“I want to run the most advanced plant based cooking school on the planet”, says vegan chef Jean-Christian Jury

Rosa Rivas

French chef Jean-Christian Jury was working like hell in London. A stroke changed his life… and the way of eating. He embraced the plants based diet, then became a vegan advocate with a restaurant in Berlin, La Mano Verde.

Based in L.A., he’s a non stop traveler now, in search of the best vegan recipes in the world. His cookbook Vegan (Phaidon) shows the richness of this food through different cultures.

The book has just been released in Spanish and I had the chance to e-mail talk to chef Jury. He’s passionate about his vegan mission. A new cookbook is coming. And a big project: a plant based food school.

- The vegan food imponed your health. Do you find this way of eating the most appropriate for the contemporary lifestyle? Is the diet of the future?

- Plant based food is the best option for humans, in term of health and for the future of our planet. Vegan food is the most modern form of diet available to us, our lifestyle needs to adapt and we have to find more time to source our garden fresh ingredients. If you like to keep a healthy body and strong immune system you need to indulge fresh greens on a daily basis, and they are available for us in different form, from juicing to smoothie, from breakfast bowl made with fruits and quinoa or amaranth, lunch or dinner made with fresh greens, there is a large array of delicious plant based recipes. Your body can eliminate any excess but cannot create the missing nutrients, this is our job. We have to find the time to source fresh ingredients, is there anything more important than our health? In the last 80 years we created so much, just look at what’s available to us, the progress we made in term of communication, life style, traveling, science, the list is amazingly long but we failed badly in term of nutrition. We live today in a world of supplements and medication that we don’t need if we indulge daily garden fresh organic food.

- How long did it take you to do this book?

- I work on VEGAN: The Cookbook for two years, traveling to India, Asia, South East Asia, North Africa, Latin America, USA and Europe, studying the history and evolution of food, going back to ancient times, the Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians and Persians, the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas, meeting a lot of chefs and people involved in the food industry. Quinoa and Amaranth are over 7000 years old, superfood part of Latin America native’s diet until the Spanish arrived and banned them burning all the plantation because the Aztec called Amaranth the food of the gods, the invaders destroyed everything related to local beliefs. The Italian jailed the inventor of the fork because Jesus was eating with his hands. Food has always been affected by our history and the evolution of our civilization, fascinating for a cookbook author.

- You have traveled around the world. Which food culture has impressed you most by using vegetables?

- I am very impressed by the food culture in Peru and Mexico. Those two countries are so rich in diversity of fruits, veggies, plants, herbs, roots, nuts, pulses, it’s endless. Over 700 sort of potatoes in Peru alone, I discovered fruits and veggies I had no idea existed. On the other hand, it is frustrating for me when I cannot integrate my recent discoveries in my recipes because those ingredients are not available elsewhere. This is why I develop local recipes that I showcase for my colleague’s local chefs, like right now in Mexico, introducing Salicornia algae’s to modern dishes. If you want the world to know about new foods, make it popular first in one region and the word goes around the planet very fast.

You cannot imagine the large number of good ingredients unused in cooking in Latin America. There is still so much to do and it is one of my target to change regional diet, trying to get the Mexicans away from Tacos, Tortillas, Tortas, and Tamales and direct them to a healthy diet is probably harder than asking Donald Trump to stop to tweet stupid news every morning, but I am happy to witness that slowly things are changing. Mexico City has beautiful markets, San Juan, Medellin and the Jamaica Market, the Sunday Farmers Market in Roma Norte, The Floating Gardens of Xochimilco in Central Mexico. I am so pleased with the amount of “juicerias” and fresh fruit vendors you can find on almost every crossroad.

On the funny side, I been recently to the Medellin Market and ordered a detox smoothie and the mix was so efficient that I spent all day running between my desk and the toilets. The ingredients used in the smoothies are traditional ancient recipes containing roots and spices I never heard about, but I can tell you by personal experience… they work very well…

- Which cook do you think is more representative of the green or vegetable cuisine?

- In France it’s probably Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athene in Paris. In term of cookbook authors, I like Sebastien Kardinal, a very charismatic cook going to showcase plant base food in a very modern way. Christophe Berg is a great raw food chef, I work with him on the Blue Lotus Plant Based Learning Centre project in Hua Hin Thailand. To be efficient for us, food has to be indulged fresh and alive. My good friend Mimi Kirk, the goddess of fresh juices and smoothies is a great example of how to age gracefully by indulging the right food. I help hotel groups to integrate plant based food on their menu. I teach also in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, New Delhi, Manilla, Bangkok, New York, Palma de Mallorca, Zurich, and Paris. We are still at the beginning of our project, the most important today is communication, people have to learn to take care of their diet, this is my priority and the reason why I invest so much time in traveling and teaching.

- After this book, Vegan, are you going to publish another one?

- I just sent my new cookbook project to Phaidon, it is simply the volume 2 of VEGAN: The Cookbook . I added a special chapter dedicated to “Finger Food” and “Party Food”, and I like also to introduce some guest chefs specialized in vegan food, like the young and talented Santiago Santolalla from Seitan Bistro in Lima, Peru. Guillermo Ruiz from La Pitaya in Mexico City, Willy Berton from the Vegan Gorilla in Nice, France, Yvette Caron from Delice & Sarrasin in New York and so many more chefs willing to give me new recipes.

- Would you run a new restaurant?

- I will not open a new restaurant for myself, but I am a consultant for different projects. I recently met a group and will help them to open La Mano Verde Restaurant in Mexico City. I don’t like the idea of spending 14 hours a day in the kitchen anymore, I love what I am doing now. Travelling and teaching in different culinary academies, giving my conferences at the Veggie World in Zurich, Munich, Paris, London, and Cologne. I am open to any suggestion as a consultant to design vegan and raw food restaurants around the world, I have a long experience in designing kitchens and service spaces, designing menus and teaching chefs, working on a professional business plan and helping investors to understand the project, to many vegan restaurants are opening and closing at fast paste because in today’s world, the hospitality industry is in a difficult phase and when you work in plant based food you touch only a small part of the business making it more difficult compared to conventional food businesses.

– Which projects do you have in mind?

– My priority today is to open and run successfully the Plant based Learning Centre in Hua Hin, Thailand. It is the most advanced vegan cooking school on the planet. Most of the great vegan cooking schools are closing to teach only online, some well-known Cooking Schools are in trouble in the USA because of wrong management or high running costs, this is why I choose Thailand, we can offer 1 week of teaching for US$ 1,250 including accommodation and breakfast buffet in 5 star Resort, sport activities, yoga, gym, pool, and serious teachers and instructors. The working spaces are beautiful and professional with all the tools and equipment plant based cooks can dream about. My first classes are starting on November 2017, do you like to enroll?