Call it the culinary flip-flopping of America. Gone are the days when a massive slab of animal protein basked in all the menu glory while a subservient medley of peas, carrots and green beans were pushed to the corner of the plate. Today, thanks to celebrity chef backings and the popular farm-to-table trend, when Americans go out to eat, they’re increasingly turning to veggie-centric entrées. While more and more chefs in both fast-casual restaurants and fine dining establishments are creating dishes featuring vegetables as the main attraction.
Several trends are contributing to this seismic shift. Sparked by the national obesity crisis, many Americans are choosing to eat more healthfully—but not so much as to leave the table hungry. Which is why savvy chefs are responding by using meat as an accent—knowing that having even a little meat on the plate makes for more-satisfied diners.
Recent price spikes have encouraged chefs to find ways to cut back on their meat offerings—while the popularity of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and some Asian cuisines makes it easy for chefs to scale back on protein.
Much of the shift is about pleasing millennials, who get “social media cred” from what they eat and what they post about what they eat. Of course, vegetables can look super-colorful—and super-cool—in shared photos.
Still, meat appears to be in no danger of disappearing completely from menus anytime soon. But as veggie-focused dishes become the new normal, more and more chefs will no doubt continue to push veggies to the center.