Laurent Veyet’s tasting menu is not for the faint hearted, but may point to the future of feeding a burgeoning world population – there’s a shrimp salad with yellow mealworms, crunchy insects on a bed of vegetables and grasshoppers coated with chocolate.
As the sun bathed the terraces of open-air restaurants in Paris, Veyet’s ornate dishes won nods and murmurs of satisfaction from his adventurous clientele.
“It’s the perfect dish for first-timers,” said the Parisian chef, making a serving of pasta made with mealworm flour, sweet potatoes and sautéed insect larvae. “There are some really interesting flavors. Few people could say they don’t like it.”
The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) ruled in January the mealworm fit for human consumption and approved in May its marketing on the market. The agency has implemented more than a dozen other applications for food products made from insects, including crickets and locusts.
Mealworms, and insects more generally, could provide a sustainable, low-carbon food source for the future.
Having dinner with his two daughters, Soheil Ayari gave his endorsement: “I feel like I’m in a traditional restaurant except that the concept behind what I eat is different. And honestly, the tastes are very similar (to regular food).
Ayari’s young daughter was equally positive: “It’s ecological and besides, it’s good.”
Veyet grows his mealworm on the spot, feeding them boiled oats and vegetables. While the mealworm may look like an unappetizing fly, it is actually the larva of the black beetle, which is high in protein, fat and fiber.
A versatile ingredient, mealworm can be used whole in curries or salads, or ground to make flour for pasta, cookies or bread.
“Insects are nutritious,” said Stefan De Keersmaecker, spokesperson for health and food safety at the European Commission. “They can really help us make the transition to a healthier, more sustainable diet and food system.”
For Veyet, the challenge is twofold: to win public opinion and learn to match the taste of insects with other foods.
“You have to find the right flavors, the right sides. It’s all fascinating, any chef will tell you the same thing,” he said.
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