SAN DIEGO — A chef from France is leading the charge to veganize classic French cooking in Southern California.
Sandra Hurtault grew up in Rueil-Malmaison, just outside of Paris, France. When she started a vegan lifestyle, she knew she had to figure out how to bring all the classic French dishes with her.
“As a French kid, you need to learn how to [make a crepe] in your sleep. It’s the rite of passage. Before you’re 10-years-old you need to know how to make a crepe,” she laughed. “And I just thought, 'I don’t see any of the beautiful classics that my mom would cook made vegan. I don’t see a lot of French vegan food.'”
Despite having a successful career in real estate and finance, it never gave her true joy. Her life is now dedicated to stripping back her favorite recipes and giving them new life as plant-based dishes. Hurtault is a personal chef, and her business, Ma Table Végane, brings her creative palate right into the homes of her clients.
“Everything with French cooking, being vegan or not, takes a little bit of time,” she said. “So you’ve got to be patient.”
She created an afternoon high tea time for Katie Vaughan and her husband, Francois Dussault, cooking everything in their own kitchen in Encinitas.
With every bite, Vaughan is convinced there’s something deliciously supernatural about how Hurtault creates food.
“I thought it was impossible to make French cuisine or baked goods that were vegan, but they’re absolutely delicious and clearly it’s not impossible,” Vaughan said. “You just need some magic.”
For Hurtault, that magic comes in the form of her creativity. While a lot of French food relies heavily on dairy, she makes her own special milk from a combination of nuts, vanilla and spices.
She also taps into the fresh flavors of nature by using only local and organic ingredients.
“We are at the genesis of vegan cooking,” she said. “Making all that beautiful food, it’s just showing people that they don’t have to miss out on anything.”
She likes to think she’s following in the footsteps of another French cooking trail-blazer.
“The vegan Julia Child,” Hurtault laughed. “Just because she’s quirky and a little clumsy like me, but she still makes very good stuff. And she loves butter, so I guess we have that in common, except mine is cruelty-free.”
She also cooks other cuisine inspired by her travels around the world.
Hurtault was recently a contestant on America’s first and only 100% vegan cooking show, "Peeled."