I have been a vegetarian for coming up to 5 years now, after watching the documentary ‘Earthlings,’ which changed my view of the meat industry. I thoroughly enjoy being a veggie, it’s opened my eyes up to loads of the new foods and dishes – I’m still not keen on tofu though!
Generally, I haven’t found it difficult to stick to my vegetarian diet, however as a regular traveler I have been tempted once or twice – it’s usually a seafood linguine that gets me! With experiencing many different cultures and ways of cooking, sometimes I find myself feeling like I am missing out on what the meat eaters are having. This is what has made me into the perfectionist I am about getting the dietary meals for our guests up to the standards of what the rest of the group are eating.
Some destinations get it right first time, for example India, Vietnam and Greece all have a great selection of vegetarian food which normally means the food tasting gets done quickly. In India you can have a great veg curry, delicious noodles in Vietnam, and Greece have the most amazing salads with divine cheeses. However, there a few places we travel to where vegetarianism isn’t quite so common, and they find it tricky to come up with a good alternative. I’ve had the likes of raw vegetables served up in some places and in others where they weren’t sure if chicken counted as vegetarian or not!
Food tasting is a big part of our job as choosing the right food for the group is important. As the only veggie in the team, I’m normally in charge of making sure our special diet meals are up to scratch – it’s a difficult job, but someone has to do it! No seriously, it can be difficult, as we want to work with the head chef to come up with the perfect alternative for our special diets, so they do not feel like they are missing out. We like guests with dietary requirements to know that they have been thought about, but not singled out, which is why it’s my job to pay particular attention to these dishes. This doesn’t just mean a nice tasting dish, it needs to look the part too, and we will keep sending it back (sorry chef!) until we are 100% satisfied that it is at the same level as what the main group are eating. This isn’t to say that the venues aren’t putting in the effort, as everyone is always very accommodating, it’s just that at Ulterior, we are perfectionists!
Often, we choose a vegetarian starter for the whole group at lunches and dinners. Not only does this mean a quicker service of the starters (which is crucial after a walking tour!), but it also means those that are vegetarian also have a similar meal to the rest of the group, often meaning only their main course is different. The increase in variety of vegetarian food and the improvement of quality over the past 5 years or so, means that this is now a regular occurrence, because the veggie starter is something we know the majority would love.
Generally, around the world vegetarianism and other dietary requirements are becoming more common and the variety available to them is getting bigger. I think in some places there is still a way to go, and until then I will keep my fussy head on at food tastings. We care so much about all of our guests and the experience they have, and this means that we want everyone to have food they like. My favourite ever veggie meal, of all the places I’ve eaten, has to be a paneer curry in the restaurant ‘Varq’, Delhi – I’ve never had a curry like it!
Written by Natasha Fogg