Vegan Cooking: Interview with Chef Omer Tal
Intro: More to new-meat* than meets the eye
A new wave of chefs is rethinking our relationship with meat and its place in our culinary landscape. One such visionary is Omer Tal, the Culinary Chef at Redefine Meat. As an evangelist of mindful consumption, Omer uses his position at Redefine Meat to help people adopt a plant-based diet without compromising on all of the experiences – physical and emotional – associated with one of the world’s favorite foods. In this article, we share our conversation with Omer.
From renowned restaurant owner to Redefine Meat evangelist
What turned you into a Redefine Meat evangelist?
“I first came across Redefine Meat when they became one of my suppliers at Ayala, the plant-based restaurant I founded in Tel Aviv in 2020. I was very impressed by their products’ taste, flavor and cooking experience. But more than that, as a chef, I didn’t have to compromise on anything. For instance, I could use Redefine Meat’s minced beef to do traditional meatballs with sauce, using the same recipes, and the results were delicious. It’s a cliche, but I loved the product so much…that I decided to join the company!”
Can you describe your personal journey to a more vegan, plant-based diet?
“I’d say, my journey begins with a realization. As a species, we can’t afford to keep eating the kinds of foods we are used to, especially traditional meat. Every journey presents you with challenges. When you’ve spent your life as a carnivore, you know nothing comes close to that mouth-watering, umami-filled, dirty-napkin-creating experience of eating a lamb or chicken shawarma. I realized that my craving for meat wouldn’t simply disappear magically. I also realized that meat consumption is deeply ingrained in our earliest memories and family traditions. Thus, the transition to a plant-based diet involves engaging the mind, body, and soul in how we choose and prepare our food.”
A meat lover who embraces a (mostly) plant-based lifestyle
How do you square your love of meat dishes with your vegan lifestyle?
“While contemplating the move to a plant-based lifestyle or taking those initial steps, people often fear losing the enjoyable aspects of food they cherish. They worry that embracing this change requires sacrificing a significant part of their identity. As the Culinary Chef at Redefine Meat, my role involves guiding people in this journey, so they can confidently explore a new realm, without feeling they need to give up on quality or culinary experience.
Let’s start by putting our cards on the table. We have a deep-rooted love of meat. We love its one-of-a-kind texture, we love its array of flavors. We enjoy and savor it. It gives us a special feeling of satiety, of feeling full. The next big challenge, as I hinted before, goes deeper. Eating meat is like a time machine. It connects us with our cherished childhood memories, family, and home. For me personally, it’s the memory of my mother and grandmother preparing a slow-cooked meat stew, or a chunk of lamb roasting in the oven. Meat arouses our emotional side.”
“Redefine Meat understands people’s deep emotional connections with meat.”
Cooking with Redefine Meat
What tips would you give someone new to vegan cooking or cooking with meat alternatives?
“I always encourage people to consider Redefine Meat as just “another kind of meat.” For example, if you’re accustomed to cooking with beef, and you start using lamb, you’ll appreciate some subtle differences and nuances in its character and how to get the best from it. Our company’s slogan, ‘Precisely the same, entirely different,’ is particularly fitting here. Redefine Meat shares similarities with meats you’re familiar with, yet it possesses its own unique character. You can incorporate it into many of your traditional meat-based dishes and recipes; for instance, you can easily prepare meatballs in sauce with Redefine Meat’s ground mince using familiar recipes. At the same time, you’ll discover new things – like which sauces work best, and what kinds of herbs or spices compliment the existing flavors. I think that’s very exciting.”
Personally, I’m a huge fan of pulled meat. I love using it as a dry rub for shawarma by adding spices and onion. It also works great in Asian wok cooking or Mexican-style wet cooking such as a spicy barbacoa. The best part of using Redefine Meat is you can prepare these types of dishes without having to spend hours cooking the meat!”
What opportunities do you see for more adventurous cooking with plant-based meat?
“I’m excited to be part of a new generation of restaurant and home-based cooks using plant-based meat in their repertoire. We’re experimenting. We’re pioneering. We’re developing new ways to get the best from it. For example, just the other day, my team at Redefine Meat was working on preparing this authentic Dutch dish, fried meatballs with lamb mince – and it was fascinating to see how we recreate this using the Redefine Meat portfolio.
As one of our new meat evangelists, what final message would you like to share with our audience?
“Today, we have an incredible opportunity, and even a responsibility, to forge new family traditions by embracing plant-based meats that are kinder to our planet. So go ahead and explore the versatility of our products while still enjoying the familiar meaty tastes and textures you love. Enjoy this exciting new vegan cooking journey and this opportunity to create new memories of togetherness based on eating deliciously, mindfully, responsibly, and sustainably.”