Buoyed by growing consumer discontent with industrial farming practices and the increasing popularity of vegetable-heavy diets, companies such as Beyond Meat are having a green moment. The American food manufacturer, whose plant-based meat products mimic the appearance and taste of the real McCoy, sees its mock meat patties stocked at over 20,000 retailers and 7,000 restaurants across the United States alone. In August last year, Grand Hyatt Singapore’s Mezza9 restaurant put vegan burgers made with Beyond Meat patties on the menu.
For Paul Longworth, chef-partner of Michelin-starred Rhubarb le Restaurant, products such as those by Beyond Meat remain a raw deal for a fine dining establishment such as his. “It’s unnatural, synthetic and super processed,” says Longworth, referring to the brand’s 22 item-long ingredient list which includes succinic acid, commonly used by manufacturers as an acidity regulator, and methylcellulose, a gelling agent in processed foods.
“As a chef, my job is to source beautiful ingredients and transform them into something tasty for my guest. I might take a vegetable and turn it into a soup that’s out of this world. But how do I transform something like Beyond Meat?” says the 40-year-old, who believes that plant-based meat products can take the form of sausages or mince, or be in burgers, but have “absolutely no place” in fine dining.
When it comes to putting food on the table, Longworth is a champion for going au naturel. He says: “If you really don’t want to eat meat, eat some beautiful vegetables, fruit, grains or nuts. But I don’t get this notion that we have to create something that doesn’t exist in the first place.”