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Meet the chef who made vegetarian cuisine hip in America

American chef Scott Winegard discovered vegan and vegetarian cuisine through punk rock bands. At this pop-up meal, you can taste some of his best creations

HT48HRS_Special Updated: Apr 20, 2017 20:08 IST
Meenakshi Iyer
Chef Scott Winegard
Chef Scott Winegard (Photo courtesy: Instagram.com/scottwinegard)

Colourful, flavourful and innovative — these three words define popular American chef Scott Winegard’s (45) plant-based cuisine. His dishes are visually striking and make you think twice before digging in and making a mess. But once you move past the initial hesitation, you’re in for a treat as the fresh ingredients create a unique flavour. Think whole avocados mixed with a miso and tahini dressing, or chickpea curry bursting with lime leaf notes.

This weekend, Winegard is in the city for a two-day pop-up at Masque in Mahalaxmi. This ten-course vegan and vegetarian meal will be made using locally sourced, organic ingredients.

Read: Chef Gaggan Anand says he won’t open a restaurant in India

“This is my first trip to India. I can’t wait to get to the markets and the farm (in Pune) to decide on the menu. I am looking forward to cooking with ingredients, such as fresh turmeric, mangoes, ginger, and Indian grains, that are not easily available in the West,” says Winegard, in an email interview. Previously, Winegard has had successful stints at Noma in Copenhagen (where he met chef Prateek Sadhu of Masque and stayed in touch) and Nasturtium (in Brooklyn).

What makes Winegard’s cuisine unique is his use of fewer ingredients. For instance, for one of the specials at his restaurant, the chef uses charred broccoli with fermented cauliflower tahini, pepper and almonds. “This helps me keep it more focussed,” he says.

For the pop-up, he plans to cook up a version of his popular kimchi dumpling, a sell-out dish at his Plant Food and Wine restaurant in Venice, California. During the pop-up, diners will be asked to pluck fresh herbs and microgreens from plant art installations set up around the restaurant.

Taking root

Born and bred in New York, Winegard discovered a plant-based lifestyle through his early exposure to punk rock bands. Despite the mohawks, piercings and tattoos, many of these bands preach a vegan lifestyle and often highlight issues related to animal cruelty. “The local punk rock scene embraced veganism and most of my friends were vegetarians, so it seemed natural and sensible (to make the switch),” he says.

In fact, Winegard is an established musician and was the bassist with a band called Texas is the Reason in the mid-’90s. Later, he was part of a band called New End Original. “Right now, my guitars are all in their cases and any plans to play music are mere quick conversations,” says Winegard.

Breaking stereotypes

Vegan cuisine has had to live with the tag of being boring and bland, until chefs like Winegard, Matthew Kenny (Winegard’s long-time collaborator) and Richard Landau (winner of Chopped, American reality-based cooking television show) started experimenting with fresh and local produce.

“For the longest time, there were no trained vegan/vegetarian chefs. The food was being cooked only out of necessity,” says Winegard. These chefs started looking at ingredients differently and focussed on plating and presentation. “Since the produce is beautiful on its own, the plating comes naturally,” he adds.

An archival image of Scott Winegard performing as a bassist with his band (instagram.com/scottwinegard)

The Plant Kitchen pop-up will take place on April 22 and 23
At Masque, Shakti Mills Lane, Mahalaxmi
Price: Rs 7,000 (plus taxes)
Call 98190 69222
Email: bookings@masquerestaurant.com