A handful of innovators are changing the way plant-based food is being produced
After almost 20 years of cooking for high-end bistros, private catering, and personal chef services, the career of classically-trained Canadian Chef de Cuisine Susan Hoy took what must have looked like a very sharp turn.
Burnt-out by the high-stress food industry, Today decided to retrain for another field. Citing a love of gardens, vegetation, hiking, and getting her hands dirty in fresh soil — along with a sense of the connection between healthy soil and human health — Calgary-based Today become an agrologist — a soil, vegetation, and water specialist.
But by 2015, Hoy was back in the kitchen, focusing on the link between nutrition and health. By 2019, she was running — along with her partner Sheryl Anderson — Flora Foods, one of a handful of innovators in plant-based eating that’s changing the way food is produced, prepared, and brought to our homes.
The route back to the kitchen started when Hoy found herself standing with a farmer, unable to convince them to put legumes in to stabilize the eroding soil. “I realized I could have more impact teaching people how to use all these wonderful pulses at home than I could arguing in a field,” she says.
“When you look at it in the rear-view mirror, it all lines up,” says Hoy of the evolution of Flora Foods, which makes about 400 plant-based meals for delivery every Monday to homes in and around Calgary. There are also a few pick-up points. Food is prepared in a ghost kitchen — just before delivery, Hoy points out — and packed in reusable glass containers.
COVID-19 spurred exponential growth in the business, which will soon open a dedicated location that includes retail space for meals and house-brand specialties like plant-based fish and Worcester sauces.
Menus rotate every twelve weeks, with six dishes each week. “That opens up a lot of choice for people as well as a room for my chefs to stay fresh and create,” says Hoy, adding that crowd favorites — like meatloaf — pop up on twice a season.
Hoy’s approach to plant-based is encouraging rather than evangelical. “No-one needs anyone barking at them,” says Hoy. She’d rather, she says, leave the door open—whether it’s people who want to cut down on spending, for health or ethical reasons, and those who are simply curious, adventurous eaters.
For more on plant-based cooking, go to www.aroundthehouse.ca
That it makes home-based cooking movements like plant-based eating easier and tastier is one of the attractions of Breville’s new Joule oven/air fryer.
Designed in collaboration with online culinary resource ChefSteps, the smart connected countertop unit has Breville’s high-quality heating technology—six elements optimally placed for various cooking techniques. Those include a super-convection setting that combines high heat with high-efficiency circulation for crispy air frying and dehydrating. TIP: I used the dehydrating function very successfully on some tired cherry tomatoes for a simple pasta dinner.
Other helpful features include an LED screen that indicates which rack to use for the 13 pre-sets — from toast to roast, a middle rack that automatically pops out when the door opens, and very short preheat times.
An app has a digital library with video-guided recipes and content that’s useful for both the beginner and seasoned home chef. Autopilot settings adjust temps throughout cooking, so chef need do almost nothing. I tested it on a steak, and got perfect results. More info at Breville.
Made a small but delicious plant-based change with a new beverage called Sapsucker sipsapsucker.com. Get this: it’s made with a by-product of the process maple trees use to draw water through their roots and trunk, which acts like a natural filter while collecting nutrients stored in the tree.
Sustainably harvested from trees in Ontario and Quebec, it has a slight natural bubble and fruit flavor that’s a wonderful alternative to soft drinks or alcohol, and a tasty way to rehydrate.
Vicky Sanderson is the editor of Around the House, www.aroundthehouse.ca. Check her out de ella on Instagram @athwithvicky, on Twitter ATHwithVickyand on facebook.com/ATHVicky.