How I have been able to cook meat professionally.

DSC_0088*EDIT*

I have received a very valid question from a reader and that is, “If you don’t want drama, why are you putting up a controversial post?”

Great questions and I appreciated you asked. For those of you who follow me on Instagam , you may have noticed that I occasionally post pictured of meat dishes I cook for 570 and I just wanted to explain that. I may also, in the future post more meat meals that I make for the BF under #allcaneat when I am making food for different eaters. I may even blog about it, because there are a lot of families and couples who may have different types of eaters, and I have talked to people who said they would be plant-based eaters, but couldn’t cook two different meals everyday. I want to show those people that it is possible, with some simple steps, to create quick plant-based meals for themselves as well as food for their meat eaters. So, I just wanted to explain myself a bit so people understand my point of view.

*END EDIT*

What it’s like for a lifelong vegan leaning vegetarian to cook meat for restaurants and clients?

So, I was raised a vegetarian and spent years as a vegan. The first time I had to cook meat professionally was when I was the Chef at Old Vines Wine Bar in Kennebunk, ME. I explained to the owner that I would not be tasting the food, and as long as he or one of the servers whose palate I trusted tasted the food before serving, I would be OK doing it.

It was kind of like a “fake it till ya make it” deal. During my time there, I became more comfortable touching and cooking poultry, red meat, and seafood, and the customers loved my food, so that always feels good. The clientele at this place was VERY DIFFERENT from clientele I had served before. Funny story, my Chocolate Ganache Cake was entirely vegan as was my Chocolate-Mocha Pie, but I had to SWEAR to my boss I would not tell the customers (unless they asked for whatever reason.) He was so utterly ashamed and embarrassed to have his diners think they were eating tofu in their desserts! No one ever asked, except for the occasional vegan who of course, was THRILLED!

I digress. So, after the wine bar, I went back to what I’m most passionate and comfortable with. Creating amazing vegan food! I worked as the Chef/Kitchen Manager at Portsmouth Health Food store in Portsmouth, NH. I also became obsessed with gluten free – vegan baking and went back to creating so many recipes for muffins, cakes, brownies, pies and other desserts, as well as continuing my love affair with creating Raw – Vegan meals and desserts which was what I was doing before the Wine Bar at Blue Moon Café (now Blue Moon Evolution) in Exeter, NH.

Up until this point (2011) all of my personal chef clients wanted vegan food.

I moved to Boston and exchanged chef services for a room in the heart of the city. My roommate ate meat, and it was hard for me to cook it, because I couldn’t taste it, so I googled a bit about cooking techniques for home cooking, and put it to use. She loved my food as well and appreciated all of the plant-based goodness I brought to the table. Meat was definitely more of a condiment in her house.

During this time, I started working as a Personal Chef for a (Pakistani) family. Auntie (the matriarch mother/grandmother who lived with them) was very strict about meat preparation. It was always Halal meat and we only bought it from one market she trusted. I had to jump through many loops with this meat to please her and pleasing her was very necessary, because she needed a break from all the cooking she did, but she wanted to make sure her methods were being used when it came to cooking the meat. That meant removing ALL of the blood from chicken bones which was done with a tool from a nutcracking set. There was also strict protocol when it came to red meat as well.

I won’t lie, it was difficult for me to handle the meat so much, but knowing I was helping Auntie relax and enjoy life (very much deserved, may I add) allowed me to just accept it and put good energy into the task. I knew that I was nourishing her family in the way she has done for decades and how much that meant and it actually turned into a divine service task for me.

Around this time I met The Boyfriend who is a voracious carnivore! Fortunately, he also loves veggies and legumes and will eat almost anything I prepare, but he needs his meat, so I began to feel the urge to cook meat for him. I look back on my marriage and feel really bad for my x-husband. I did not allow meat in the house and he was also a meat lover. I’m sure it made him feel not very taken care of or respected, but I just couldn’t get past my revulsion and fear of germs when it came to having meat in the house… but back to The Boyfriend. I started experimenting with cooking methods and recipes and he is brutally honest, so he was able to guide me when it came to seasoning. I am now quite proud of myself that I can season meat correctly through the same intuitive process I cook all of my food!

So, fast forward to my Five Seventy job in Boston. I am responsible for cooking all of the meat AND creating all new recipes for meat dishes. I have very strict sanitation rules (definitely stricter than is necessary) when it comes to preparing meat, and that makes me feel better about it as well. I admit, I get a little thrill about putting out great meat dishes because I never taste them.. And really go by intuition.

I use a method for a lot of meat dishes, where I make a vegan sauce and get it exactly perfect, then I use that sauce for both tofu and chicken or pork. Most of the side dishes are vegan, so I just need to change the protein.

DSC_0092I do this at home too. In fact, on Friday I bought a 7 lb. boneless pork loin (on sale at Costco for $11.50!) and cut pork chops, a roast, and cut a bunch into stew pieces which I have marinating. I flash froze everything but the marinating pieces which I will cook in the slow cooker for The Boyfriend. The rest of the meal will be vegan: kale/cabbage/Brussel sprout slaw, guacamole, chipotle black beans and brown rice along with my homemade salsa. I’m fine eating the rice and beans for my protein source, and The Boyfriend will appreciate his leftover which I will pack for a lunch or two. Basically I will get 20 meals for him out of this pork loin.

I never thought I would be able to be 100% comfortable handling/cooking meat, but I am. I am a little strange though, because I talk to the meat like it’s a live animal and try to put loving energy and thanks to the animal. In the future, I think I will look into a farm share of meat from a farm I can tour.

I share my love of vegan food with meat eaters all the time and I love it the most when customers come and talk to me about how much they love my plant-based meals even though they aren’t even a vegetarian. One man bought my Tofu Curry Dinner because he had my Chicken Curry Dinner and loved it so much and came back and said he preferred the tofu dinner! I was so happy to hear that.

People I love eat meat. They are not bad people. I wonder if I hadn’t been raised a strict vegetarian if I would have liked meat? It has never appealed to me, and still doesn’t, so for me not eating meat is not a big deal. It’s not even considered “food” to me (for myself) when I’m cooking it for others.

I’m sure this will anger a lot of people, and if it does, then feel free to never visit my blog again. Anyone who starts drama or verbally abuses me will be banned.

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4 thoughts on “How I have been able to cook meat professionally.

  1. Such a fascinating post! I grew up on a small family farm. We raised beef and chickens and dairy. This was before the days when organic and free range were buzzwords. We loved our animals and tried to give them a good life–lots of sunshine and open spaces and good pasture. As an adult I eat vegan and vegetarian often, and I buy my meat from local farmers who share that loving attitude toward their animals. I very much respect folks who are full time veg. Your philosophy makes sense to me.

    1. Thank you. I have come to the realization that the world will never be vegan (there is no self sustaining vegan culture out there in hisotry).. but my way of “outreach is to cook and expose those who love meat to plant-based cuisine. It took me a while to get to this point, but I feel more of an impact this way than “preaching to the choir”

  2. Anything we can do to move people toward variety and sustainability in their food choices helps people and the planet. That customer of yours who tried the tofu because he enjoyed the meat-based version of the recipe is a perfect example. From now on he won’t be as quick to skip over the vegetarian choices he is offered.

  3. Hey Melody! Awesome post. I, too, cook meat on occasion — for clients and for my current boyfriend. Preparing food for others is a way to show them that you care about them, and preparing something someone is super-excited about is a great way to do that!

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