September 22, 2022

The plant-based and vegan worlds are full of influential figures. Individuals such as Rip Esselstyn and Dr. Amy Sapola teach others about the health benefits of following a plant-based diet, and entrepreneurs like Chad Sarno help bring vegan products to the masses. And then there are vegan chefs.

These professionals know how to transform ingredients like beans, grains, and vegetables into satiating and delicious dishes. Whether you’re looking to become a plant-based chef or just trying to find your next great meal, check out this list of some of the most accomplished and influential vegan chefs.

What Are the Differences Between Vegetarian, Vegan, and Plant-Based?

While these three diets often get lumped together, each has a unique definition.

  • Vegetarian: A diet that includes no meat, but may include animal products like milk and eggs
  • Vegan: A diet that includes no animal products, including meat, eggs, dairy, and honey
  • Plant-Based: A diet that prioritizes plant-based ingredients like vegetables, grains, and nuts; may or may not include animal products

1. Isa Chandra Moskowitz

As an author, restaurant owner, and vegan chef, Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a big name in the plant-based and vegan worlds. She has authored or co-authored ten books including Veganomicon and Vegan with a Vengeance.

After writing multiple books, she opened her vegan restaurant Modern Love in Omaha in 2014 and then opened a second location in Brooklyn in 2016. Both locations serve vegan versions of American comfort food, including dishes like seitan buffalo “wings” and mushroom fried chick’n.

2. Claire Vallee

Claire Vallee proved that plant-based restaurants could earn Michelin Stars, even in France–where meat, cream, and butter often play a major role in dishes. Her restaurant ONA (origine non animale) was the first vegan French restaurant to win a Michelin Star. Her dishes show that refined French cooking techniques can be applied to plant-based ingredients, yet she’s not afraid to experiment with creative ingredient pairings.

Despite ONA’s success, not everyone believed in Vallee’s vision. She struggled to receive financing from traditional banks, so she obtained funding for the restaurant via crowdfunding and from a bank that focuses on ethical lending. Her path can remind plant-based students that even if others doubt their dreams and goals, it doesn’t mean they’re not worth pursuing. And that it’s possible to start a restaurant even if you don’t have much money to start with.

Roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce on a grey plate

Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce by Escoffier Plant-Based Culinary Arts student Bree C.

3. Ricky Saward

When Ricky Saward took over Seven Swans in Frankfurt, it was already a Michelin-Star vegetarian restaurant. But this culinary visionary took the place to another level.

Saward sought to source all of the kitchen’s fruits and vegetables from a single farm linked to the restaurant. He stuck to this farm-to-table way of dining, even when the cold of winter limited his options to just a few root vegetables and cold-hardy greens. His approach to seasonality also extends to the native landscapes—you can find foraged items such as magnolia blossoms and juniper berries incorporated into Saward’s dishes.

Along with using unique ingredients, Saward also shows that plant-based ingredients have a multitude of uses as long as you employ a bit of creativity. Corn is served as sweet corn soup, whole baby corn, and corn miso while wheat turns into miso, waffles, and puffed grains.

4. Amanda Cohen

While some chefs have recently scrapped animal products from their menus in favor of vegetables, Amanda Cohen has long focused on making vegetables shine. Her restaurant’s name, Dirt Candy, pays homage to her belief that “vegetables are just candy from the dirt.”

Cohen is known for taking seemingly simple vegetables and turning them into innovative components such as tomato leather and sweet corn mousse. These components come together to form dishes that have reviewers raving and customers coming back for more.

5. Tal Ronnen

When celebrities and politicians are looking for plant-based fare for private events, they often call on Tal Ronnen. This plant-based chef has prepared vegan meals for Oprah, catered Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi’s wedding, and cooked the first vegan dinner held at the US Senate.

Ronnen is also the chef at Crossroads Kitchen in L.A., where he serves up approachable seasonal fare such as zucchini blossoms stuffed with nut cheese and eggplant filets with truffle potatoes.

The accomplished chef has also authored the bestselling cookbook Crossroads: Extraordinary Recipes from the Restaurant That is Reinventing Vegan Cuisine and serves on the board of the plant-based company Impossible Foods.

6. Chloe Coscarelli

While most people have now heard of veganism, this wasn’t always the case. One person who helped bring vegan food to the masses was Chloe Coscarelli.

Although she has been cooking vegan dishes for years, Coscarelli first made a name for herself by winning the Food Network show Cupcake Wars with her vegan cupcakes. Since then, she has written multiple vegan cookbooks including Chloe’s Kitchen and Chloe Flavor.

7. Matthew Kenney

As a vegan chef, entrepreneur, speaker, and author, Matthew Kenney has made a big impact on the vegan world. He currently operates more than 50 vegan restaurants across the world and has authored 12 cookbooks.

Although his restaurants all feature vegan menus, menu items vary between locations. Some restaurants give a plant-based twist to Mexican dishes like tacos and chile rellenos, while others offer vegan versions of iconic French dishes such as pâté and croque monsieur.

“I’ve had such an amazing experience. It’s been a challenge but the things we learn hands-on and in the reading, lectures, and the live classes… GOLD. I’m even informing my vegan friends of things, ideas, concepts, and techniques they didn’t know about. I can’t wait to graduate and expand my career.”*
Sophia San Roman, Online Plant-Based Diploma Student

Learn More About Plant-Based Cooking

If you’re interested in learning more about plant-based cooking and potentially joining the ranks of vegan chefs, a culinary education may be a great place to start. Escoffier’s Plant-Based Culinary Arts programs introduce students to ingredients and techniques unique to plant-based cooking as well as versatile skills like food safety and business planning. The program can set the path for you to pursue your dreams, whether that’s becoming a vegan chef or opening a vegetarian restaurant.

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To learn more about Escoffier’s programs, contact us today.

*Information may not reflect every student’s experience. Results and outcomes may be based on several factors, such as geographical region or previous experience.