“We know that, for our health and the health of the planet, we must eat more plants,” Chef Jaume Biarnés Digón explains to us backstage at the Proenza Schouler runway show this fashion week. In an industry that’s always been food-conscious, and increasingly (finally) environmentally aware, chef Digón’s presence signifies something more. Formerly at El Bulli—arguably once the world’s most important restaurant—chef Digón would help chef Ferran Adrià establish the groundbreaking Alícia Foundation. Now, he’s the culinary mastermind behind Yondu—an umami seasoning sauce with the purpose of encouraging people to eat more plants. And that’s what brought him to such a prestigious runway show.
“The way people hope to eat during fashion week is very much aligned with our philosophies,” he says. “When people approach our catering, many ask if the food is vegan or vegetarian. Is it gluten-free? We have all these values. People can be delighted with what we serve. Chef Digón’s offerings included crudités with a smoked carrot dip and a pea-walnut dip, grilled squash sandwiches and a cheese-free pesto eggplant sandwich, the most delicious of all. Everything incorporated Yondu, either as a substitute or integral ingredient.
“Yondu is the essence of umami flavor,” chef Digón says. “It’s what people crave when they’re thinking of meat or other savory items. It reminds us of proteins, and is often associated with things like the flavor of cured cheese or tomato paste, and anchovies. Nowadays, as we strive to eat more vegetables, and as many want to transition to a plant-based diet, these cravings can disrupt progress. This is how Yondu can help people by making even the simplest vegetable dishes taste delicious.” Yondu is a clean product, certified organic and non-GMO—and, of course, it’s vegan and gluten-free.
“The last ten years of my professional life I’ve been working in a research center founded by chef Ferran Adrià in Spain,” chef Digón adds. “What we did was explore ways to eat healthier and more sustainably. All the time, we came up with evidence to support simply eating more plants. I think Yondu is a revolutionary way to approach food because we do not want to eat vegetables because they are healthy; we want to eat vegetables because they are delicious. This is the role of chefs and the role of Yondu: to help people find pleasure from vegetables.”
Images by David Graver