutritional plusses and minus of various foods, veganism could indeed be boring, unfilling, unhealthy, or weaken you.
I believe my mission is making people aware of the infinite flavoursome possibilities of vegan cuisine – by experiencing my food, joining my small group workshops, watching my recipes online.
Valeria Boselli, aka ValTheVeganChef, arrived in Australia in January, 2006, for a holiday after graduating from Milan’s Politecnico with a Master’s degree in architecture. She never left … and embarked on a mission to popularise vegan/vegetarian cooking, her personal passion.
“I was supposed to only stay six months with the intent of studying English and to travel, but I ended up falling in love with the place and started working in hospitality instead,” Valeria says.
“I started from scratch and soon found a mentor who taught me how to cook in an industrial kitchen. From there I learned everything I could from every job I worked.
“A peak of my career as a chef came in 2014 with the opening (with two partners) of The Dandylion Bondi, a vegetarian/vegan restaurant based in Bondi Beach.
“We ran the restaurant for three years and in that period of time I developed my own original recipes, often veganising popular ones, after a lot of experimentation.
“After Dandylion, I moved to the northern beaches of Sydney to focus on catering. After a couple of years working for various companies, I established my own – that is how ValTheVeganChef was born.
“A couple of years before the Dandylion chapter, I worked for Watson’s Bay Boutique Hotel (in Sydney’s eastern suburbs).
“I had a few friends who were vegetarian and particularly from a Hare Krishna background – they never had animal flesh in their diet.
“I started experimenting and cooking vegetarian dishes to be able to share with them my passion for food.
“My vegetarian culinary skills and creativity quickly became of demand. Briefly after that I joined forces with two friends and created the Dandylion. By then I was vegetarian, but then with even more information available I adopted a full vegan diet.”
Valeria “fiercely disagrees” that a vegan diet is “dull and tasteless”.
“I recently watched SaltFatAcidHeat on Netflix, and although it is not vegan, the same principles apply: different techniques, good produce, learning about good fats, different elements containing salt, different ways to add acidity to a dish to elevate it to a different level.
“A very important part of my approach to vegan cooking is using herbs, nuts, seeds, raw or pickled vegetables to add different textures.
“I also love working with seasonal produce and playing with combinations of vibrant colours.”
Valeria described the key benefit of veganism:
- To stop animal exploitation: Terminate slaughterhouses, leather and fur harvest, zoo and circus animals, exotic animal markets
- Environmental benefits due to a more sustainable lifestyle: Contain carbon gas emissions, limit the transport of goods to within a local area
- Health benefits: Diminish heart diseases, cancer and other pathologies linked to the consumption of meat
“After the amazing experience of having my own vegan-vegetarian restaurant in Bondi, I focused on catering, working for top Sydney companies,” she adds.
“It fulfilled my hunger for knowledge, techniques and organising skills, but I was struggling with the constant overuse of animal produces and waste.
“So I took the leap and start my own journey, not just in catering but in workshops and private cheffing.
“I believe my mission is making people aware of the infinite flavoursome possibilities of vegan cuisine – by experiencing my food, joining my small group workshops, watching my recipes online, inviting me to be your chef and guide in a private plant-based, unique me l experience.”