Meat off the menu
Hotel boss Frits van Paasschen (left) had to decline almost all the gourmet fare that he was offered on a recent trip to the mainland. The president and CEO of the giant Starwood hotel group recently moved all his American-based senior executive team to Shanghai for a month. From there, they organised visits to properties around the nation, with a programme that included lunches and banquets galore.
Most of the party was keen to taste regional Chinese cuisine at its best, prepared by top chefs. But not Van Paasschen: he follows a strict vegan-style diet, which rules out fish and meat dishes on the fine-dining menus of his company's hotels.
'For a year and a half I have been eating a plant-based diet - no meat, no fish, no eggs,' says the Dutch-born executive. 'I eat tofu, beans, nuts, salads, rice, barley. I bring vegan protein powder with me. I generally don't drink alcohol, but I do on occasion.'
A visit from their boss means hotel chefs naturally want to show off their skills in creating vegetarian dishes - which can be a challenge if the dining venue is a steakhouse.
Adds Van Paasschen: 'They enjoy the challenge in some respects. When I was dining at Danieli's at the St Regis in Beijing, one of the items on the menu was wagyu beef. I got something on my plate that looked like wagyu beef, and the waiter said: 'Don't worry, it's tofu marinated in beet juice!''