Chef Shane Sauvage of La Pentola is as well known for his generous support of marine conservation as he is for his unique style of fusion cooking that keeps diners flocking to his restaurant on the waterfront, with its panoramic views across Walker Bay.
Partnering with environmental role players such as the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, White Shark Projects and Whale Coast Conservation, Shane has for several years actively participated in fund-raising and regularly hosts charity dinners. He has also been instrumental in driving the initiative to eliminate the use of plastic straws by restaurants in the Overstrand.
“Single-use plastic straws constitute only one item on the ever-growing list of single-use plastic litter items, which in turn contributes to the overwhelming problem of human beings simply producing too much waste for our planet, and especially our oceans, to cope with,” he says.
Driven by his passion for the ocean – the very reason why he relocated with his family to the Cape seven years ago – Shane went a step further by banning other items such as plastic bottles of water, single-serving butter or jam containers, sweets in wrappers, and polystyrene take-away containers, and opting instead for eco-friendly alternatives. He’s even done away with tablecloths and serviettes that need to be washed regularly, which adds to the contamination of our water.
This passion and dedication is typical of Shane, whose mission to ‘go green’ has extended not only to his restaurant but also to his personal life. Like many of us who work too hard, eat and drink too much, and move too little, Shane says he was feeling sick and lethargic. “I realised that my body was becoming toxic and that I needed to be more mindful of what I was putting into it.”
Embarking on a ‘clean eating’ regime, he says he started by drinking less wine and more green tea, cutting down on meat consumption, and eating more brown rice and vegetables. He also took up yoga and pretty soon the kilos started melting away. His transformation has been gradual but dramatic, so that people who have not seen him in a few years don’t always recognise him.
More importantly, Shane says his mental and physical vitality increased so much that he felt like a brand-new person. He has since stopped eating meat and consuming alcohol altogether (although, as a lacto-vegetarian, he still eats cheese). “I feel happier, healthier and more energised than ever before,” he says. And it certainly shows.
“I have come to realise how precious your health is and how much more you can accomplish when you are healthy. Without your health you can’t do anything.” Shane states this simple truth, adding that a vegetarian lifestyle is not only good for your health but also for the planet. With the latest research on climate change again highlighting the impact of industrial livestock farming on the environment, it has become imperative for all of us to cut down on our consumption of animal products, especially red meat.
The health benefits of vegetarianism are something that Shane is keen to share with his patrons. It has also inspired his creativity and prompted him to develop a variety of innovative new vegetarian dishes for his ‘Go Green’ menu that are guaranteed to knock your socks off. Not only are they colourful and beautifully presented but they taste delicious.
Unlike most restaurants where the vegetarian offering is hopelessly limited and uninspiring, Shane offers a wide variety, from fresh salads that combine leaves, herbs, fruits and nuts, to a hearty Tempeh steak made from soya beans, blackened with a tomato crust, drizzled with a lemon and herb sauce and topped with smashed cayenne pepper avo and roasted cashews. His vegetarian take on the classic Avocado Ritz is served sans shrimps but with the addition of asparagus fried in a lemon-butter herb sauce, doused in white wine and topped with chunky cottage cheese and toasted almond flakes.
And then there are the decadent desserts such as a warm chocolate fondant made from 95% dark chocolate, which is sugar-free, dairy-free and gluten-free, served with a vegan ice cream; or a tropical Pavlova made with egg-free meringue and dairy-free granadilla ice cream – both dreamy!
Almost a third of the dishes on La Pentola’s extensive menu are vegetarian, and among the blackboard specials there is always at least one vegetarian dish. The menu also indicates which dishes are vegan (100% plant-based).
Never satisfied with the ordinary, I think it is safe to say that Shane has taken vegetarian gastronomy to a whole new level and these dishes are as seductive as any of those featured in his three cookbooks, The Edge of Fusion (2007), In Fusion (which won Best South African Chef’s Book at the Gourmand Awards 2009) and Cape Fusion (2015).
“Fusion cooking is all about combining different ingredients and flavour components to create a new harmonious whole,” says Shane. Jokingly referring to himself as a ‘dinosaur’ and a ‘veteran chef’, the development of these new vegetarian recipes has presented him with a fresh challenge that he has embraced with his signature passion and exuberance. It leaves me in no doubt that he has a new cookbook up his sleeve…
We’ll keep you posted – and until then, do yourself a favour and tuck into these vegetarian dishes. I can guarantee that you will not miss the meat that is missing from your plate. And remember that even if you cut down on red meat and only consume it once or twice a week, you will still be making a meaningful contribution towards combatting global warming – and improving your health. Bon Appetit!
What is the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan?
Vegans eat only plant-based foods and no animal products, while vegetarians don’t eat animals, but may eat products that come from them.
Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat dairy and eggs, but no meat, poultry, fish or seafood
Lacto vegetarians eat dairy products but no meat, poultry, fish, seafood or eggs
Ovo vegetarians eat eggs but no meat, poultry, fish, seafood or dairy products
Pesco vegetarians eat fish and other seafood but no meat or poultry.
Five ways the meat on your plate is killing the planet
- For starters, livestock farming contributes 18% of human produced greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, which is more than all emissions from ships, planes, trucks, cars and all other transport systems put together. Reducing consumption of animal products is essential if we are to meet global greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets – which are necessary to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.
- Around 30% of the earth’s land surface is currently used for livestock farming, which contributes to deforestation, soil erosion, land degradation, and the loss of biodiversity and wildlife habitats. Untreated animal waste also contributes to the pollution of our rivers, streams and other bodies of water. Since food, water and land are scarce in many parts of the world, this represents an inefficient and unsustainable use of resources.
- To produce 1 kg of beef requires 25 kg of grain – to feed the animal – and roughly 15 000 litres of water. Feeding grain to livestock increases global demand and drives up grain prices, making it harder for the world’s poor to feed themselves. Grain could instead be used to feed people, and water used to irrigate crops. If all grain were fed to humans instead of animals, we could feed an extra 3.5 billion people.
- Most meat, dairy and eggs are produced in ways that largely or completely ignore animal welfare – failing to provide sufficient space to move around, contact with other animals, and access to the outdoors. Not to mention the needless suffering of inhumane slaughter procedures that billions of animals are subjected to every year. In short, industrial farming subjects animals to horrific cruelty without good justification.
- Industrial livestock farming relies heavily on antibiotic use to accelerate weight gain and control infection – in the US, 80% of all antibiotics are consumed by the livestock industry. This contributes to the growing public health problem of antibiotic resistance. High meat consumption – especially of red and processed meat – is also linked with poor health outcomes, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and various cancers.