Top Food Bloggers Series: Ori Shavit, Vegans On Top, Israel
The popularity of veganism is at an all-time high this year, being embraced by more and more people worldwide.
And veganism and Israel share a longtime love story so we are thrilled to interview one of the country’s leading vegan voices – Ori Shavit – the face behind Vegans on Top.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your passion for vegan food
My name is Ori Shavit. I studied professional cooking and pastry making and for many years and I worked as a food journalist and restaurant critic. Back then I used to eat everything – it was my job, but also my passion, to taste and learn all I could about food.
Nine years ago, I went on a date with a guy and few minutes later found out he was vegan. It was so clear we would not end up together but as a food journalist I was very curious to learn about why he decided to change his diet. Since then, I have learned a lot about the deep reasons for veganism – opposing cruelty to animals, achieving better health, and helping the planet.
I decided to go vegan but to stay who I am – to enjoy food, to go out, and to love what I do. I found out that cooking vegan food with the huge variety of plant-based ingredients is so creative, tasty, colorful, and beautiful that I don’t miss any of the other foods I used to eat.
2. What makes Israel such a popular place for vegans?
Becoming one of the most vegan countries in the world is practically a revolution – in just a few years Israel became a heaven for vegans, with lots of vegan-friendly restaurants, tons of recipes, and a lot of media attention.
Israelis love to try new foods; they are quite open to the idea and anyway eat lots of veggies, legumes, and grains.
As a Mediterranean country a lot of our food is based on plant-based ingredients, even our national dishes – Hummus and Falafel – are vegan, so there is no way you can starve as a vegan in Israel. Of course, today you can find great vegan food in many cities around the globe, but what is unique about Israel is that you can find it everywhere, in any coffee shop. restaurant, and supermarket.
3. Do you think veganism will continue to grow in Israel?
As I see it, veganism in Israel is far from being a fashionable trend. With about 10% of vegans and vegetarians and around 40% flexitarians who declare they have reduced their consumption of animal products, I believe it will keep growing.
Israel is one of the leading countries in plant-based food-tech, with startups that work on producing innovative products such as clean meats and egg substitutes.
One of the best signs is the rapid growth in producing vegan goods. The largest dairy company in Israel, “Tnuva”, now has a whole line of plant-based products such as different milks, yogurts, drinks, and cheese – all vegan.
Israel is one of the leading countries in plant-based food-tech, with startups that work on producing innovative products such as clean meats and egg substitutes. So, as I see it, we are only at the beginning of the revolution.
I must mention the fact that especially these days when the whole world is dealing with coronavirus, I feel that people are even more interested in a plant-based diet. They are very concerned about their health and about the planet and make the connection between eating animals and all the recent pandemics, including Civid-19. So, I believe veganism will grow faster in the next few years.
4. What’s your top favorite local restaurant?
There are some great vegan restaurants that I really like so this is not an easy question, but if I have to choose one, it it Anastasia. It has great food, very fresh and local, with a healthy touch and has great options for every hour of the day, with great local wine and beer and a huge selection of smoothies. Though it looks more like a coffee shop, it deserves the title “restaurant” and they also offer some vegan products you can take home.
5. What’s the best foodie destination for vegans?
Except Tel Aviv? (laughing). It’s hard to choose as we see vegan culinary shining so brightly all over the world. I guess New York has to be one of my first choices, though I’ve also had great culinary experiences in London, Berlin, and even Milan.
6. What’s the most underrated vegan foodie destination worldwide?
I believe that would be Philadelphia, which is underrated in so many ways! I just love this city and it has some of the best vegan restaurants and bars I have been to, such as Vedge, V street, Bar Bombon, and Charlie Was A Sinner.
7. What are your top three vegan dishes?
My top three vegan dished would be my vegan version of Shakshouka – fresh corn cream slightly cooked in a tangy tomato sauce; whole baked cauliflower stuffed with peas and spinach cream; and a chocolate pudding that you would never believe has no dairy in. Actually, that could be a fine meal!
8. Best meal you’ve ever had
I am fortunate to be able to say that I have had a few unforgettable meals, but I will mention three – one was at Dirt Candy, a vegetarian restaurant in NY that offers fabulous vegan dished based on vegetables. The chef doesn’t use substitutes but puts fresh produce at the center of the plate with great creativity.
The second meal was at the Michelin-starred vegetarian restaurant Joia in Milan. They offer an amazing tasting menu with the best service that does not cease to amuse and amaze: beautiful creative plates with Italian-Swiss chic.
The best of them all would be my meal at Noma, Copenhagen, on their first vegetable season. They offer a parallel 100% vegan menu with no less than 20 different extremely exciting dishes, such as fermented baby pinecones or celery Shawarma, with the deepest flavors and unique plating. The meal was served with the most interesting and tasty wine pairing.
9. Is your blog a hobby or a business?
When I started my blog, I was a very fresh vegan who just wanted to keep doing what she loved most – cooking and writing about food. There was no vegan food scene in Israel at the time and I did not have a clue whether or how I would make a living, after quitting my job at the gastronomic magazine I was writing for.
So I was basically following my heart, exploring this new path I was walking on.
It took a while, but today I can say it is also my business – I collaborate with different companies: I teach cooking, I consult restaurants and food producers, I speak around the world and have written a cookbook – all thanks to my blog.
10. What platform do you spend most of your time on and why (e.g. Website, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook)?
Social media does take a lot of your time, especially when you are (also) a blogger. But I am not one of those people who spend all their time there. I usually hop from Facebook to Instagram, mainly to answer questions about recipes and publish some new ones.
11. How you do select your content topics?
I usually write about what I like to cook at that time – if I am excited about a new ingredient or whether some vegetable is back in season that I am happy to cook with again.
It might also be a specific holiday that I am cooking for or a rainy day that makes you cook some thick creamy soup. Today, as people are staying at home, I share what I mostly like cook these days – healthy, fast, middle-of-the-week dishes to strengthen the body and sweet comforting pastry for the soul.
12. Food blogging is a very competitive space. What are your tips for new bloggers just starting out?
When I started my blog, I was one of the first vegan bloggers in Israel and what really helped me back then was the specific topic of my blog – tasty, sexy vegan recipes, mostly by other chefs (it took time before I had the courage to post my own recipes!).
It is extremely important to have a specific title for your blog, to know what you want to say and write about, that will distinguish it from other blogs.
The second but not less important thing is to stay authentic – not to imitate others, not to follow “must do” rules, but to find your own path, share your personality and identity with people: that will work best for you.