Offering luxury and high-quality flavors to its guests, Harrods is now at the forefront of a food revolution. Philip Khoury joined the 173-year-old Harrods in 2018 and became Head Pastry Chef just before Christmas. He now pioneers plant-based desserts, or what he calls the “final frontier” of vegan cuisine. For him, it’s as much about stimulating the senses of pleasure as it is about saving the planet.
Khoury wants the world to know that plant-based or vegan foods should no longer be overlooked on the counter. “There is a negative bias that vegan desserts are in a lower position than their traditional counterparts, and I think this is to some extent to be expected,” says the chef. “This is an unfortunate thought, but this is a very new field; knowledge and techniques are very new. With eggs and dairy products in the bakery, we never had to question their presence in our food or whether there was any other way to have beautiful desserts without them.”
One of Khoury’s new vegan pastries, Dawn of a New Day, was taste-tested live on British television this week and garnered rave reviews. This new flavor combines dairy-free chocolate with seasonal tea poached pears, Earl Gray sponge, Chantilly cream and biscuit crunch. Now it sells as much as the cakes we find everywhere. The chef plans to publish a cookbook next year.
The growing global plant-based food market is projected to reach US$72 billion in the next five years, with increased consumer awareness of the sustainability and nutrition of the products they consume. In this context, it should be noted that plant-based food sales have increased by 49 percent across Europe in the last two years. A quarter of the UK population now say they are ‘flexible’; these are people who mainly follow a vegetarian diet but occasionally eat meat or fish for reasons such as health, nutrition or sustainability.
Chef Khoury says vegan recipes have been misapplied in the past: “I’ve found that not using dairy really brings out flavors and that egg flavors in food can be overlooked. When you take a modern look at cooking and reformulate it from scratch, there are some exciting opportunities to be found. I have a responsibility to show how good vegan bakery products can be.”
Khoury says the climate crisis may feel like an “impossible challenge,” but removing or reducing meat and dairy from diets is the most effective thing a person can do to help the environment.
Food was at the center of family events and celebrations, as the chef grew up in a Lebanese-Australian family in Oatlands, near Parramatta. And it was mainly filled with big plates of meat. But she had a revelation a few years ago when she realized that her work in the kitchen could help save the planet and support sustainable food chains.
Khoury says sweet-lovers need not fear the next generation of plant-based desserts. And he believes that taste is “everything”.