Last month I had a high-level executive at The PGA Tour of Champions, presented by Coca-Cola, who happened to be a vegan. Several people came up to me throughout to ask, what exactly is a vegan?
Many people think “vegan” is shorthand for “vegetarian.” It’s not. Vegan is a form of vegetarianism, but on a much stricter level. It is important when hosting vegans that you — and your chefs — know the difference:
- A vegetarian eats dairy (milk, cheese) and sometimes eggs. A few will eat fish, eschewing only meat and chicken. Menu planning for vegetarians really isn’t that difficult. If you have a buffet-style menu, there often are enough choices to satisfy vegetarians.
- A vegan diet is what I call “vegetarian plus.” Vegans do not eat any type of meat, chicken, fish or dairy, and are very strict with these culinary requirements. Basically, anything that has a mother or is processed is excluded from their diet. Everything must be organic. It is rare to find a vegan who “cheats,” even a little.
When working with a vegan, talk with them about what they like; it may surprise you. For example, I have discovered many vegans don’t like tofu, which I assumed would be a popular source of protein. Instead, vegans tend to eat a lot of nuts and grains for protein.
It is important to know folks on this strict diet love food as much as regular eaters do. A good source for menu ideas is your local natural food restaurant or grocery store. My last tip is: Make sure vegan meals are prepared with the same thoughtfulness you give to the rest of your guests.