Today we chat to vegan and raw chef Jean-Christian Jury. Originally from Toulouse, he is a leader in vegan cuisine. His recipes are inspired by his travels around the world, and almost 500 are compiled together in his fantastic new book Vegan: The Cookbook. We wanted to find out more about this exciting chef, so Bibelot joined Jean-Christian to talk about the benefits of a vegan lifestyle, guilty pleasures when it comes to food, and who he’d invite round for dinner…
1. You turned vegan after two heart failures. How would you say your health and lifestyle have changed since turning to a raw and vegan diet?
Of course becoming vegan changed my life for the better, completely. Once you understand how important nutrients are for our wellbeing, there is no compromise, you have to give to your body what is needed to sustain a strong immune system, a high level of energy and at a later stage, help you to age gracefully without pain or sicknesses.
2. What would you say to people who insist that we’re “meant to eat meat”?
Fake news. Scientific research has proven that we started to consume animal proteins only during the first ice age period when nothing else was left around. We are survivors and we adapted, and never came back to our original diet. I do think that we still pay a heavy price for this change of diet. Evolution is a very slow process compared to our short lifetime. How long does it take to lose two hands and gain two feet so we can stand up and run away from other predators? We’ve now been eating bad food for too long, it is time to return to plant based, we need it and our beautiful planet needs it.
3. What is a dish from your new book, Vegan: The Cookbook that you would make to convince them otherwise?
Pointing one recipe out of nearly 500 is a real challenge… According to the feedback I’ve received so far, surprisingly the most popular is a dessert – The Lime Cheese Cake, completely raw, no baking and a great start to appreciate and understand that vegan food is not bland or boring.
4. When you’re cooking for yourself, what are you making. What’s your comfort food?
I am travelling almost 11 months of the year, giving cooking classes in diverse cooking academies in New Delhi (India), New York (USA), Zurich (Switzerland), Bali (Indonesia), Hua-Hin (Thailand), Mallorca (Spain) giving conferences at Veggie World Fairs like Paris, Munich, London, Albuquerque, Mexico City, so my food is made of a lot of tasting with my friends and vegan chefs. One of my greatest pleasures is to spend a few hours with them in their kitchens and indulge in fusion food recipes.
5. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people.
My favourite fruit is “Durian”, the king of fruits. Usually this is when people say “no way”. One of the worst descriptions for the smell and taste of Durian came from Chef Anthony Bourdais: “Your breath will smell as if you’ve been French kissing your dead grandmother”, sorry Anthony, I have to disagree on that one! Durian tastes like a strange combination of savoury-sweet-creamy all at once. Subtle hints of chives mixed with powdered sugar, with diced garlic and caramel poured into whipped cream, very complex but the closest match to fusion food – I love it, it’s addictive. When I am in Jakarta, Indonesia, I go every evening to what I call “Durian Street”, where there is nothing else on display…
6. Where is your favourite place to eat vegan food in the world?
Blue Lotus, the Learning Centre for Plant Based Food. Located in Hua-Hin, Thailand is, for me, the most modern plant based kitchen in the world. I’ll be giving master classes there again in November 2017. I have the great pleasure and privilege to veganise the cooking of conventional cooks, giving me access to a lot of new recipes ideas. The tasting of this fusion food is amazing, we experiment so much during the classes, so of course this is my favourite place to eat vegan food.
7. If you could invite any three people from history to dinner, who would you invite?
That’s a brilliant idea… I think this will be Buddha, Steve Hawking and Donald Trump. Just to have the opportunity and pleasure to have Buddha and Hawking to lecture Trump and ask him what the heck is wrong with him, and this stupid idea of running away from the Paris climate treaty? Humankinds’ selfish and aggressive instinct will transform earth into a very hot, dry and uninhabitable ball, so it is time to do something more important than making America great again…
8. You’ve been cooking vegan food for a long time now. What do you know now that you didn’t know when you first started out?
I didn’t know how important food is for our overall health. Food is our medicine and when you indulge the right nutrients you don’t need any medication or supplements. Garden fresh ingredients is what we need, regional and organic of course.
9. What’s the most expensive ingredient you’ve ever cooked with?
When you run restaurants you remember the expensive ingredients like fresh white truffles (Alba truffles), fresh wasabi roots, Iranian saffron or Lebanese pine nuts…
10. What do you want people to feel or think of when they taste your food?
I like to surprise them with the real taste of fresh ingredients. When regional and organic, there is no better taste and feeling. People today are so used to flavouring agents, excessive amounts of salt and sugar and processed food, that coming back to natural and fresh original food is what I like them to remember.
11. Do you think we’re living in a vegan revolution?
This is obvious today all around the planet. If I told you back in 2007 that Berlin would become the Capital of Vegan Food in 2015, would you believe me? The answer in no, of course, but we did it, starting with one restaurant and having today over 45 vegan restaurants, Berlin is becoming the best holiday destination for vegans of the world. This has been my greatest challenge and best achievement, something I will always be proud of.
12. Who’s your favourite famous vegan?
Probably Woody Harrelson, it’s unbelievable how much Woody is doing for the vegan world. I opened my restaurant La Mano Verde in 3 different locations and Woody always visited, encouraging me to persevere, bringing friends and celebrities to my restaurant. To receive good press is a major factor for the success of a restaurant, so thank you dear Woody.. Can’t wait to cook for you again…
13. What’s your guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
I love Salicornia, also called Sea Beans. We have a very strong bound in our genetic system with seaweed and algae. During our evolution in sea waters we found our nutrients in micro algae and this is why, every time I cook and indulge raw Salicornia I have this good feeling and my energy level is at the maximum. For this special algae salad I created a dressing made of coconut oil, lime juice, fresh turmeric, lemon grass and ginger, I chill the dressing before serving and it becomes solid because of the coconut oil, melting in your month like a sorbet… mmmhmm! I am getting hungry again!
14. What are your thoughts on meat and dairy replacements?
Fakes and replicas have no space in my pantry. The food industry understand nowadays that vegan becomes a real market and to make money, they are creating a range of ingredients and processed vegan food which in my opinion should banned from the stores. What’s the point in repeating the same mistakes when we have a chance of getting healthier with fresh plant based products? Don’t let new vegan kids go in for fake meat, replica’s of sausages or burgers – going vegan is a serious change of diet, and you have to study it and make sure you are not missing essential nutrients in your cooking.
15. Are there any vegetables you hate?
Not really, maybe beetroot during summer time when the earthy taste becomes too strong, but I really like everything else. I try to source all my veggies at farmers markets and they are usually all very tasty.
Daikon Rolls with Avocado and Micro Greens
Preparation time: 35 minutes
Cooking time: none
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon grated galangal
juice of 1 lemon
1 large daikon radish, sliced thinly into 12 long strips
12 shiso leaves
1 ripe avocado, finely diced
1 cucumber, finely diced
1 tablespoon snow pea shoots, minced
1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves
1 tablespoon radish sprouts
2 tablespoons yuzu juice
black sesame seeds, to garnish
In a bowl, whisk together the tamari, rice vinegar, galangal, and lemon juice and set aside.
Lay out the daikon sheets on a tray or work surface. Place 1 shiso leaf on each daikon sheet.
Mix the avocado, cucumber, snow pea shoots, and mint together in a bowl. Stir in the lemon dressing. Divide the mixture equally among the daikon sheets, positioning the mixture at one end of each length. Roll up each daikon sheet tightly, pushing the roll away from you. Transfer the rolls to a serving plate, garnish with the sprouts, and use a tablespoon to sprinkle the yuzu juice over the top.