Chef Kelvin Kelly, head chef at One Life Kitchen and Café, joined the Dubai venue when it opened in 2016, and draws inspiration for dishes from his love for simple meals made daily from fresh produce.
How have you seen demand for more vegan and healthy options in the UAE grow over the past two years?
Growth has been exponential in these two categories, and I think veganism is transforming from, not only just an animal cruelty perspective, but for healthier living, especially in the UAE. It’s no longer just a diet, it’s a lifestyle.
With the access to more information on our own intolerances and of course #vegan on social media, we’ve seen a spike in people making healthier choices when it comes to food. It’s been great to see that restaurants in the UAE have designed menus that can be adapted to an individualised, plant-based living.
What can vegans keep an eye out for on menus when ordering out to ensure they get the best dishes?
When I’m looking for a vegan menu item, I tend to look for natural ingredients – vegetables, pulses and legumes, as opposed to meat substitutes. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with meat substitutes, but I feel that nutritional value is far greater when consuming naturally grown ingredients.
What makes your meat alternatives different?
Here at One Life, we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, so we stick to natural ingredients such as chickpeas, lentils, beetroot, etc. We feel that natural ingredients are a lot healthier and are free from any chemicals that may be harmful.
How do you change your meat dishes into vegan dishes?
We don’t, but when creating dishes, we try to create them with the thought of them being adaptable to suit plant-based lifestyles, too. If you look at a lot of our menu items, all of them with the exception of two, are adaptable to be vegan.
So, from inception, all our dishes were created with plant-based diets in mind. We’re not changing it from meat to vegan, it’s both.
What are your favourite vegan dishes to cook and why?
My favourite vegan dish to cook is an eggplant moussaka using a cashew and coconut-based cheese. I also tend to favour buddha bowls as they are generally raw, vibrant in colour, full of nutrition, and easily adaptable.
Do you have any tips and tricks for new vegans when it comes to making meals?
Start with the basics and don’t be pressured to overcomplicate things. Vegan dishes are easy to make despite how intimidating they may seem. Lastly, avoid trying to make them taste like meat.