Romanian MasterChef Loses First-Ever Vegan Contestant After Issuing Meat Cooking Ultimatum
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Alex Lenghel had progressed through two rounds of Romanian MasterChef before leaving with his ethics intact. He joined as the show’s first vegan contestant and was eliminated when he refused to cook a beef dish. The professional athlete was unswayable in his commitment to meat-free eating, having been vegan for more than three years.
Lenghel was selected to go into a cook-off to stay on the show. He, along with other contestants, was shown a beef dish by guest chef David Contant that they needed to recreate. It quickly became apparent that Lenghel would not participate, leading to a showdown that resulted in his self-imposed departure.
Making his feelings known
The cook-off challenge began with a cut of beef needing to be tied with string. At this early stage, Lenghel refused to participate. One of the judges attempted to nudge him into action with a cajoling “come on Alex”, but it was met with refusal. Lenghel patiently explained that he has no desire to cook meat and doing so would compromise his ethics.
In response, the same judge tells him he doesn’t need to eat the beef, only cook it. The rhetoric will be familiar to chefs who have faced similar pressure in professional kitchens. Lenghel explained again that he was accepted as a vegan contestant and does not cook meat.
“I’d like to ask you again Alex, are you going to cook the meat, or are you going to go home,” another judge asked, clearly stating that there was no meat-free alternative for him to work with. Lenghel chose to leave rather than try to progress with his principles compromised.
MasterChef’s obsession with meat
While a win for moral fortitude, Lenghel’s experience highlights an ongoing issue with MasterChef as a global TV series. It is focused on meat and offers little in the way of alternatives.
In the past, the series has been accused of failing to keep up with current eating trends. As more diners choose to reduce their meat intake, for health and environmental reasons, cooking shows that are entirely animal protein-based are archaic and outmoded. The Vegan Society and The Vegetarian Society have both previously railed against the series for its blind dedication to animal products. The former also made a plea to producers to cast more vegan chefs in future series’. The Romanian caper demonstrates that this could still be fraught with issues.
Lenghel commented that he “regrets nothing”, on his Instagram profile, citing that his MasterChef journey ended due to “life principles”. “The vegan lifestyle I follow now made cooking part of my life, and there was no chance to make any compromise and go back to cooking meat. MasterChef, it was a big challenge for me, competing with people passionate [sic] about cooking,” he wrote.
Leading by example
In stark contrast to MasterChef’s approach, Beat Bobby Flay, over in the U.S., welcomes vegan chefs with open arms and celebrates their wins. Last month, Tamearra Dyson, founder of Souley Vegan, beat Flay at his own game, with a plant-based burger. It marked a significant moment, s she was the first vegan to ever beat him, in 28 seasons. Far from being aggrieved, Flay was ecstatic for Dyson and in a show-first, tied his personal apron on her. The episode has been heralded as a huge win for all vegan chefs, owing to the popularity of the programme, with more expected to apply in the future.
Lead photo by Alex Lenghel/Instagram.