Mark Reinfeld is a world-renowned vegan chef who comes to Maui about once a year to teach people how to create amazing vegetarian dishes. He has several cookbooks, including Vegan World Fusion Cuisine, which won several awards and was based on his Blossoming Lotus Restaurant on Kauai. Reinfeld has a celebrity following for his food and also teaches online classes at veganfusion.com. The chef will host a two-day vegan fusion event this weekend in West Maui. MauiTime got a chance to see what inspires this vegan chef, and find out where he likes to eat on Maui.
MAUITIME: What does Vegan Fusion mean to you?
MARK REINFELD: It means incorporating elements from different ethnic cuisines in the same dish or menu. On a deeper level, it involves integrating the wisdom, sacred sites, beauty and cuisine of the worlds cultures in one presentation.
MT: Is being vegan just a food philosophy or does it have deeper implications?
MR: I feel a deep connection with animals and a strong desire to preserve the earth’s resources. I also feel that by switching to an essentially plant based diet we can alleviate world hunger. (Most of the grain currently grown goes to feed livestock instead of people).
MT: Why did you become a chef?
MR: I always loved to cook, even as a child. After completing one semester of law school at NYU, I knew I needed to do something else with my life. My love of cooking returned to me and I started working in kitchens. Around the same time I felt a deeper love for animals and decided to become vegetarian. So basically my entire professional career was as a veggie chef.
MT: Tell me something about you I probably don’t already know.
MR: Over 10 years ago, I originally came to Kauai on a two-week vacation and didn’t leave the island for over two years. I fell in love with the island, quit my job on the mainland, sold my car and started creating a new life for myself. Within a couple of months, the Blossoming Lotus Cafe had its beginnings in downtown Kapaa.
MT: You travel the world teaching and sharing your cookbooks. What have you published and where do you reside permanently?
MR: My first cookbook, Vegan World Fusion Cuisine, was co-authored with Bo Rinaldi and had a foreword by Dr. Jane Goodall. It has won several national awards, including “Cookbook of the Year,” “Best New Cookbook,” “Best Book by a Small Press” and a Gourmand Award for “Best Vegetarian Cookbook in the USA.” I also co-authored The Taste Of The East, The 30-Minute Vegan and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Raw. My newest book, The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of Europe, is due out in September. I am looking to settle down part time in Maui and part time in Portland. I am in love with Maui!
MT: How do you stay on the cutting edge of vegetarian cooking?
MR: By researching and writing new books I have the opportunity to continually develop creatively. I am super inspired when I see people make a change to include more plant based foods in their diet, knowing how much this helps their health, as well as the planet and the animals. I would consider raw food preparation as the upcoming trend. Half of the recipes in my workshop are cooked and half are raw.
MT: What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a great vegetarian chef?
MR: Practice as much as possible on your own. See if you can apprentice with a chef to learn from them. If you feel a strong desire, you can look into going to a natural foods culinary institute.
MT: What are the advantages a vegan diet has over a normal diet?
MR: There are too many to mention. Health–many diseases can be prevented and reversed on a vegan diet. Environment–including more vegan foods is one of the most potent forms of environmental activism. And plants use a fraction of the resources, including water, energy, land etc. when compared to a meat-based diet.
MT: Will students be vegan experts after two days with you?
MR: Students are empowered with some of the basic techniques of vegan and raw food preparation. The way I teach recipes is with a template system. I may go over 10 recipes over the weekend, but students will know how to prepare hundreds of them. It forms an incredible foundation for future growth in the kitchen.
MT: Are there any vegan restaurants on the island you like that provide an authentic vegan experience?
MR: Fresh Mint in Paia is a nice restaurant which has an Asian flare. Choice Health Bar has a selection of raw food dishes. Down to Earth provides many standard vegan options.
MT: What is one of your favorite recipes we can share?
MR: Here is a recipe from my new book, The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of Europe:
Gracing the tables of French nobility since the times of Marie Antoinette, the pear tart makes a perfect finale to any gourmet feast. With a walnut fig crust and a cashew cream topping, this raw recipe demonstrates how living foods can be strikingly delicious as well as vibrantly healthful. If you want to let loose the full joie de vivre, spread a layer of Chocolate Mousse over the crust before adding the pears and cashew cream.
Makes one 9-inch tart
3/4 cup finely chopped black mission figs
1 1/4 cups chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon agave nectar, coconut nectar, or maple syrup
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of cardamom
1 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons agave nectar, coconut nectar, or maple syrup
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons maple syrup or agave or coconut nectar
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg or cardamom or allspice
2 large ripe pears, sliced thin, 1/2-inch strips
1 pint fresh berries, rinsed and drained well
1. Place the figs in a small bowl with 2 cups of water. Place the cashews in a small bowl with 2 cups of water. Place the lavender flowers in a bowl with 3 tablespoons of hot water, if using. Allow to soak while you prepare the topping. If you have the time, allow them to soak for 20 minutes or more.
2. Prepare the topping by placing the lemon juice, maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg, in a large shallow dish and mix well. Add the sliced pears and gently coat well.
3. Prepare the crust. Drain the figs and place them in a food processor with the walnuts, agave nectar, cinnamon, and cardamom and pulse process until the ingredients are just ground up. Do not over-process or your crust will be too gummy. Transfer to a well-oiled 9-inch tart pan and press down firmly to create the crust. The mixture should be holding together. If not, return the processor and process a bit further.
4. Creatively place the pear slices on top of the crust. Try forming a spiral where each pear slice slightly overlaps the one next to it.
5. Prepare the Cashew Cream. Rinse and drain the cashews well. Place them in a strong blender along with the 1/4 cup of water and agave nectar. Blend until creamy.
6. Pour the cream over the pears and decorate with fresh berries and mint leaves before serving. If you wish, you can pour the cream only over the center of the tart, leaving an outside ring of pears.
Add 2 tablespoons raw almond butter to the crust.
Add 2 tablespoons raw cacao nibs to the crust.
Replace the walnuts with almonds or pecans.
Replace the cashews in the cream with macadamia nuts.
Create a multicolored cream. Reserve half of the cashew cream and blend with 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries or strawberries to create an additional colored cream. Creatively decorate with both creams. Think swirls!
Experiment with different types of pears such as Anjou, Bartlett, and Comice.
Replace the pears with apples, peaches, or nectarines.
Create a Lavender Cashew Cream. Soak 1 tablespoon lavender flowers in 3 tablespoons of hot water for 20 minutes. Strain the lavender flowers through a strainer, adding the liquid to the blender along with the cashews. Discard the flowers.
VEGAN FUSION WORKSHIP
To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org