Tal Ronnen has such great food and I love his new restaurant, Crossroads. If you’re not familiar with Tal, he’s one of the best vegan chefs around. He became famous for preparing the vegan meals for Oprah Winfrey’s 21-day vegan cleanse. He then catered Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi’s vegan wedding, Arianna Huffington’s party at the Democratic National Convention, and the first vegan dinner at the U.S. Senate. He’s also worked at some of the most popular vegan restaurants in the U.S. including Sublime in Fort Lauderdale, Madeleine Bistro in LA, and Candle 79 in NYC. He also helped Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders to open VegiTarranean in Akron, Ohio…I want to go there! He’s also worked with Gardein to develop their flavors, textures, and variations.
I sent him some questions about his life as a vegan and his new restaurant. Here we go…
Alicia Silverstone (Me): When and why did you become a veggie?
Tal Ronnen: It was 22 years ago—at first it was all about impressing a girl! Eventually it evolved into concern about animal welfare and the environment.
AS: What made you open this restaurant?
TR: Scott Jones, our executive chef, and I worked on a restaurant together in Ohio that featured Mediterranean plant-based dishes. We’ve always wanted to bring that concept to Los Angeles. The goal with Crossroads was to create a cohesive menu that drew upon Mediterranean flavors from parts of Italy, Spain, and France. We wanted to create a place where the quality of the food and the atmosphere was what people focused on first; where carnivores, vegans, and everyone in between could have a great meal together, accompanied by great drinks. We worked with the designers at Studio Collective to create a comfortable and sexy fine dining atmosphere. We wanted a space that felt both beautiful and cozy. The banquettes, the upholstered chairs, the chandeliers, the antique glass, the private dining room— all of these details help contribute to this very special space.
AS: Tell me about your cheese invention.
TR: I’m a partner in a company called Kite Hill, which produces cheese made using traditional artisanal cheese-making processes, but without dairy. We’re launching three cheeses with Whole Foods Market this month. Unlike other non-dairy cheeses, we make our own milk, and mix it with cultures and enzymes that our team developed. We then form curds, which are then cut, drained, and pressed. Once the cheese has been brined, it goes into one of our aging rooms, which are specifically calibrated to the style of cheese that we are making. The aging rooms and equipment were all built in France and imported to our facility in Northern California. This will be the first non-dairy cheese sold in Whole Foods’ esteemed cheese department, as opposed to the processed cheese or vegan cheese section, where all non-dairy cheese have lived until now.
AS: Tell me when the croissants and breakfast will be available at Crossroads? And when can I go? And what will I be able to eat? Yum!!!
TR: I’m so glad you got taste one of the croissants our pastry chef, Serafina Magnussen, has been working on! Crossroads Provisions, which will be housed in a beautiful adjacent dining room, is designed to feel like a European cheese shop. You’ll be able to buy a variety of items, including the croissants, and sandwiches made with Kite Hill Cheeses, wine, and other small bites.
But seriously, when is it opening? I want to go now for that croissant!!
If you can’t make it to Crossroads, check out his cookbook The Conscious Cook.
Have you ever tried Tal’s cooking? Will you try his new cheeses at Whole Foods?