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Ascot's vegan revolution: Forget the foie gras - this year's menus are all about plants

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 18/06/2019 Alan Tyers

French chef Raymond Blanc poses for a picture in his Covent Garden restaurant in London on October 31, 2012 after he was announced as Eurostar's new culinary director. Blanc has developed his new menu for the Eurostar based on traditional English, Belgian and French flavours. "The food on trains has a bad reputation. My mission is to improve," said Blanc during an interview with AFP.  AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS        (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images) © Getty French chef Raymond Blanc poses for a picture in his Covent Garden restaurant in London on October 31, 2012 after he was announced as Eurostar's new culinary director. Blanc has developed his new menu for the Eurostar based on traditional English, Belgian and French flavours. "The food on trains has a bad reputation. My mission is to improve," said Blanc during an interview with AFP. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images) What would you consider an archetypal high-end English summer lunch, of the sort the discerning racegoer might enjoy at Royal Ascot? Smoked salmon, something prawny or a pate to start? Then chicken, maybe trout? Followed by cheese or perhaps a fool or a mess (depending on frequency of visit to the betting window or encouraging nods to the waiter bearing the Chablis)?

All of those options will be available in the lawns and tents of Berkshire this week, but they will be joined on the plates of the lunching punters by a new menu focusing on plant-based dishes. For the winds of change are blowing through Royal Ascot this year, with all the on-site restaurants determined to give those of a herbivorous persuasion a wide array of options.

Raymond Blanc – a man so exquisitely, unimprovably French to the English eye that, had he not been born in Besancon on Nov 19 1949 it would have been necessary to invent him – leads the way. Monsieur Blanc has been feeding the British for five decades now, and knows better than almost anyone how to keep the mutually sustaining flow of French food and British cash going to the satisfaction of both parties.

“Today, there is a true realisation that we must change the way we eat,” he said. “Vegetarianism and veganism is not a trend, but an important change based on knowledge and awareness that we, be it chefs, home-cooks and retailers alike, must embrace.”

Blanc is delighted to be doing this at Royal Ascot. “I fell in love with it the moment I stepped into the racecourse,” he said. “It is a British institution, and the standards are very high which makes it such a special event. My work is to add a little bit more magic, great food and French art de vivre. Royal Ascot gives you the best stage to celebrate.”

Jonathan Parker, the course’s director of food and beverage, said of this year’s direction: “It is a natural progression, looking at what society is doing and what people like to eat.” He explained that chefs-in-residence including Phil Howard, Simon Rogan and Ollie Dabbous will be whipping up plant-based plates in their on-course restaurants.

Gallery: 15 Cheap Vegan Recipes You'll Want to Try Tonight [Women's Health]

Sarmado Sibley, raw food guru, will offer menus at eight further locations at Royal Ascot. One promising dish sounds to be the “salt-baked celeriac and potato cake, gratin potato, heritage carrots, crispy kale and red wine jus”, trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by Frankie Dettori.

All encouraging news for those of a vegan persuasion? Not for Dominika Piasecka, spokesperson for the Vegan Society. She said: “Offering more vegan meals can only be a positive thing and even though no vegan would attend horse racing, plant-based food is a healthy option for everyone who wants to eat better. However, horse racing is a romanticised industry that on the surface may seem a harmless sport, but it’s cruel and exploitative.”

The anticipated 300,000 attendees to Royal Ascot this week presumably do not share that point of view, but there is perhaps something worth reflecting on in the quirk of cheering on one animal while yumming up another. 

But not this year: until such time as those clever pickpockets at the turf accountants can get us wagering on which bit of asparagus is growing the fastest, the chance to enjoy plant-based food in lovely surroundings, entirely guilt-free, certainly seems like a decent bet.

MSN are empowering Women In Sport this summer. Find out more about our campaign and the charity fighting to promote the transformational and lifelong rewards of exercise for women and girls in the UK here.

Gallery: Delicious vegan alternatives for popular ingredients [StarsInsider]


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