Pioneering plant-based chef Derek Sarno is the latest high-profile name to join Veganuary - the Try Vegan in January campaign - as an Ambassador, joining among others Harry Potter actress Evanna Lynch, TV presenter Jasmine Harman, food writer Jack Monroe, comedian Sara Pascoe, rugby player Anthony Mullally and actor Peter Egan.
Derek, originally from Portland, OR, was the senior global chef at Whole Foods Market in the US before joining UK-based retail giant Tesco, from which exciting plant-based developments are expected in the new year.
Derek said: ‘I decided to go vegan because as a chef I feel responsible for the food that I feed people. I believe we can do it in a much more compassionate way that can be just as delicious as any animal product out there. On a personal level, I wanted to be more compassionate with my choices, and being vegan is the way that I can affect change on a personal level.’
Derek himself has been vegan a little over a year, and he paid special tribute to those that have been vegan longer. ‘For the old-school vegans that have been vegan for 30 years, I commend them because they did it out of principle, not because the food was good. Now I want to do my part and help make it delicious, inviting and dead-easy to go vegan.’
All eyes are on Tesco for the new year as vegans wait to see what Derek has been cooking up with them, and since Derek has previously owned award-winning restaurants and catering companies, expectations are running high. He says he is driven to create ‘wicked-ballsy flavours, layered with textures’ that will undoubtedly please vegans, and crucially his aim is to create ‘crave-able foods that will encourage meat-eaters to choose them over any other product’.
Matthew Glover, Veganuary Co-founder says: ‘We’re so proud to welcome Derek to the Veganuary family. His approach sits perfectly with ours - not only do we want to show all the great reasons for trying vegan, we want to make it as easy, delicious and enjoyable as possible. Derek’s experience and expertise in creating amazing plant-based foods will help us do just that.’
Derek also supports Veganuary’s approach. ‘My advice to somebody thinking of taking part in Veganuary would be just do it. Get off your ass and stop with the excuses and just do it. You’ll find any excuse in the world not to do it but the reasons you can find to do it are the meaningful ones that really will bring some meaning to your life and create a lot of change.’
The number of vegans around the world is rising exponentially, and it is a sign of the times that international food giant Tesco has taken on a Director of Plant Based Innovation. With more and more food options, plant-based restaurants, and high-profile advocates speaking out about the benefits that veganism has brought them, Derek is convinced that this is just the beginning. ‘I can’t even explain the wave that’s coming that will change the world this next year. Vegan is going mainstream.’
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