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Canadian chef Stephanie Audet is bringing a generous sprinkle of gourmet to vegetarian cuisine. From pop-up brunches in South America to Icelandic yoga retreats, her mouth-watering multi-course menus featuring Brazil nut crepes stuffed with figs and cacao; zucchini cannelloni with almond cheese and sundried tomato sauce; and blueberry-lavender mousse tarts with almond-date crusts are taking the raw-vegan food world by storm.
Underground supper clubs and pop-up, “one-night-only” dinners in restaurants and underused city spaces of all kinds have been popular for years (think House of Wolf in London; Crux Restaurant, a traveling pop-up by chef Brandon Baltzley, formerly of Chicago’s Alinea; and Belgium-based Dinner in the Sky – panoramic hot air-balloon rides above major cities with dinner prepared by the likes of Joel Robuchon, Yannick Alléno and Guy Martin). You’re more likely to find a pop-up menu with pig trotters or sous vide liver than raw macadamia-nut “ricotta”-stuffed zucchini blossoms or cold cucumber, fennel and avocado soup with a swirl of dairy-free zaatar yogurt.
Audet is helping change all that. She may not yet have a cookbook like her vegan pop-up chef compatriot and author of Vegan Secret Supper, Merida Anderson, but she too has been sharing her gourmet recipes with both vegans and carnivores for years. Though a long-time vegetarian, Audet worked in meat-heavy fine dining restaurants in Canada for years before moving to Hawaii and opening her locavore, organic, vegan and raw food restaurant with her former husband. Now her filleting knives are covered in dust and the only time she uses her cleaver is to crack coconuts. She also ditched white sugar and refined flour in favor of date paste, agave nectar, and soaked and dehydrated nuts for breads, piecrusts, and raw tacos. Eating a 100% “raw” diet of high quality, mostly organic fruits, vegetable, nuts, seeds and sprouts, she practiced the healthy eating that she preached at her restaurant. She ate nothing cooked over 116 F (46 C), to preserve as much of the living food’s enzymes as possible and absorb the maximum amount of nutrients that may otherwise be destroyed by cooking. Now she’s back to gently steaming vegetables and grains from time to time, but she can barely handle the requests to help open new raw restaurants and give workshops at raw food conferences.
“People only ask me to teach raw foods. I could also do a gluten-free class, or vegan, but in other countries raw isn’t so common yet.” At the beginning of her popup career in Montreal, Audet collaborated with Mathieu Gallant of Crudessence, using the restaurant’s raw food cooking academy as the home base for pop-up raw Indian, Japanese, French, and Brazilian dinners. “Then when I started to do them in different places I started to not do it just raw, and make it more gourmet: Five courses with wine pairings – but good wine, like biodynamic, organic wine.” “When I started nobody was doing pop-ups. Now this summer it’s crazy. Restaurants are calling me, saying “We want to do a vegan pop-up in a non-vegan restaurant. Can you come and just help us create and adjust our menu?’ It’s so much fun because I miss having my own restaurant.”
She loves the pop-up concept for the same reason – it allows her to be back in the kitchen, back on the line, but just for one night. “I’m a Gemini. I need to travel!” Heavy on healthy fats from avocado and nuts, Audet’s raw food is not diet fare. The coconut-fig cream pie with lime and persimmon sauce and carambola-wasabi sorbet she served at a pop-up in Brazil last year was surprisingly dense from the blended nuts. “When it’s raw you compensate by using more nuts in every course – for making the sauces, the binder. And the dehydration is heavy too.” Another reason she began mixing raw and non-raw in her pop-up dinners was to lighten them up. “I want people to feel elevated even if it’s five courses. I try to keep the mix of vegetables easy. Raw is easy to digest but if you eat ten different things it won’t because it’s all mixed together.”
This summer Audet’s booked for a series of Montreal-based pop-ups. First, a vegan cooking competition entitled “Cormier vs. Audet” where she’ll face off against traditional French chef Pascal Cormier of restaurant Fixe Café Bistro. Next, she’ll cook for a vegan brunch at Persian restaurant, Damas. After that, she’ll do a western Canada pop-up dinner tour called “East Meets West” with Aaron Ash of Vancouver-based vegan and raw food restaurant Gorilla Kitchen. They’ll “un-cook” (and maybe gently steam) dinners in Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Vancouver. Once the Canadian winter kicks in, Audet will escape to a gastronomic retreat in Sri Lanka, followed by Hawai’i, Brazil, and England. It’s not a bad life being a freelance chef. But Audet’s always looking for her next gig, adventure, or eye-popping, mouth-watering vegan creation – like the raw white chocolate mousse that she made for the Vegan Rumble and Shake put on by Round Table Food Tours in Montreal. Audet teamed up with local fruit and nuts importer, PRANA, and soaked their dehydrated pear slices in almond milk, added maple syrup and cocoa butter, and blended it to silky, mousse perfection. She served it with a swirl of a decadent three-ingredient raw caramel, and a raw strawberry “confit” made with agave and vanilla syrup. “Real organic Madagascar vanilla beans – this makes all the difference,” she says.
Recipe Raw White Chocolate Mousse with Lúcuma Caramel and Strawberry Confit Mousse
Ingredients: 4 cups water ¼ cup almond butter 150 grams dehydrated wild pear slices (optional), ½ cup maple syrup ⅔ cup cocoa butter, melted ½ tbsp sunflower lecithin.
Combine all ingredients in a Vitamix of high powered blender except the cocoa butter. Once the mixture s completely smooth, add the melted cocoa butter. Chill at least 12 hours in the fridge before serving. Lúcuma Caramel 2 tbsp lúcuma ¼ cup agave nectar 2 tbsp coconut oil Melt the coconut oil and combine well with other ingredients.
2 cups strawberries 1 large stalk of rhubarb ½ cup agave nectar 1 large vanilla bean Dice the strawberries. Peel the rhubarb then slice finely using a mandoline. Combine the strawberries and rhubarb in a medium bowl and add the agave nectar. Slice open the vanilla beans and scrape the seeds into the bowl. Stir to combine and let infuse at least 4 hours.
Place a large spoonful of caramel on a plate. Top with a fan of apple slices dipped in lemon juice. Place a ball of mousse and a spoonful of strawberry confit on top. Garnish with fennel microgreens and hemp seeds.
To view Audet’s upcoming events or contact her, go to her website.