Unrepentant carnivores can turn their noses up at vegetarian dining, but were they to step into the kitchens of the Vegetarian Society Cookery School in Altrincham, near Manchester, they’d be in for quite a surprise. The school has always excelled at proving that meat-free food can more than hold its own against animal-derived dishes, but the arrival of new manager Sam Platt in January injected some on-trend edge to its course calendar, with bold new additions such as Tofu Guru and Vegan Junk Food classes helping to shake off the stereotype that eating vegan means missing out.
We caught up with the chef, tutor and roller-derby enthusiast to learn more about her journey to the Veg Soc kitchen…
How did you end up teaching cooking?
After spending much of my professional life training chefs and catering staff, moving to a teaching in a class setting seemed really natural. When I first came across the opportunity to work at the Vegetarian Society Cookery School it felt like the perfect way to combine my love of food, experience in training and my lifelong vegetarianism.
Where were you before the Vegetarian Society Cookery School?
I’m from a commercial catering background. Immediately before the Vegetarian Society Cookery School I was a department manager with a large national quick-service catering brand.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
Making sure that every time I cook a dish it’s as exciting as the first time.
…and the best?
Hearing ‘I never knew veggie/vegan food could be so delicious!’ from the students. It never gets old!
Do you have a favourite course or topic?
Usually my newest! We’ve just launched our Junk Food Vegan course. Debuting new recipes is so exciting.
What do you think is the trickiest dish/technique that you teach in your classes?
It’s not necessarily the trickiest but making seitan [wheat gluten] in all its variations was quite a new skill for me. I’d only dabbled before. Lots of people can be daunted by the thought of making seitan simply because they’ve never tried to do it before. Once you understand how it behaves and how to prepare it to achieve different results, it’s a great skill to add to your repertoire.
Desert island dish?
Some of my favourite dishes to go into a Buddha Bowl – roasted cauliflower with tahini and lemon dressing, chilli coriander chickpeas, and spinach and garlic quinoa with kale and chestnut mushrooms. I’ll pop a couple of these in with some crunchy apple salad, top with a mixed seed sprinkle and job’s done!