Among many, many other things, Chef Jehangir Mehta is an Iron Chef contender, author, kids’ health advocate and chef/owner at luminary New York restaurants Graffiti, Graffiti Me, and Mehtaphor.
During his visit to NRA Show 2014 to share his talents and insight at the World Culinary Showcase, Chef Mehta briefly discussed his passion for mushrooms and blending them into red meat dishes. This was fascinating, so I called him to learn more.
My first question, a simple “Why?” His reasons were manifold, but the first one Mehta mentioned was a healthy lifestyle change.
“Americans each too much red meat and not enough vegetables,” began Mehta. “I use mushrooms as a way of cutting down on our consumption. And it’s a healthier way to live our daily lives.”
Indeed, it’s no secret Americans eat too much red meat. But we are cutting back for multiple reasons including cost, animal welfare, environmental impact, and chiefly—health. For Mehta, mushrooms are a way of showing sacrifice doesn't have to be part of the recipe for a healthier diet.
“This is a nice and easy way to reduce this meat consumption.” Mehta explained. “The umami of the mushroom flavor and feeling blends very well with the burger to maintain a delicious flavor, moisture and consistency.”
And Chef puts his beliefs into practice on a daily basis in his very own restaurants, which includes the beloved Graffiti Burger. A full 30 percent of this staple is made up of a blend of shitake, portabella and king mushrooms. The mushroom base is chopped finely and mixed in with Mehta’s creative season blend and beef. The result is not only meaty flavor and a mouth feel guests crave, but a truly meaningful reduction in red meat that adds up.
“If you were eating three burgers a week and began using mushrooms this way, you would be eating a full burger less of red meat,” Chef pointed out. “With these flavors, you can slowly stabilize your body and palate, and eventually you realize you don’t desire as much red meat.”
Beyond the restaurant, Chef has taken his mushroom wizardry on the road to multiple schools, including the University of Washington. There he demonstrates his recipes, inspires and explains, empowering students to integrate this healthy practice into their own everyday lifestyles.
And far, far beyond Chef Mehta’s restaurants, this writer was also inspired. I threw caution and culinary skill to the wind and tried cutting back on the red meat portion of my famous (not at all famous) enchiladas. Copious amounts of mushrooms were chopped then sautéed with a highly unscientific blend of chili powder, cumin, Sriracha, other veggies and more—plus a drastically reduced quantity of ground beef.
In spite of my inexperience—it was delicious—possibly even better than normal. If Chef Mehta can inspire this sort of outcome over the phone, I shudder to think what the man is capable of. But for now, I've got a fever, and the only cure is MORE MUSHROOMS.