Arts, Culture & Media

Going vegetarian in Ghent

LISA MULLINS: I'm Lisa Mullins and this is The World. "Eat your vegetables." That's what the good people of the Ghent, or Hint, in Belgium were told today and they obeyed. Ghent's City Council has declared every Thursday to be a "veggie day." Today was the first one. Every restaurant in the Belgium city has to offer customers at least one vegetarian dish on Thursdays. Koen Lefever is the chef at one of Ghent's top restaurants. It's called Pakhuis which means "the warehouse" in Flemish. So Chef Lefever, what did you offer your patrons today?

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

CHEF KOEN LEFEVER: Today we offered a very nice lunch menu with a little salad of Quinoa with green apple, cucumber, tomato, fennel and a basil oil. Then the main course was a rack of Tzay, that's dried Tofu, with vegetables, ginger and soy sauce.

MULLINS: And soy sauce. The Tzay is T-Z-A-Y, something that you discovered in your travels to Thailand?

LEFEVER: Tzay is a 100% vegetarian product. It's created by the Thai monks. It's still made there and it's imported by one company here in Belgium. It has a very nice flavor. It's low in fat, high in fiber and energy and it seems a little bit like meat. That's why I choose it to give it to the menu today so I could persuade people to take a lunch menu.

MULLINS: So the fact that it tastes kind of like meat but it's smoked tofu instead of meat, has a lot of fiber. Is that the idea to get people to eat a little bit better in terms of calories, in terms of more fiber?

LAFEVER: Yeah, it's mostly to tell people that they can eat healthy on a nice way. You can do all kinds of things with vegetables. I'm not saying everybody has to become a vegetarian. What I'm trying to say is that we have to look for a good balance. We all know that we are eating too much meat. I'm not going to serve, for example, 400 grams of meat and 100 grams of vegetables. I'm going to serve 200 grams of very good organic meat, and 300 grams of vegetables.

MULLINS: Okay, so from the Quinoa salad with green apples to the stir fry of smoked tofu and mixed vegetables, how receptive were your guests in the restaurant today? How successful?

LAFEVER: At the beginning when the people were serving the stuff there were a lot of people who were asking what is Tzay, what is this, what is that? Why are you doing it? But at the end of lunch, we could say we had a 150 people, 155 people in the restaurant and 70 of them have been eating that lunch menu. It was a really good success.

MULLINS: Chef Lefever, one quick question and then we'll let you get back to the kitchen.

LAFEVER: Yes.

MULLINS: I understand that you sent your children off today with vegetarian luncheons to school.

LAFEVER: Yeah, right.

MULLINS: What did you pack in their lunch bags?

LAFEVER: Oh, all kinds of... We went to do some shopping and we went to a little farm here in the region and we buy some little tomatoes, some little radishes, and I pick up some very nice wraps with feta cheese and some little salads with a lot of colors, all kinds of things like that. I told both of them that we are going to have a veggie lunch box and that's how it all started at home and now they are talking about it in school, too. So that's very good for me.

MULLINS: Sounds very good and very healthy. By the way, no chocolate chip cookies?

LAFEVER: No, not today.

MULLINS: Not today.

LAFEVER: We are famous for our chocolate in Belgium but they didn't complain, but I'm not going to give up the chocolate that's for sure.

MULLINS: All right, Chef Koen Lefever, thank you very much. Nice to speak to you.

LAFEVER: Okay.

MULLINS: Good luck.

LAFEVER: Yeah, bye.

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