To find other, tasty options, Ronnen adopted a worldwide perspective. “I did research overseas and learned that a lot of Japanese people may not be vegetarians but they get much of their protein from soybeans,” he says. “In Mexico many of the proteins come from black beans. I learned that you can use a lot of these less-expected proteins to make some really interesting dishes.”
To get to the point of interesting, Ronnen reverted back to his formative years. He thought like a foodie rather than like a vegan, creating dishes that would be interesting in any setting. For example, in coming up with a new take on oysters rockefeller, Ronnen did not focus on creating a fake oyster.
Instead, he found inspiration in an artichoke. “I noticed that when you pull off the leaf of an artichoke, it looks like an oyster,” he says. “Then I figured that I could nestle in a cooked oyster mushroom and mix it with breadcrumbs.” You bake it up, have a bite-size portion in which the sum equals more than its parts, and, adds Ronnen, “You eat it like an oyster rockefeller. I’ve shown people that you can do a lot with plant-based foods. It goes beyond tabbouleh and hummus.”
While it’s obviously flattering and lucrative to be recruited to cook for the Ellens and the Oprahs of the world, Ronnen is on a mission to bring his cooking to the masses. One way of doing that is through cookbooks such as his The Conscious Cook, which explains how to make tasty vegan dishes at home. If you want to eat out, he has that covered as well. LYFE (Love Your Food Every day) Kitchen, in Palo Alto, California, where Ronnen is a consulting chef, brings healthfulness to fast food with locally procured grass-fed beef burgers, oven-baked fries, lots of vegan offerings, and no dish containing more than 600 calories. On the higher end, Ronnen spearheaded a program at the Wynn Las Vegas which introduces gourmet-restaurant patrons to flavor-packed vegan food that is cooked with care and made from top-quality ingredients.