Tal Ronnen America’s Best Vegan Chef
Tal Ronnen is the best vegan chef in America, Oprah said. He helped her prep for her 21-day vegan challenge, when she also gave up sugar, gluten and alcohol. He’s also catered the wedding of Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, and cooked on DeGeneres’ show.
“It is definitely a lot of pressure when cooking for someone you respect and who has done so much for you,” Ronnen says. “Eventually you learn they are people, just like your other guests, and enjoy good meals, and that’s the bottom line.”
When he’s not consulting for celebs, you can find him behind the stoves at his L.A. plant-based restaurant, Crossroads. When it opened in 2013, it was one of the first elevated, chef-driven restaurants not to serve meat.About 60% of his diners aren’t vegan or even vegetarian, Ronnen estimates, so he tries to create dishes that are familiar—not in a kitschy, derivative sort of way, but in a way that’s universal. There are crab cakes made from hearts of palm, hot and crisp on the outside and flaky within. Hearts of palm offer a sweet, toothsome shred very similar to crab. The ocean note is, of course, less strong, but it’s satisfying. There are also artichoke oysters that are akin to nothing, despite their name; buttery artichoke purée is piped on an artichoke leaf and topped with an oyster mushroom breaded ever so reverently. Atop, there’s kelp caviar: at a glance, you would have no reason to doubt it came from a sturgeon. The whole thing is spooned with béarnaise, which, in the French canon, is a yolky sauce similar to hollandaise. Here however, it’s made from yellow tomato, and it’s what Ronnen uses for the yolk in his pasta carbonara.
All text in Food and Wine