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Vegan Hits it Big-Time! Chef Tal Ronnen Set to Take Over the World

Pierre digs Chef Tal

Pierre digs Chef Tal

I’ve got Peter Gabriel’s song “Big Time” stomping through my head. Here’s why: The all-vegan cookbook by Chef Tal Ronnen, Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes to Change the Way You Eat (which was released on October 6), is now number three on Amazon’s bestseller list and number two on Barnes & Noble’s.

I’m on my way, I’m making it: Big Time!

Chef Tal is beloved by many, but perhaps the most influential in the Tal Fanclub is Oprah Winfrey. (I’m not one to really care about celebrities, but even I admit she’s pretty big-time.) Conscious Cook was featured on her show yesterday. For those not in the know, Tal Ronnen was Oprah’s personal chef for her 21-day vegan ‘cleanse’. Check out today’s headline on her home page under the Food section–there’s a picture of Chef Tal and the headline: “Go vegetarian with recipes from The Conscious Cook.”

Chef Tal is a vegan evangelist through food. Aside from being a creative chef who rubs elbows with the highest echelons of celebrity, Ronnen serves as an adviser to college and corporate cafeterias on veganizing their menus and has worked with major gourmet vegan restaurants (read his official bio). He also helped in the development of the new vegan meat-replacer Gardein (check out SuperVegan’s reviews of Gardein).

In the book’s introduction, Quantum Wellness author Kathy Freston gushes: “It’s chefs like Tal who are leading the revolution in conscious cuisine; his exquisite, seasonal, and plant-based fare is simply some of the best food in the world.”

My sister-in-law (who is a head librarian for the New Haven Free Public Library) just brought the book home for us to test out some of the recipes on our half-carnivorous household. I pawed through and was surprised to see that the word vegan is all over the place (as opposed to the supposedly ‘safer’ word vegetarian)–it even has an opening chapter all about “being vegan.”

Conscious Cook is a beautiful gourmet cookbook with color photos accompanying each recipe. It is geared toward meat-eaters (Ronnen’s introduction screams “Welcome Meat-eaters!” and closes with: “I PROMISE, YOU WON’T MISS THE MEAT”–yes, all in caps) and cooks who prefer French gourmet cuisine (entrees centered around a meat-like substance). What’s cool about the book is that it features guest chefs, like Madeleine Bistro‘s Dave Anderson, and their own original menu and recipes, and interviews with vegan entrepreneurs, such as Follow Your Heart‘s Bob “Mayo Man” Goldberg.

It’s kinda cool to think that just maybe this could be a big step in veganism becoming even more mainstream and having some staying power–if Conscious Cook is number three on the Amazon bestseller list, is it delusional to assume that at least some people will try at least one or two recipes and even like them (before shelving the book for show)? One can only hope.

I’ve been vegan for 20 years, so it is mind-blowing to have a vegan book be such a bestseller, pimped by one of the most influential Americans on earth. I’ve adjusted Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time” to:

Ve-gan: we’re on our way we’re making it. Vegan! We’re gonna watch it growing!

Forgive my goofiness. I think I’d better feed my brain. I’m gonna stroll over to the community garden, pick an armful of kale, and try making Chef Tal’s Braised Kale. (Here’s a taster of recipes from Chef Tal’s book.)

This is one of Supervegan’s posts for Vegan MoFo 2009.


  1. Comment by


    on #

    Very cool – I’d somehow missed this. Thanks!

  2. Comment by


    on #

    Considering that “Chef” Tal has said that “fat equals flavor” I’m just not impressed. His cooking may inspire people to save the animals, ‘cept for the human animal. He caters to people’s unhealthy taste addiction to fat. He’s unconscious of the impact fat has on our bodies:

    That Chicken Scallopini recipe has over 30 grams of fat per serving, that’s HALF A DAY’S WORTH OF FAT according to the American Heart Association. The guys who’ve reversed heart disease (Esselstyn and Ornish) recommend between 14 and 24 grams of fat PER DAY.

    I think we need to hold vegan chefs to higher standards than simply swapping out the meat protein with a non-animal version and the slathering it all in oil (which isn’t even a food).

    “Big time?” Yeah, big time heart attack.

    FYI, Mark (this will be my only comment on your post…)

  3. Comment by


    on #

    Oprah was chewing even before the segment started; how’s that for an endorsement? I didn’t realize Chef Tal was so soft-spoken, but I was glad he was able to point out that his recipes aren’t just for vegetarians and vegans, but also for meat-eaters who are trying to eat better.

    Oh, and can someone please explain to Oprah that butter IS a dairy product? She kept talking about the two as if they are each a separate food group. To be fair, maybe to her they are. Oprah, veganism isn’t just for “cleansing”; do it for real.

  4. Comment by


    on #

    I’m pleased to see all of the variety in approaches to vegan cooking of late.
    What I remember most fondly from a recent meal at Candle 79 was the tempura battered onion rings. Sure, the rest of the meal was amazing but it was enjoyable to indulge in something so different from what I normally eat.
    Now, back to my greens and Bragg’s…

  5. Comment by


    on #

    my last comment was deleted.
    i was trying to be funny. i said Pierre the cat looks like a Kitler.
    this is a type of cat.
    look it up, and chill out.

  6. Comment by


    on #

    This is awesome. Seriously, 10 years ago I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me this would happen.

    Pshhh Pierre doesn’t even have a mustache… hardly a kitler.

  7. Comment by

    Laura Leslie

    on #

    Alan, we don’t delete comments (unless they’re spam). Yours must not have posted correctly. If you’re having technical issues with the site, please let us know.

  8. Comment by


    on #

    I have to whole-heartedly agree with stevie.jones!! I was excited when I saw this segment until I realized how much SOY he uses. Any Vegan/health conscious person knows how bad soy is for you, just the processing alone is horrific. Yes, true veganism is not ladling on fat and creating products that taste like meat. I am a Vegan and have food allergies and so many of his products have Wheat and soy in them. Too bad. But like you said, with all of Oprah’s money, she still has not figured out a healthy lifestyle which is unfortunate because she has such a great platform to actually help people and fight obesity and other poor diet issues in this country and in the world for that matter. You can tell by the sensual experience she has with food, what is the real problem.

  9. Comment by


    on #

    @ post #2.

    No disrespect man, but it seems like every time I go to a site by someone who is into the lowfat vegan diet thing that person is significantly overweight.

    I tried the low fat thing back in the 90s when it first came out. I got good results, but when I cut my fat too low to be perfect I began having cravings even when my stomach was full.

    I put on weight.

    I found that just a few more grams of that evil fat helped eat fewer calories and lose weight.

  10. Comment by

    Lisa M. Collins

    on #

    I’m going to check out this cookbook—thanks Cat Clye. Another beautifully written piece… love your blogging

  11. Comment by


    on #

    I am a student at Le Cordon Bleu. We had the privlage of having Chef Tal give a guest lecture. I am NOT a vegan, nor will I ever become on…However I am a member of the “If it tastes good, eat it!” club. After tasting Chef Tal’s samples, I now have a whole new intrest in vegan cooking. As a future chef, I need to know these things. So far I have made his, Celery root soup, Cream of Asperagus soup, and I made an all vegan “beef” tips over mashed potatos for dinner last night. The beef was Gardien, and the mushroom sauce was also all vegan. Was wonderfull. Oh, I do have his cookbook, he even kindly signed it for me.

  12. Comment by


    on #

    I’m going to check out this cookbook—thanks Cat Clye.