Pittsford, N.Y. – Can you make Chicken Parmesan without chicken?
Wegmans did and it’s a hit with customers.
“It tastes wonderful,” said Lynn Dessert. “You have to get over the word chicken.”
Wegmans has a lot of customers who are vegetarians or cutting back on meat in their diets. The supermarket chain asked its chefs to come up with vegetarian recipes.
“There’s a new trend called flexitarian,” said Jane Andrews, a registered dietician at Wegmans. “It might not be strict vegetarian, but want to try vegetable-based or plant based meals.”
Executive Chef Eric Wendorff and his team traveled to a world-renown vegetarian restaurant in Zurich, Switzerland for meal ideas.
“We put a lot of emphasis in making vegetables taste delicious,” said Wendorff. “The one way we knew we could grow this program is if we could make vegetables taste delicious. And it was a challenge.”
Some of the recipes they came up with included a meat substitute produced by Gardein. The meals sold well at the prepared food bar.
“We had the idea, why wouldn’t we take something like Sesame Chicken that everybody loves, and try to make an alternative that other people who don’t want to eat as much meat can enjoy as well,” said Wendorff.
Wegmans worked with Gardein to develop a store-brand line now sold in the frozen food section. It costs $3.99 for a 10.9-ounce package.
Just don’t call the meat alternative “tofu.”
“This is not your mother’s textured vegetable protein from 20 years ago,” said Jane Andrews, a registered dietician for Wegmans. “It’s not tofu. It’s not soy. It’s a mixture of different isolated proteins.”
The product has fewer calories than real meat. It contains soy, wheat, peas, and grains.
“Through various iterations they’ve been able to come up with something that does make you think you’re eating meat without the concerns of meat,” said Andrews.
“It is very good. I would buy it,” said customer Debbie Brown after trying a sample. “Texture is a little bit different, but it tastes like the seasoning.”