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Chef Xavier Bonnafous of Southern Pressed Juicery, located in Greenville, South Carolina, is known for his innovative raw and vegan creations — like his Southern Cauli Roll with nori, cauliflower, rice vingar, cucumber, red bell pepper and avocado, among other ingredients.
Here, he talks about his influences and predictions for the vegan movement in the U.S.
VT: What first attracted you to the culinary arts?
Chef Xavier Bonnafous: I was raised in the South of France where my father grew organic fruits and vegetables and my Mum would prepare amazing simple seasonal dishes. She was always including me in the preparation of the meals, and this developed my passion for cooking and using the best of the ingredients that the earth has to offer.
VT: You’ve worked in at least three countries – how do Americans eat differently than Europeans?
Chef Xavier Bonnafous: In Europe — specifically in France — there is very set meal schedule. Lunch is between 12 and 2 pm and dinner between 7 and 9 pm. There is no snacking in between and meals are well balanced, with a source of protein, vegetables, fruit, grain, starch, and a glass of red wine. Everything is in moderation.
People there will also go shopping three or four times a week since they use only fresh ingredients.
VT: Do you think that the vegan diet trend is still on the rise here in the U.S.?
Chef Xavier Bonnafous: The future of vegan food is huge — this is not just a fleeting food trend. A vegan diet affects people in positive ways. It is good for your health, your body, the environment, your happiness, your kids, the planet.
VT: How would you describe your cooking philosophy today?
Chef Xavier Bonnafous: I take a very international approach. Traveling and living in Europe has had a tremendous impact on the flavors I like to use. You will find influences from London, India and Asia in my cooking as well as Middle Eastern food —which has always been one of my favorite cuisines.
I really try to maintain the integrity and beauty of the natural ingredients. My goal is to keep all the nutrients and enzymes they provide naturally, and experiment with new ways to prepare ingredients. I always start with a traditional non-vegan recipe and modify it to achieve a similar taste profile.
(Try making your own vegetarian sushi — check out our recipe for Spicy Broccoli Sprout Sushi.)