Cooking Vegan in a non-Vegan Kitchen #vrcns

We dine out for a variety of reasons, the primary ones being hunger and convenience.  For me, enjoying a dining experience at a mixed restaurant serving both vegan and non-vegan foods means trusting that my vegan meal was prepared without contact with animal-based foods. Regardless of whether the underlying reason may be ethical concerns, food safety & handling practices, or health concerns, there are California state laws regarding food handling to avoid allergens.

For the many of us who have never worked in a restaurant kitchen and are unfamiliar with how it’s run, I’ve summarized a conversation I had with Anthony Jackson, a chef as well as a vegan who worked at a Vallejo restaurant handling both vegan and non-vegan foods:

  1. Different ingredients have separate cutting boards (vegetables will not be cut on the same board as meat)
  2. Food handlers must change gloves between handling any meat and vegetables
  3. Pots and Pans are cleaned after each use (i.e. when you order a vegan dish at a mixed restaurant, it will be cooked in a clean pot/pan)
  4. Fried foods: Industry practice is that the oil in fryers is used for about a week before it is changed and the fryer cleaned. So, the fryer used (today) for French fries or falafel may have been used, with the same oil, for cheese sticks or fried chicken the day before (or maybe 5 minutes earlier)
  5. Grilled foods: the grill is cleaned after each order is prepared.

These guidelines protect the health and safety of consumers, and should reassure us that a kitchen following state law and diligent in their kitchen cleaning can provide a vegan meal safe from allergens.

A restaurant is typically forthcoming about how they prepare foods, just ask.  When Anthony asked one restaurant about their fryers, they shared their kitchen has 3 separate fryers for vegetables, chicken and fish.  This was at the Denny’s on Sonoma in Vallejo.  And, yes, in addition to French fries, there are other vegan selections available at Denny’s.

Other restaurants, like Taco Bell, may not have separate fryers.  Taco Bell, which is likely the most vegan-friendly fast food restaurant chain, makes a statement on their website that some meatless items are not vegetarian because of this

“In some of our restaurants, we use the same frying oil to prepare menu items that may or may not contain meat.”

Taco Bell offers  clear instructions on their website about how to eat vegan at their stores.  And from a kitchen tour at the grand opening of their American Canyon location, I was reassured to see there were individual scoops for all ingredients.

With our Vegan Restaurant Campaign, transparency about how any plant-based foods are fried is part of our process.  For example, a kitchen may have space constraints that prevent separate fryers.  If the dish is otherwise vegan except for ingredients from a shared fryer, we would like to make that information transparent for an informed consumer.



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