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The most effective way to become a successful vegan chef is to first plot your specific career goals, then remember the bottom line -- learning how to lure customers to your food. A big part of your job will be to convince diners you have something they want, rather than waiting for vegans to find you. Combining your personal passion with professional training will help you maximize your chances for success as a professional vegan chef.
Review Your Options
The first step in becoming a vegan chef is to determine what type of career you want. For example, you might want to simply cook in a restaurant, rather than run one. This career choice can include working as a line cook or sous chef rather than working as a head or executive chef, which requires considerable non-cooking management work. Your options for finding work as an employee for a restaurant, institutional cafeteria or banquet hall might be limited based on the small demand for vegan food, especially in smaller towns and cities. You might consider starting your own restaurant, working as a caterer, supplying delis, restaurants, banquet halls or grocery stores or working as a personal chef.
Like any other chef, you’ll need to learn the basics of professional cooking, including food handling, knife skills, menu planning, presentation, nutrition, health department regulations and combining different foods for maximum effect. Look for a school that offers vegan cooking training or find a vegan chef who will mentor you. If you train at a traditional culinary school, you’ll learn cooking basics, but might need to work with animal products to earn a certificate or degree. If you don’t need that piece of paper, you can sit out those classes. Vegan chefs can provide a service to people with special dietary needs, so studying nutrition will give a big boost to your career.
Learn to Substitute
You will expand the potential customer base you’ll have as a professional chef and make yourself more marketable to employers if you can prepare and serve vegan dishes that non-vegans want and do so at a profit. This requires learning how to make vegan versions of traditional dishes as close to the original as you can. In some cases, this will be easy, such as serving a pasta dinner without the egg noodles, dairy or ground beef. To avoid animal products, learn to use soy, rice and oat milk, tofu, egg-free mayonnaise, nuts and other ingredients, suggests the Vegan Society. Your knowledge of nutrition will help you understand when to consult with customers who might have allergies to certain foods such as soy or peanuts.
Create Your Own Recipe Book
You’ll be able to better sell yourself if you can show potential employers or customers what you can do, using a recipe book you create. If possible, include photos of your dishes. This can help ease fears of skeptical non-vegans when they see familiar-looking soups, salads, sandwiches, burritos, pastas, lasagnas, hash browns and pancakes. Test each of your recipes on multiple non-vegan “guinea pigs” to learn what they like and if they have suggestions.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.