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This acclaimed chef knows how to bring out the best flavors in fresh foods. He shares his insights with V T. By Nicole Gregory

SHAWN McCLAIN,

PHOTO: JEFF KAUCK

chef and owner of Green Zebra, a vegetarian restaurant in Chicago, creates dishes that bring vegetarian food to a whole new level of taste. McClain, who the James Beard Foundation in 2006 named Best Chef in the Midwest, has been a major force in demonstrating just how creative, flavorful, and satisfying vegetarian dishes can be. He does this in part by working with local farmers to bring fresh, pure ingredients to his customers’ plates every day. What dish would he offer a diner to show the rich possibilities of vegetarian food? “A nice, hardy vegetarian stew composed of numerous root vegetables, onions, Indian spices, and sweet dried fruit like currants, figs, or dates,” McClain says. “It would immediately invoke a feeling of richness and complexity without having to add a meat protein.”

McClain took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to share with VT his cooking philosophy as well as a few food favorites and go-to items in the kitchen. KEY KITCHEN UTENSILS My knives (mostly Japanese), an immersion circulator, a dehydrator, a cold smoker, and a good set of Microplanes. FAVORITE INGREDIENTS Tomatoes, citrus, sweet potatoes, cold-pressed oils, any type of grain, aged sherry vinegar, fermented black garlic, fresh mint, coconut. COOKING PHILOSOPHY Bringing to light the amazing qualities of the very best the seasons offer at the table. It’s about using creativity and modern thinking to create dishes that are at once perfectly fresh, visually mouthwatering, uniquely flavored, and naturally healthy. DISHES ON YOUR MENU YOU’RE ESPECIALLY PROUD OF

• Sylvan Acres Farm Duck Egg with smoked potato & toasted country sourdough

• Roasted Hokkaido Squash Dumplings with Chinese Greens & Five Spice Broth

• Heirloom Tomato Salad with Zingerman’s Burrata, Brioche & Sweet Onion Soubise COMFORT FOODS YOU LOVE Curries, toast with almond butter and honey, and pretty much anything fried! vegetariantimes.com

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