Vegan The Cookbook
By Jean-Christian Jury
Suzy Chase: Welcome to the Cookery by the Book podcast with me, Suzy Chase.
Jean-Christian Jury: My name is Jean-Christian Jury, and I'm the chef and author of Vegan: the Cookbook.
Suzy Chase: This cookbook is the definitive vegan bible with 450 recipes from more than 150 countries. How long did it take you to compile these recipes?
Jean-Christian Jury: Oh, it took me 18 months all together. 18 months of traveling of course. I've been in all Asia, India, South America, North Africa, Central Africa, and, of course, Europe. I can't wait to go back to the next tour.
Suzy Chase: What was the turning point in your life to change to a vegan lifestyle?
Jean-Christian Jury: I was working in London. I was running three restaurants at the same time, and I had a very, very messy diet. My life was tiring in that time, didn't sleep enough. You eat whenever you can, grab something and ... Whatever you can find, which is very wrong, and I had the first heart failure. Six months later, I got a second one and I started to really scared, of course, about my health and my doctor said, "You know what, you should adopt a healthy diet. You should start to sleep enough, you should start to exercise, to take care about your life." He said to me, "You know everybody has two lives." I said, "What do you mean we have two lives?" He said, "Yes, we have two lives. The second one starts when you understand that you have only one." He was completely right.
So, I started to really care about the diet, I started to study and learn lots. I've been to Istanbul to a raw food concept and I started to transform my cooking in a healthy cooking. Of course, you learn very fast when you have a classic chef school behind you. It was quite easy for me and I love to cook with spices, so I started to create a new range of dishes, but at the gourmet level, because I didn't want to go to kind of hippie camp.
Slowly, after opening my restaurant in Berlin, I became I think one of the best vegan destination of the world. I managed in seven years time to put Berlin on the map as the best vegan destination ahead of New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, which was quite an achievement, but we managed to do it. Believe me, we were kind of Michelin star vegan restaurant, the same way you have today beautiful restaurants in Los Angeles. I'm very proud about what we did there and I'm very proud about how high we put the bar of vegan food against the conventional food. I'm so glad that chefs, today, start to really create new food and I'm sure that in a couple of years, every restaurant gonna have vegan options on the menu. So great, let's do it.
Suzy Chase: As a pioneer and visionary in the vegan world, you once said, "In the twentieth century, chefs in France wrote the west menu. Today, the future of food is being written in Berlin and that future is vegan." Now, when I think of German cuisine, I think about meat and sausages. So what drew you to Berlin to open your restaurant?
Jean-Christian Jury: It was just pure mathematics. I always have to laugh when I think about that, because when you are in Europe and you look for a destination to open a new restaurant, a new concept, I tried London, I tried Paris, I tried Milan or Roma, Barcelona. The price of the square foot in a high street is so expensive, it's just not doable. You address, on the top of that, to a very small part of the market. It's a hard fight. Berlin was, for me, the best option, first in the financial way and then the size of the city was okay. 3.2 million people were living there. The vegan population was growing quite fast. I decided for Berlin just because of that. No other factor. I was not afraid about the sausages. They're people like the other guys, no problem.
Suzy Chase: So you thought you could get a big enough group of people who weren't into sausages in Berlin?
Jean-Christian Jury: Yeah, it was quite a challenge because my first review was in the Berlin newspaper, the local newspaper that everybody's reading there. The title was, "La Mano Verde" which was my restaurant, "Great concept, no future". So I called the journalist and I said, "I did something wrong yesterday?" And he said, "No, no. It's not about you, I just did the mathematics like you did. I took 3.2 million people city, cut in half because half of the population cannot afford or are too young to come to your restaurant and then you have 0.1% of vegan in Berlin. This leaves you with three customers there." I said "Okay, great. What do I do now?"
It was a wake-up call for me. So I decided to react and the first thing I did, I just deleted the word vegan from everything I had around me, mean my menus, my marketing, either on the top of my name the restaurant. I became plant-based. The word vegan was kind of scary 10 years ago because of this beautiful work done by groups like PETA and all these animal rights people. They are small groups, so they try to be very active and they're very loud and because they're very loud, people are a bit afraid, and the word vegan became like ... Had a negative image because all of that. People didn't understand what vegan was about. For me, my first target was to give a positive image to vegan food. The only way to do it was to cook at the gourmet level, the same level as any, all the Michelin star restaurants on the planet. This worked very well.
So here you have the story.
Suzy Chase: Talk a little bit about how you travel around for ... What is it? 11 months out of the year?
Jean-Christian Jury: Yeah, minimum and I go back actually from September again on a big tour because the book is coming out in French, in German, in Spanish, in Dutch, and I try to get it also translated in Chinese. I have a contact there now. I travel and I give cooking classes. Yesterday evening I was at ICE. I give a beautiful class, I love this school in New York. It's a beautiful school, great people. I had 12 students for a private class about vegan and raw food. I give classes in Zurich, to the Hilton Academy, which is oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world. I give classes in New Delhi, India, to another culinary art institute. I give classes in London, a bit in Mexico also, a bit all around the planet. I have my students, my schools, so I go there at least once a year.
The rest of the time, I write recipes or I go to conferences, like vegan fairs. I just came back from Vancouver. Tomorrow is the fair in New York, the Street Vegan Fair. Then I am in Zurich for the vegan fair, then in Paris, then in London and I give conferences there and I talk about the evolution of vegan food around the planet, new ingredients, new cooking techniques and it's fun. I love the way the people react today. They really have tons of questions always, because I think the information is not there yet. We still have so much to teach and they have so much to learn.
Don't go to a vegan diet before you study it. It can be dangerous for you. It's like any diet. You have to know what you do, you cannot just change and eat whatever you want. You have to study and you have to learn what to eat, what you cannot eat. But I think the trigger is fresh. For me today, it doesn't make to eat something, which is not fresh. So we have to make the extra mile, go to the farmer's market or organic supermarket, get ingredients as fresh as possible and this is where you're gonna make a difference. You're gonna feel so much better and very quick, believe me.
Suzy Chase: Exploring global vegan cuisine, what is your favorite part of the world for exceptional vegan food.
Jean-Christian Jury: I would say, today, it is South Korea, it's Taiwan and Japan. Those three destinations have so flavorful, they use so many great ingredients. I discover so many also there. There's a food culture because it's Buddhist, and you have more and more temples cooking lunch for everybody. I just came back from Kuala Lumpur, where you have a beautiful Buddhist temple. They have a cantina there and they cook every day for 400 people. It's like a huge buffet, it's wonderful. It's the same in Seoul in South Korea. You have a lot of temples cooking for people and teaching people how to cook vegan. In Japan, of course, it's a tradition for 5,000 years now. Same in India. We are very late here, in Europe and America with our vegan cooking, compared to those countries.
Suzy Chase: Why do you think we are late? Because we're so hooked on our meat?
Jean-Christian Jury: We are late because if you really think about ... we come out in 1945 from a Second World War, right? It was a very depressing time and people started to really eat a lot, drink a lot. It was kind of euphoric times and then we changed our lifestyle. To change our lifestyle, what happened is that we worked a lot, more than before, we left the countryside to live in big cities and what the food industry did for us, they just provided food that we can eat quick and packed with a lot of fats, sugars and whatever bad ingredients, just to please us and to make sure that we can eat at our speed today. Which is wrong, we should take much more time.
This is the difference. It's easy to eat a burger, chicken or beef are already processed. Because we don't have access to gardens anymore, we live in big cities, we don't have the fresh micro-sprouts, sprouts, veggies in front of our door. We have to make the extra mile, go to the market. In Asia, it's different. You can buy food everywhere, on every street, you have people selling fruits, veggies. It's not a struggle to find the ingredients, and I think this makes a big difference. We have sometimes to walk miles, or to take the car to get the ingredients. In Asia, you can really find them anywhere and I think this is the big difference.
Suzy Chase: Jackfruit seems to be the new it vegan food. You have a few jackfruit recipes in the cookbook. Describe jackfruit and how can we cook with it?
Jean-Christian Jury: There are many ways to cook jackfruits. I love it raw personally. I love to just blend the jackfruits in a high speed blender, mix it with coconut cream, for example, and add a bit of mango or passion fruit. That's the cream. Or what you can do is just use the jackfruit as you use a piece of meat in a stew. It's a sweet and sour stew, you can add any other veggie you want, a bit of soya sauce or tamari sauce, little bit of garlic, and you can use jackfruit exactly like you use a piece of chicken. The texture is beautiful. There are hundreds of ways to cook this kind of fruit. The problem is to find it fresh here, in America, but I saw yesterday fresh jackfruit at Whole Foods.
Suzy Chase: Wow.
Jean-Christian Jury: I was very pleased with that. Yeah, and it's very nice. I taste it, it's beautiful. You have the slight vanilla background, it was great. Ripe, perfect.
Suzy Chase: With the vast array of international recipes in this cookbook, did you tweak any of them? Or did you keep them exactly as they were made for that certain part of the world?
Jean-Christian Jury: No, what I try to do, is to use as less ingredients as possible to make it easy basically for the home cooks, so they don't have to run around to get the ingredients, and I try to make it simple as possible too. When I have a classic recipe, which is way complicated, I just work on it until I'm happy with the texture and, of course, the taste and flavor. I publish it the most simple way possible.
Suzy Chase: You have a whole chapter devoted to guest chefs. One chef, chef Michel Bras has his famous gargouillou, is that how you pronounce it?
Jean-Christian Jury: Yeah.
Suzy Chase: Which is not simple and he said that he was inspired 20 years ago by International Street Food. How has street food inspired you?
Jean-Christian Jury: You know, street foods is also a lot in Asia, southeast Asia. Because we have cold winters here, we don't have as much access to street food as they have. You go, for example, today to Lima in Peru, they have a beautiful, what they call Bioferia, fair twice a week where they have two miles of beautiful vegan street foods. This is what inspired me because I discovered so many new fruits and veggies. Do you have any idea how many potatoes they have in Peru? How many sorts of potatoes?
Suzy Chase: No.
Jean-Christian Jury: It's over 900.
Suzy Chase: Oh my gosh.
Jean-Christian Jury: Yeah, I said exactly the same. Oh my gosh, I was at the market there and I was amazed. We don't know all of this. They cook things that I never saw before. This is where I learn also, I see the way they cook them, I talk to them and it gives me, of course, new ideas with our veggies. When I cannot source a vegetable, but I like the recipe locally, then I try to compromise and find what could replace this missing ingredient. This is the way I'm gonna build the recipe.
Suzy Chase: New foods fascinate me like plant-based seafood, especially shrimp. What are your thoughts on these types of foods and have you ever had plant-based shrimp?
Jean-Christian Jury: No ... Please go away from any food replica. It doesn't make sense. This is again the industry trying to take advantage and make money. They don't want to lose the vegan market, because now they can see that vegan market becomes a real market. They start to sell a lot of ingredients, but they try again to take advantage and provide all food, processed vegan food. Please don't go to that, it's packed again with flavoring agents and bad fats and nobody can guarantee you really the quality of this food.
Suzy Chase: Last week, I made the recipe for potato masala on page 130 of your cookbook and I chose this recipe because I had never heard of Suriname. It's on the Atlantic coast of South America and it's considered to be culturally Caribbean and Dutch is the official language but it was very interesting seeing a South Asian dish in South America.
Jean-Christian Jury: Absolutely, the travels ... The Chinese, for example, travel a lot around the planet and they were the first ones to reach South America and they brought, of course, with them a lot of recipes and ingredients. The same in Madagascar. You go to Madagascar, you cannot believe how many Asian dish you can find there. It all depends on those communities who live there. Look South Africa, how many Indian dish they have, because they had, nobody knows it, but they had Indian slaves in South Africa. You believe that? So, of course, they brought their food with them and food is kind of long chain of development, of spices, of flavors, scent.
You know why we use spices in Europe, let's say in the 1100's to 16, 1700's? Because we didn't have a way to preserve the food, we didn't have a way to store the veggies and anything as the right way, so what we did, when the food started to have a bad smell, they added just turmeric. So it gave again a good flavor. It's the same with the Roman army. Before the Romans invaded the planet, nobody knew about bread. The Romans are the ones who spread bread around the planet. Not only that, 80% of the Roman food was made with pepper, black pepper just because they wanted to preserve the taste of, again, that much food. They add tons of pepper in the food. It's very interesting. Do you any ingredients you cannot find today in America for example? You can find absolutely everything.
Suzy Chase: The garam masala spice was really, really wonderful in this potato masala and I actually used twice as much as the recipe called for.
Jean-Christian Jury: I tried to be a bit conservative because a lot of people are not used to those very strong curry. Yeah, of course, you can add as much as you like. Another technique that I just developed right now when I was in India, is about the ginger, or galangal, or turmeric. I don't add them in my cooking anymore. What I do, I juice them, so I have the extract and I have a beautiful liquid with a beautiful color packed with nutrient. When I take my pot away from the stove, I let it ... let just the temperature drop for five minutes and then I add my garlic juice or my turmeric juice, mix it, and the flavor are exceptional. It's much more powerful than cooking the ginger inside the curry. What do you think?
Suzy Chase: So is that your new technique ...
Jean-Christian Jury: Yeah.
Suzy Chase: ... that you developed for adding flavor after ...
Jean-Christian Jury: Yes.
Suzy Chase: ... You cook it? Yeah. Yes, that's great! I'm gonna have to try that out.
Jean-Christian Jury: Yeah, try it.
Suzy Chase: So where can we find you on the web?
Jean-Christian Jury: If you want to try some recipes from the book, just go to my Facebook page. It's just Facebook.com with a slash and my full name jeanchristianjury in one word, and you have access to tons of recipes, also a lot from the book. They can test, see the pictures, and send comments or send questions when they have questions and I think that's the best way to communicate with my fellow home cooks.
Suzy Chase: With this 800 page cookbook, vegan cuisine has never been so beautiful or appealing. Thanks for coming on Cookery by the Book podcast.
Jean-Christian Jury: Thanks for having me.
Suzy Chase: Subscribe in iTunes and follow me on Instagram @cookerybythebook, on Twitter @iamsuzychase. Thank you so much for listening to Cookery by the Book podcast.