Mark Reinfeld is a vegan dynamo. Cookbooks, classes, retreats, online instructionals-- the award-winning culinarian covers plant-based eating from every angle. His organization, Vegan Fusion, is all about creating a better, healthier, more peaceful world -- and he's doing it through mouth-watering edibles like pistachio-crusted tofu and curried pumpkin soup.
Reinfeld will be on hand doing seminars and demos as part of the Seed Food & Wine Festival, October 20 - 22, plus he's hosting a 10-day cooking immersion starting this coming Monday, October 6.
Best of all, Reinfeld's not just visiting these parts. He recently relocated to Miami full-time. Check out what he had to say about the city's eating scene, his future plans, and the importance of quinoa.
New Times: Why did you relocate to Miami?
Mark Reinfeld: I'm working on creating a retail food concept with a college friend who owns large organic farms in South Florida. We should be launching in maybe six to eight months. It's still in the development stage, but it's going to be a quick and easy place to pick up organic, plant-based cuisine. It'll have different components and highlight produce from the farm.
Previously, I was in Hawaii for about eight years. I had a restaurant there for six years called the Blossoming Lotus. For the last four years after that I've been traveling internationally and offering these culinary immersions and workshops.
What was the vegan scene like in Hawaii?
Well on Kaui we were the vegan scene in Hawaii [laughs]. We had an 85-seat restaurant plus a juice bar and bakery -- so it was a lot of amazing tropical fruits and produce from on-island.
What do you think about Miami's vegan eating scene? How does it compare to other cities?
I would say it's on the rise -- it's about to happen. I would say it's in the process of happening. Within a few years I think we'll catch up to some of the other vegan meccas.
What do you think are the most important things to know when you first embark on vegan cooking?
I encourage people to get creative with their salads as a first step. Start introducing new ingredients into their salads and experiment with grains like quinoa, or beans or nuts and seeds. Experiment with different vegetables. I encourage people to introduce one new ingredient a week into their repertoire -- look through the produce aisles, pick one out, learn how to use it. That's a good way for people to get started.
Some people say their motto after the class is, no fear -- not to have fear in the kitchen and just understand that everything takes practice you just have to have a positive attitude. Don't beat yourself up -- just keep practicing. Eventually you'll start to get good at creating flavors you like and other people like.
What are your must-have vegan cooking products?
That's a good question. I would say nutritional yeast is a big ingredient because it's a source of vitamin B12 and protein and it adds a nutty, cheesy flavor to dishes. Quinoa is one of my top ingredients and I also like using tamari. It's a gluten-free soy sauce that's part of the miso making process and that can help bring the flavor out of other ingredients. And then, green vegetables -- I just basically go for the idea of eating a rainbow of colors, different colored fruits and vegetables and legumes.
What are some of the most common questions you get from attendees to your classes?
People ask me what my go-to meal is. I call it a Monk Bowl -- that's a grain and a green and a protein. Then you just rotate through different grains, through different vegetables and different proteins.
Do people usually come to the classes with a lot of misconceptions about plant-based eating?
Usually I get a whole spectrum of people taking the classes. Some are new to cooking and veganism -- I'll show them how to crush garlic and it'll be like a major revelation to them. Then, like the last course I did here in Miami, I had a Cordon Bleu-trained chef who has five or six restaurants in the Midwest. He said he learned something new every day in training. It's really for people with no skill level up to the highest culinary skill level, but not a lot of vegan and raw food experience.
What will you be doing at Seed?
I'm going to be offering a cooking demo on the main day, then I'll be creating and offering a brunch with another chef.
What can you tell people about your upcoming class in Miami?
I have a 10-day immersion starting on Monday, and a five-day immersion in Boca Raton in January. They're really a life-changing experience for people. People experience dramatic changes in their confidence level and creativity. The way my style is, I call it a template recipe format. I'll show someone one recipe and how they can create hundreds of variations. They actually learn how to do thousands of recipes in two weeks. Day one is soups, day two is salads and dressings, day three is grains and beans, day four is tofu and tempeh, day five is casseroles and sauces. Then there's a weekend break -- then day six we do sandwiches and wraps, day seven is dessert day and days eight, nine, and ten are all raw food.
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There's this idea that you can learn 80 percent of a subject matter in a short period of time, then spend the rest of your life learning the remaining 20 percent. I think I get close to hitting that 80 percent. It's very comprehensive -- they get almost a 200 page training manual with all the recipes. This will be my 29th 10-day training I've offered in the last four years.
Reinfeld is also offering a 20 percent discount on his upcoming 10-day immersion for New Times readers. The course, which starts October 6 and is being hosted in a Coral Gables home, typically runs $1,500 per student, but for you, lovely readers, it's $1,200. There are a few spots left. You can sign up by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit veganfusion.com for more information.
Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahgetshappy.