Ricky Saward is the world’s first starred vegan chef. Born in 1989, Ricky has been cooking for the only vegan starred restaurant in Germany (and one of two worldwide) since 2018: the “Seven Swans” in Frankfurt am Main. For EURaSYP, he has answered questions about vegan cooking, yeast extract and fermentation, and told us how yeast extract made it to the Oscars.
Ricky, how would you describe your cooking? What is your focus in your restaurant?
RS: We cook regionally and seasonally and without any spices except salt and a little beet sugar. We source products from nature in the region or from our own permaculture in Bad Homburg where we come up with about 350 different types of vegetables and herbs over the year.
We try not to influence the delicate taste of the vegetables and therefore do not use yeast extract in the restaurant.
In a conversation you once said that you don’t really like the category “vegan”. Why is that?
RS: Yes, that’s right, I don’t like the labels “vegan” and “non-vegan”. Our cuisine is a vegetable cuisine that is very pure and local. We use certain techniques to get the best out of the vegetables.
Have you ever tried yeast extract in your food creations?
RS: Yes, that is actually a nice story. To create vegan cheese for the Oscars, I’ve experimented with yeast extract and was pretty impressed with how well it worked.
“Yeast extract is a helpful ingredient to create a spicy flavor.”
What flavor and/or content possibilities does yeast extract offer? In which dishes or with which ingredients would you combine yeast extract?
RS: Yeast extract is a helpful ingredient to create an umami or spicy flavor when cooking at home and not using animal products. Otherwise, it has a wide range of uses. Whether in baking, desserts, or cooking. An exciting topic that we as end consumers but also the industry have to explore more.
Do you like to experiment with fermenting and pickling? What can these processes achieve in terms of tase?
RS: Our cuisine is based on pickling and fermenting, i.e. preserving food. Fermenting in particular takes various products to levels that most cannot imagine in terms of taste. That being said, both techniques are important to our seasonal approach to the winter months.
Do you have any other tips for plant-based cooking at home?
RS: It’s best not to think too complicated and just cook off the cuff. There is more vegan than you think and tastes not so bad 😉