Ask a Chef: Jona Silva

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Jona Silva knows a thing or two about keeping customers satisfied. Helming the kitchen at vegetarian standby Blind Faith Café in Evanston, Ill.—a Certified Green Restaurant—he recently revamped the eatery’s 30-year-old menu by spotlighting the full flavor of local produce. We asked chef Silva how he satisfies guests’ meat cravings using only whole plant foods.

“What people often miss from eating meat is that lingering feeling on the tongue. When you make a sauce, thicken it with arrowroot to get a nice texture that lingers. Also, try using nuts—they’re overlooked ingredients in American cooking. Nuts do have fat, but they also have that rich flavor and dimension that can be missing in vegetarian cooking. Smoking your vegetables also adds rich flavor; I add flavor with fresh herbs as well. I like mixing herbs such as mint, parsley, and cilantro together—it creates an aromatic, flavorful composition. Toss in the herbs right at the end—30 seconds before the end of cooking time—to finish a dish.”