Cookbook Author, First Chef to Win a Gold Medal in the Culinary Olympics with Vegetarian Cuisine.
Having recently supervised the service of 6,000 Vegan meals at the North American Vegetarian Society Summerfest, and played host to the World Vegetarian Congress in 1996 at Johnstown (and cook for the second half of the 2000 Congress in Toronto), I reflected upon the journey that had led me to such a wonderful opportunity to meet fellow Vegetarians from around the world.
When I made a firm decision 24 years ago to follow a Vegetarian diet, I found myself in a unique position. As a professional Chef who had experimented with this way of eating dating from 1971, I began to think about how I would cook for my clients with the same creativity and excitement that I formerly experienced and to meet the expectations of those who would be paying for this new style of cuisine.
This challenge also meant that it was necessary to overcome the stereotype of the brown beans, brown rice and brown bread Vegetarian diet. The variety of colors, flavors and textures from a plant-based source are almost endless and nearly every country has a tradition of delicious Vegetarian recipes that have served people for centuries.
My Vegetarian cooking gradually became Vegan and along with Chef Ron Picarski, author of Friendly Food and EcoCuisine (Ten Speed Press) I became involved in national and international culinary competitions. Our goal was to present Vegan food that was attractive as any main stream cuisine. The results were my being awarded the first gold medal in the U.S.A. for all Vegan savory foods and pastry presentations and the first ever gold medal awarded for an all Vegan exhibit at the prestigious "Olympiade der Köche" held in Frankfurt in 1992. While we were the lone Vegetarian presenters in the past I am proud to say that a goal has been achieved evidenced by the regular appearence of Vegetarian entrees at more recent Culinary Salons. Now, all International Culinary Teams that compete in Germany for the Olympics must now present a vegetarian platter.
The present number of meals served at the Summerfest can be added to the more than ½ million meals prepared and served by myself and the many people I've taught and worked with. The chance to be involved in all of this and to meet the many wonderful people I've met, all came about by my decision made by one person some fourteen years ago.
Ken Bergeron has been working in professional kitchens for 35 years