In a year where the Best Picture winner features an extended scene where fried chicken is centre stage, it might be surprising that vegan food ended up being the unsung hero of the entire event. Nonetheless, thanks to the combined talents of chef Wolfgang Puck and his crew, the 91st Academy Awards might well be remembered as the afterparty where plant-based cooking became properly cool.
Austrian-American chef Puck, who has been catering for the event for the last 25 years, is probably most famous for his often irreverent use of expensive, meat-heavy ingredients. His notorious “luxury pizzas” never leave the kitchen without a generous coating of caviar, and there’s hardly a cook in LA who gets such a kick out of using wagyu beef. However, perhaps indicative of the changing tastes of his audience, his 2019 menu placed more emphasis than ever on creating some seriously delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Alongside massive amounts of “Miyazaki Wagyu Beef” and a 2,600-pound sushi bar, every area of Puck’s menu had a huge number of green options. After amuse bouche platters that featured everything from parmesan breadsticks to apricot macadamia nut lavosh, guests could get stuck into delicious plates of “Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Pea Shoots”, and a specially created “Potato Caviar”. Other savoury surprises included “Housemade Spinach Campanelle, English Peas, Cipollini Onions and Roasted Tomatoes”, as well as “Asparagus, Shiro Miso, Watercress, Cherry Tomatoes and Sancho Pepper”.
To round off their meal, vegan and veggie guests could indulge in “Caramel-Passion Fruit Oscars Lollipops”, as well as “Vegan Carrot Cupcake with Vegan Cream Cheese and a Gianduja Cupcake”. As anyone with a dietary requirement knows, accessible food can sometimes feel like an afterthought. It’s clear that, for this ceremony at least, vegan food was front and centre for all to see.
In fact, the plant-based focus extended beyond the menu and into the world-famous Oscars goody bags. The giveaway, which experts estimates is worth somewhere in the six-figure range, features an expensive array of luxury treats, such as vegan lipstick, lollipops, toothpaste and foundation. After recent legalisation of marijuana, the bags also come complete with Cannabis-infused skincare products, as well as a gift box containing cannabis edibles and lotions. Guests also received membership to a pot-friendly Hollywood social club and a poo emoji themed toilet plunger. Clearly, 2019 has seen quite a dramatic departure from the norm.
All too often, major events stand out for the incredible wastefulness and misuse of natural resources. If this year’s ceremony is a sign of things to come, it may well mean that Hollywood is starting to back up its pro-environment, socially conscious rhetoric with action as well as words. We wait to see what they will come up with after another 12 months of pro-veggie planning under their belts.