In January 2022, the Meals Community made historical past with its first vegan episode of Beat Bobby Flay—a cooking competitors present that’s been on air since 2013.
Final week, greater than a 12 months after the sequence’ inaugural vegan episode, Beat Bobby Flay welcomed cooks Troy Gardner (chef-owner of Texas-based TLC Vegan Cafe) and Rachel Klein (chef-owner of Philadelphia’s Miss Rachel’s Pantry) for the chance to face off towards superstar chef and host Bobby Flay.
Vegan comic Nikki Glaser and superstar chef Michael Voltaggio have been tasked with judging the rivals’ first spherical dishes to find out who would proceed on to spherical two for an opportunity to tackle Flay himself.
Left: Troy Gardner, proper: Rachel Klein by Scott Kinkade
Within the first spherical of the competitors, Gardner and Klein every created a dish utilizing a secret ingredient chosen by Flay: beets. With simply 20 minutes on the clock, Gardner opted to create a beet taco topped with tomatillo and tomato salsa. However finally, it was Klein’s beet inexperienced pasta with spicy beet pancetta that proved victorious.
After profitable over the judges along with her Italian dish, Klein went face to face towards Flay in spherical two, the place she chosen the dish they might every be making: vegan cheesesteaks—an homage to the town of Philadelphia, Klein’s homebase.
Mushroom meat takes heart stage
For her last dish, chef Klein relied on maitake mushrooms for her meaty stand-in. She completed off her sandwich with a rutabaga and cashew cheese sauce, broccoli rabe, spicy tomato jam, and crispy fried onions stuffed inside Italian rolls.
Klein’s vegan cheesesteak / Meals Community
Flay, too, turned to mushrooms, choosing thinly sliced portabello mushrooms instead of meat. The superstar chef topped his Philly cheesesteak sandwich with caramelized onions, sautéed peppers, cheese sauce made utilizing cashews and dietary yeast, dairy-free provolone, and potato chips all packed inside a hoagie roll.
This last spherical was judged by Wealthy Landau (chef-owner of Vedge); chef and cookbook creator Nikki Dinki; and Chris Cheung (chef-owner of East Wind Snack Store).
“I’m a vegan, and I’m from Philly, so that is proper up my alley,” Landau mentioned within the episode after tasting chef Kelin’s cheesesteak. Cheung, too, gave Klein’s sandwich a glowing evaluation, stating, “I’m a meat-eater from New York, however I’m actually digging this vegan sandwich.”
Flay’s vegan cheesesteak / Meals Community
Flay obtained blended opinions about his cheese sauce and his choice to incorporate potato chips in his sandwich. In the end, Klein was topped the winner, and she or he proudly declared, “I simply beat Bobby Flay.”
Rachel Klein of Miss Rachel’s Pantry makes historical past
Together with her victory, Klein has cemented her place in Meals Community historical past, changing into the second vegan chef to defeat Flay, becoming a member of Tamearra Dyson of Souley Vegan in her victory final January.
“It feels surreal,” Klein tells VegNews about her win. “I’ve been doing this for therefore lengthy. I began [Miss Rachel’s Pantry] in 2007 and it’s tremendous cool to succeed in a brand new viewers.”
To organize for the competitors present, Klein was severe about her coaching. She watched numerous episodes of Beat Bobby Flay, a passtime she was keen on as a younger grownup.
“I made an entire record of components, every thing I assumed the [round one secret ingredient] could possibly be,” Klein says. From there, she started desirous about the completely different dishes she would make utilizing every of the components on her record.
“If [the secret ingredient] is mushrooms, perhaps I’ll make a taco, a sandwich, or a crab cake,” Klein recollects. “If it’s a beet, perhaps I’ll make it into pancetta—which I did—or into roasted salmon.
She was elated when she discovered about what the key ingredient would truly be. “Once they mentioned it was beets, I used to be so completely satisfied as a result of we use them so continuously [at Miss Rachel’s Pantry],” she says, calling the basis vegetable her personal secret ingredient of types.
Klein was, nevertheless, hesitant about making pasta. “Making pasta was not one thing I assumed I ought to do,” she explains. “I’ve seen it not achieve success with different contestants.”
Regardless of her reluctance, she moved ahead along with her choice to make pasta for the judges. Incorporating beet greens—the leaves that develop atop beets—into her pasta was instrumental to her technique.
Additionally, incorporating the key ingredient in a number of methods has typically given rivals the additional enhance they should win—a factoid Klein seen whereas watching previous episodes as a part of her prep for the present.
Chef Troy Gardner’s Meals Community return
Klein’s competitor was Gardner, a musician-turned-chef and proprietor of TLC Vegan Cafe in Richardson, TX.
Gardner himself is not any stranger to the Meals Community. He beforehand competed on a vegetarian-themed episode of Man’s Grocery Video games, the place he got here in second place.
Whereas filming Beat Bobby Flay, Glasser approached Gardner, asking the chef if he was vegan himself. Within the episode, Gardner says no, and begins explaining why he nonetheless eats non-vegan meals earlier than Glasser cuts him off with, “Alright, that’s an actual cop out.”
Courtesy of Troy Gardner
When requested about his weight loss program and his choice to function vegan meals companies regardless of not consuming totally plant-based himself, Gardner informed VegNews, “The one cause I’m not 100-percent vegan is as a result of I’m a vegan chef.”
“To ensure that me to recreate [dishes] and constantly develop, I keep open to conserving my palette the identical in order that I can truly recreate gadgets as genuine as attainable,” he says. “I’ve obtained a practical objective of not turning each one that walks by the door right into a vegan, however at the least making them eat extra vegan meals.”
“By with the ability to recreate issues as near what they really style like, I feel that it’s turn out to be more practical,” Gardner says. “I’ve been capable of win over so many individuals who have been skeptical [about vegan food].”
The Texas-based chef applauds Beat Bobby Flay for persevering with to deliver veganism into the mainstream. “Meals Community taking these meat-driven exhibits like Beat Bobby Flay and making a vegan episode [will help people] notice that that is one thing that’s going to proceed rising,” Gardner says.
Whereas the sequence has been round for a decade and has aired 32 seasons, the truth that it continues to embrace vegan episodes is an indication of one thing greater.
Richie Bowie / VegNews
For Gardner, Beat Bobby Flay’s second vegan episode is a pointy distinction from the vegetarian episode of Man’s Grocery Video games he beforehand competed in. The 2018 episode centered round vegetarian cooking, regardless of host Man Fieri’s need to movie a vegan episode, as a result of pushback from the community itself.
“They have been terrified to do a [vegan] episode then, and now, we will freely name it vegan,” Gardner says. “We didn’t should masks it [behind vegetarian]. That’s plenty of progress.”