Jannequin Bennett, executive chef at TJ's Restaurant at the Jefferson Hotel, has written a vegan cookbook that is out this month.
"Very Vegetarian" is the 44-year-old chef's first cookbook. Nine-time Olympic gold medal winner Carl Lewis, a vegan, wrote the introduction to the book published by Rutledge Hall Press of Nashville.
Bennett has been what she calls a "Catholic vegetarian" for 30 years, subscribing to a plant-based diet except for the occasional serving of fish. While others have published cookbooks that advocate a largely vegan diet, Bennett says they often contain hard-to-find ingredients.
"More and more people are trying to cut meat out of their diet or at least winnow it down, and the same with dairy, because of health concerns," Bennett says. "What I tried to do was make it very accessible, using familiar culinary concepts with easy-to-find ingredients." Bennett shopped at local grocery stores to find all of the ingredients for the 300 recipes in the book.
Since many vegans try to limit consumption of refined sugars, she also included a section on condiments, including recipes for ketchup and mustard. "Very Vegetarian" also includes an explanation of the vegan lifestyle, nutritional guidelines and instructions on how to use soy products, as well as recipes for appetizers, soups, pasta and vegetable dishes, and desserts.
Rutledge Hall Press approached Bennett about writing the cookbook after one of its representatives ate at TJ's and noticed several vegetarian selections. Bennett suggested Lewis write the introduction because she knew he was a vegan.
"He was thrilled," she says. "He is very excited about the project." The book also includes several of Lewis' own recipes.
Bennett is scheduled for a book signing at the Jefferson during brunch on Oct. 28; the book will be for sale at the Jefferson's gift shop. And she'll be signing copies on Nov. 3 at Carytown Books and Nov. 15 at Barnes & Noble in Richmond.
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