Edible Artisan

Meet the Plant Butchers

By Gretchen Schmidt / Photography By Alfredo Añez | August 22, 2016
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Ryan Bauhaus and Ilya Vlasov (Photo: A.J. Roca)

No animals are ever used in these deli classics that look and taste like sausages, pastrami, burgers, cheese and chicken cutlets.

Former carnivore Ryan Bauhaus, 37, does not come across as a hard-core vegan. He admits he pretended to be a vegetarian while courting his now-wife, Amanda, a passionate animal advocate who did not eat meat. “I had been sneaking out of the house to eat at Flanigan’s,” he says. One day she confronted him: “Are you cheating on me?” He was – by eating ribs and beer. Still, it wasn’t until his young daughter questioned him about eating a meatball. “Is that a cow?” she asked. “It was the look in her eyes,” he says. “That was the moment. I changed.”  

Today, Bauhaus’ Atlas Meat-Free Deli is one of a handful of small companies creating meat alternatives. Sometimes called plant butchers (not to be confused with vegetable butchers who specialize in cutting up produce), these artisans use soy products or wheat gluten and craft them into shapes and textures that mimic meat. One of the oldest such creations is Tofurky, started in 1980 in Oregon; more recent entries into the arena include products made by The Herbivorous Butcher in Minneapolis, No Evil Foods in Asheville and Monk’s Meats in Brooklyn.

Some of these artisans had been vegan so long they didn’t know what actual meat tasted like when they started working on their products. But for Bauhaus, it was easy. It was only a few years earlier that he’d been cooking up comfort-food sandwiches for his food truck.

Food Truck to Fake Meat 

Bauhaus grew up in Sunrise and went to the Art Institute in Fort Lauderdale to study graphics and advertising, a field he worked in until he became a stay-at-home dad. While he’s not a trained chef, he always had a passion for cooking, mixing up unlikely combinations when he was young. Unpretentious comfort food was always his favorite  – savory, salty, umami, acidic, sweet flavors. “I don’t fuss about food,” he says. Sandwiches were his staple.

When Miami’s food truck scene started in 2010, Bauhaus launched Bocaditos, serving small sandwiches made with humanely raised meats and organic cheeses. The colorful truck caught the eye of food truck event organizer and comfort food blogger Sef Gonzalez, aka the Burger Beast, who singled out their Burgidito: “It’s a micro burger with fresh ground chuck (grass-fed beef), all natural candied bacon, grilled Hass avocado, pickled red onion and arugula on a toasted little bun,” says Gonzalez, adding, “Let’s be clear here, I don’t eat avocado or arugula at all. I don’t care for it. An exception had to be eventually made.” Bocaditos did private catering, and appeared at Wood Tavern in Wynwood and other events, but eventually, food truck life didn’t work out for Bauhaus. “I did things different,” he says. “We learned a lot.” His own diet was changing and becoming less meat focused. Bauhaus decided to use the truck as his commercial kitchen and develop his own meat-free products.

On weekends, Atlas Meat-Free Deli makes sandwiches at Yellow Green farmers market in Hollywood

Going with Gluten 

Bauhaus researched protein and gluten, then bought Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten at Whole Foods Market. “I made the seitan recipe on the bag, but I hated it – it was flavorless. So I reverse engineered it. I took all the things I love about meat and started working backwards.” He used tomato paste to achieve the iron-y, acidic taste of red meat, and also set out to replicate the texture and look of chicken, lamb, beef and pork. “That’s my problem with vegan food – it doesn’t look appetizing,” he says. “It’s got to look the part.”

It took nearly a year to get the taste and texture of his meat products right, and a few more months for his vegan cheese. In summer 2014, he opened his deli stand at Yellow Green Farmers Market in Hollywood. After a year, they had hit their stride, selling sandwiches and meat products to customers and to local restaurants. He also took part in the Seed Food and Wine Festival, coming on board as a sponsor of the plant-based event, to the delight of cofounders Alison Burgos and Michelle Gaber. “The food he is creating is delicious,” says Gaber. “He is so creative in what he does.” Bauhaus was also a competitor in the plant-based Burger Battle, whose judges included Burger Beast Sef Gonzalez, who had no doubt that the Atlas vegan creations would be tasty. “He’s very talented,” he says. “Everything I tried at a recent sampling dinner at The Mighty was good. People are gonna be surprised.”  


Photo 1: Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten is the starting point
Photo 2: Vegetein is ready to be ground, then turned into sausage

{ Making Meat from Wheat }

Some of the vegetarian butchers in the biz use soy products like tofu or tempeh for their “meats,” but Bauhaus prefers to work with wheat gluten to make a form of seitan that he calls vegetein. The starting point is Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten. The typical recipe for seitan, or gluten, calls for combining gluten flour with onion and garlic powders, sage and marjoram and mixing with water to form a dough. After kneading, pieces of dough are dropped into a boiling broth made of water, molasses and soy sauce. After cooking for an hour, the bits of dough are drained and then used in stews, stir-fries and sandwiches.

Fennel, star anise and leek are some of the flavors for their sausage (Photo: A.J. Roca)

Bauhaus came up with his own formula, creating the flavors and texture he needed for his various meats. His own vegetein is ready to be ground, then turned into sausage using appropriate seasonings: fennel, star anise and leek. The mixture is fed into a machine and stuffed into vegan casings. Sausages are used in their Sausage Marinara sandwiches, topped with sauce and vegan mozzarella. Ilya Vlasov and Adam Goldstein take care of customers on weekends at their stand at the Yellow Green Farmers Market in Hollywood, selling sandwiches and product by the pound. Look for Atlas at this year’s Seed Food and Wine Festival in November.

Atlas Meat-Free Deli
Yellow Green Farmers Market
1940 N. 30th Rd., Hollywood
Open weekends

Atlas Meat-Free Delicatessen products are used at the following places:
Broward: Vannucchi Brothers, Hollywood; Parlour Bakery, Plantation; Grind Coffee Project, Fort Lauderdale
Miami-Dade: Visa-01, Miami Beach; Splurge Juice Bar & Cafe, Hialeah; Roots Juice Bar, Kendall; LoKal, Coconut Grove; Kush, Wynwood; Ironside Pizza, Miami; Grind Coffee Project, Kendall

Article from Edible South Florida at http://ediblesouthflorida.ediblecommunities.com/eat/meet-plant-butchers
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