Vegan Dining 3 @ L’Empreinte Bistro Seoul

Finding authentic French food in Seoul is hard. But finding authentic French VEGAN food in Seoul?  Sounds impossible, right?  Au contraire! Yesterday we proved that it is indeed possible. Vegan Dining Seoul and L’Empreinte Bistro Seoul teamed up to offer Seoulites French fine dining vegan styles and it was everything we hoped it would be. We had a nice, diverse turnout of local Koreans and expats from around the world. Chef Gregory was thrilled to finally be able to test out the vegan menu he had been developing for the past few months.

Check out the video below for highlights and join us at Vegan Dining Seoul for updates on our upcoming event!



Why Go Vegan?


More and more people around the world are adopting a vegan lifestyle these days. In a recent video, popular YouTuber Mic the Vegan took a look at current data available and estimated that there are about 15 million vegans worldwide.  Cities like Berlin, Tel Aviv, Hong Kong and London all have thriving vegan scenes. Even Seoul, which could be considered a meat lover’s paradise, boasts 29 vegan restaurants as of today including longtime local favorite Plant, the fast-growing whole food deliver service Sprout, and newcomer raw vegan joint Raw Vega.  There are even all-you-can-eat vegan buffets like Veg Green and Hangwachae. It is also possible to find vegan options at non-vegan restaurants like Vegan over Rice at Morococo Cafe and to-die-for ice cream at Fell + Cole.

Food is such a huge part of every culture around the world. Here in Korea, BBQ is so common that office workers can be seen grilling meat and shooting soju on any day of the week. Meat also features prominently for meals and even gift giving during the holidays. In other places of the world, like where I am from in Canada, skipping turkey dinner or not leaving milk and cookies out for Santa would seem like nothing less than sacrilege. What could possibly motivate so many people to take such ‘extreme’ measures?

It seems to me that there are three main reasons why people become compelled to reduce or eliminate animal products from their diets.The first one is rather obvious. Ethics. While social conditioning does allow most of us to eat animals without a second thought, the more information comes out about the conditions animals face in factory farms the harder it is to ignore. Ethical vegan activist Gary Yourofsky’s lecture at Georgia Tech on the ethics of eating animals has gotten more than 4 million views to date and inspired thousands of people to go vegan.  But the problem with focusing on animal rights is that a lot of people don’t actually care equally about animals. Plenty of  ‘animal lovers’ shower their pets with love while eating farm animals without a second thought. Some people even think that God put animals on the earth for us to eat.  As long as factory farms and slaughterhouses are kept out of sight, animal suffering alone is not enough reason for most people to stop consuming products made with animal ingredients.

The next two reasons, however, hit a lot closer to home for everyone. The public health and environmental impact of the animal agriculture industry is causing people to lose not only just their livelihoods but their lives.  Let’s talk about health first. Cancer, heart disease, and diabetes are the top reasons for premature death and all three of them are referred to as lifestyle diseases or diseases of affluence. As countries around the world develop, the consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs also go up. Meat consumption is even linked to erectile dysfunction  There is compelling evidence that the rates of consumption of these products are linked directly to the increase in these diseases. But the main problem is that the animal agriculture industry is using very similar tactics to the cigarette industry. When new evidence comes out, they publish conflicting evidence to confuse consumers. Even associations meant to protect the health of consumers are often sponsored by meat companies. This is very well presented in the documentary What the Heath.  With the medical system designed to treat sick people rather than prevent disease, it’s no wonder that doctors have so little incentive or training to educate patients on the role diet plays in disease. There are also huge incentives from Big Pharma to for doctors to prescribe medicine to treat the symptoms rather than fixing the problem through diet and lifestyle changes. Dr. Michael Greger discusses this issue in this video. To learn more about what made Dr. Greger stop practicing medicine and focus completely on getting nutritional information out to the public for free at nutritionfacts.org click here.  I have mostly referenced Dr. Greger’s work here because I love how throughout yet understandable his work is. But there are plenty more health professionals out there who advocate plant-based diets, the most well-known of which are listed in this article called Top 20 Plant-based Health Professionals to Follow.

The third main reason why people go vegan is the environment. The impact that animal agriculture has on the environment is jaw-dropping. You may have heard about how the CO2 from ‘cow farts’ are contributing to global warming (more than the entire transportation industry combined!), but did you know that animal waste leaking into our rivers and oceans is creating ocean dead zones where no fish can survive?  That animal agriculture can be attributed to 1/3 of fresh water usage and the average water footprint per calorie for beef is 20 times larger than for cereals and starchy roots? Did you know that animal agriculture is the main cause of rainforest deforestation? The documentary Cowspiracy covers this issue really well and is also available for streaming on Netflix.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the depressing news in the world. But just by changing our daily habits we can do so much to make positive changes in so many areas, especially the ones mentioned above. Sure, it may not seem that way for each individual but the combined efforts of all of us can make a huge impact. Take a look at what is happening to the dairy industry, for example. And there is more good news. You don’t have to be a perfect vegan to make a difference. As Brian Kateman, says in his TEDx talk, even reducing your consumption of these products can make a big difference in your own health and the health of the planet. If you are interested in finding a non-judgemental community that can answer your questions, I recommend Friendly and pragmatic vegans and vegetarians.  Sadia at Pick Up Limes also has a great Beginner’s Guide to Veganism video and if you are into health and fitness be sure to check out Derek at Simnett Nutrition’s incredible Vegan/Calisthenics Transformation video. And most importantly, you don’t have to give up your favorite food customs! There are people around the world, like chef Gaz Oakley at Avant Garde Vegan, working tirelessly to create sustainable alternatives for all occasions.  And if you don’t wanna cook, no matter where you are in the world you can use the Happy Cow app to find veg-friendly restaurants near you.


How a Classically Trained French Chef Got into Vegan Cooking

Vegan cooking was certainly not something French chef Gregory Defraize typically dealt with during his long career in the culinary arts. But with growing concerns about health, animal welfare and the state of the environment, he has become more and more interested in pushing his own limits and applying his extensive culinary knowledge to the sustainable food scene. For Gregory and his wife/business partner Yeonjin, a collaboration between L’Empreinte Bistro and Vegan Dining Seoul represented the perfect way to begin that journey.

Partners in crime. French Chef Gregory Defraize and Yeonjin Moon are L’Empreinte Bistro Seoul

This edition of Vegan Dining Seoul (April 29, 2018) has been in the works since January 2018 when Gregory first reached out to us. After learning about the many vegan substitutes available and discovering YouTube legends like Gaz Oakley at Avant Garde Vegan, Gregory was ready to jump in.  He immediately set to work veganizing his chocolate fondant recipe using almond powder, chia seeds, dark chocolate, amaretto liquor and triple sec. The final version will be the featured Vegan Dining dessert this weekend.


Chef Gregory’s first vegan dessert was a gluten-free adaptation of his own recipe for chocolate fondant

Chef Gregory loves the challenge vegan cooking provides and is particularly fond of using chia seeds in the place of eggs and apple cider vinegar as an emulsion for mayo. They have even found an organic French wine made with only plant ingredients for is diners to enjoy. Sign up here

Missed the event? Expect to see a permanent vegan menu or weekly vegan specials at L’Empreinte Bistro soon! Also don’t forget to like the Vegan Dining Facebook Page to learn about upcoming events.


Seoul Vegan Festival Tour and Raw Vegan Mukbang

There is no better way to feel the pulse of the vegan community in Seoul than to attend the Seoul Vegan Festival.  The one-day event is held at the Seoul Innovation Park twice yearly and the fifth edition should be coming up in Spring 2018.   You can read more about the most recent event in this Korea Herald article or let me give you a personal tour in the video below.


Vegan Dining in Seoul- How it came to be

Vegan Dining in Seoul. How did it get started?  Well, I had been thinking about it for quite some time but the thing that finally lit the fire under my butt was more of a whim than anything. A friend of mine was in town and on his last night he said he wanted some Italian food.  You are probably asking yourself, “Who asks for Italian food on their last night in Korea?”. That thought occurred to me too but I love Italian so I didn’t argue.

Brera was the first place that popped into my mind, probably because of owner Giovanni’s obnoxious yet somehow refreshing presence in my Facebook feed.  Without calling ahead to inquire about the vegan options, we just showed up on their doorstep.  Despite having given no notice, they still stepped up to recommend vegan or veganizable dishes for me and even gave me a heads up on the honey in their bread. They then proceeded to bake me some of the bread they use for their pizza dough so I could have some too. Fresh out of the oven.  I felt like a queen. Their pasta is handmade and contains egg but I was pleased to see that if you are okay with them using dry pasta instead it is easy to get vegan pasta as well.

Walking away from that experience, and seeing how willing they were to work with me, I decided to launch a series of dining events that would bring people together in non-vegan restaurants representing various world cuisines. There are two things I hope to accomplish. First, I want to get local restaurants thinking about plant-based cooking and hopefully get more options on their menu. That kind of approach makes it easier for vegans to socialize in this non-vegan world and more convenient for people to make healthier choices when they eat out.  Secondly, I want to create special experiences for people of all backgrounds to come out and enjoy yummy plant-based food while getting to know each other. For people who are following a plant-based lifestyle, it gives people a break from cooking at home or going to the same regular spots. For those who are curious about plant-based living, it is an opportunity to experience a plant-based meal and be instantly connected to a supportive community who is always available to help.  I am all about a pragmatic approach to creating a more plant-based world. In that way, I have been influenced a lot by the folks at The Good Food Institute and Tobias from The Vegan Strategist.  It has to be fun, offer tasty food and positive social interaction.  And to me, that is exactly what the Vegan Dining series has to offer. For updates on events, be sure to join the Seoul Veggie Club on Facebook. See you there!