Explore a Specialized Culinary Career: Vegetarian Caterer

by Sonja Albrecht
CulinaryEd Columnist
May 19, 2011

What do actresses Naomi Watts, Natalie Portman, and Gwynneth Paltrow have in common with actors as diverse as Ted Danson, Richard Gere, and Brad Pitt? And what's the secret of the timeless good looks of model Carol Alt, Demi Moore, and ageless, energetic Paul Newman? All are vegetarians, says the International Vegetarian Union. And lest you think vegetarianism is a passing fad or a seventies flashback, know that the IVU will celebrate its centennial in 2008.

Vegetarian Catering, A Solid Career Niche
Clearly, vegetarians have deep culinary commitments, so if your catering career depends on developing a loyal following, you'd be hard pressed to find more dedicated diners than those who avoid eating animals or animal products. Fortunately, vegetarian dishes make your job in catering a breeze. In addition to the classic veggie lasagna, how about:

  • Cheese strata, a hot sandwich entre of bread, cheese, and tomato layers
  • Veggie wraps of hummus or smoked tofu with chopped walnuts and greens
  • Portobello mushroom "French dip"
  • Panini (pressed sandwiches) with tofu or mashed beans
  • Tapas, the South American bite-sized appetizers

Catering careers are based on personal flair; your culinary job is to fill in the details above with your unique take on vegetarian cuisine.

Big Guys, Little Lies?
In vegetarian cooking, trust is all. Your clients must put their faith in you and your commitment to vegetarian values. A few years back, computer consultant and Wendy's customer Pat Fish outed the chain for putting gelatin in its Veggie Pita sauce. Though Wendy's replaced the sauce with an animal-product-free version, consumer confidence was shaken. Taco Bell, too, learned a lesson in the discerning vegetarian palate (and, perhaps, in truth in advertising) when Bell's Veggie Fajita was found to contain chicken extracts and its meatless burrito sported sour cream and guacamole made with gelatin. As a vegetarian cook, you'll find your job garnering trust in your catering business will be easier now that the food industry giants squandered theirs.

"Green cuisine," by Sam Hannam. In Britain 4.11 (November 1994).
International Vegetarian Union
"Psst. About that veggie pita...," by Anna Mulrine. U.S. News & World Report 123.1 (July 7, 1997).
"The Watchword Is Substance: Veggie Sandwiches," by Nancy Berkoff. FoodService Director 13.5 (May 15, 2000).

About the Author

Sonja Albrecht works as a writer and editor for an online media company. She has also taught college writing and completed a Ph.D. in English.
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