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In a city of Paris revolutionized by the arrival of Lionel Messi at PSG, it is another revolution that the chef prepares over low heat Laurent veyet in his small restaurant in the typical Les Halles district: the one for the food of the future, the insects.
The entomophagy -as the human consumption of insects is called- is not a new practice: it is part of the millenary culture of several peoples, mainly in Asia, Africa and in some Latin American countries. It is estimated that at least 2 billion people they supplement their diet with insects in the world.
At first, nothing seemed predestined for 50-year-old Veyet to cook critters. In Europe it is not something that we know well because for climatic reasons we did not have to resort to these types of resources, he said in dialogue with TN.com.ar.
In fact, he acknowledges that like the vast majority of people, at first I had rejection. His position changed when he was commissioned, about six years ago, to create some recipes with insects. The first thing he tried was some ant eggs and they did not leave a very pleasant memory. But they aroused his curiosity and little by little he conquered his prejudices. The more he read about its properties, the more he got excited: Insects are great for health and the environment. They are ecological, with low carbon emissions, and very easy to produce in a short time , he stressed.
In May, the European Food Safety Agency approved the sale on the market of an insect for human consumption: the mealworm. It is the larva of a small beetle, the tenebrio MOLLITOR. He is an old acquaintance of Veyet: he has been using it in his restaurant for five years, Inoveat. And it is his favorite. It has an elegant, subtle flavor. Visually it is nice, he said.
The mealworm, he says, has an almond and hazelnut flavor although some of its guests speak of a taste to cereals or to prawns.
It is estimated that there are about 2,000 edible species in the world, but in France only two are mainly found: the mealworm and the domestic cricket (Acheta domesticus).
In most countries where insects are eaten, they are cooked in a basic way, to the frying pan . For this reason, Veyet tries to promote its consumption through the restaurants dishes, in a playful way, having the audacity to include insects in a gastronomic menu, to say that they can also be part of a refined cuisine.
25 years ago, Veyet began his career with the creation of Chefs domicile (chefs at home), a proposal that was novel at the time: to cook at the home of his clients. I didnt want to work in a restaurant, it was a real decision on my part. But the insects made me change my mind and I decided to open a restaurant in 2017, He counted.
However, Veyet kept some aspects of his first venture: very few covers a maximum of 12 and an open kitchen that allows you to exchange with the chef. It is a human-sized place, it maintains the spirit of a chef at home. Youre in the middle of the kitchen, its a bit like being at home .
The chef serves a tasting menu composed of six plates by just under 60 euros. Its star dish is a sand of mealworms and Comt cheese, hummus, vegetables, herbs and flowers from the garden and crispy grills. The concept is to bring the garden to the plate, he said.
The menu also offers other delicacies such as a Buffalo worm burger with its fresh vegetables from the market, crunchy insects and mashed sweet potato with spices or a bao bread made with larvae flour.
About his clients he said that they are mainly curious who come on purpose, with an open mind and are generally very surprised because they find it richer than they expected . It is an experience original and interesting, he claimed. In the place he also gives cooking classes with insects and according to he told TN.com.ar, children are generally the ones who are more willing to try the dishes and are very creative with the combinations.
Eating insects in France It is still a luxury, like caviarVeyet said. They are quite expensive because there are still few farms in France and Europe, explained the cook who supplies himself with about nine European Union hatcheries, five of them French. It is a niche product that it costs between 600 and 800 euros per kiloHe said, so beef still seems to have long years ahead of it.
Mealworms, and insects in general, are a sustainable, low-carbon food source. They also have a high content of proteins, vitamins and high quality amino acids, as emphasized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which promotes its consumption to fight famines but also to reduce meat consumption of a growing global population.
In 2030 we will have to feed more than 9,000 million people, in addition to the billions of animals that are raised annually for food or recreational purposes and as pets, said FAO.
The environmental impact It is something that Veyet stressed a lot in his talk with TN.com.ar. If we eat insects, we can eat less meat. It is beef and intensive agriculture that destroy the environment, generate deforestation. To produce a kilo of meat, thousands of liters of water are needed, some say that in 20 years there will be no more fish in the sea the production of insects needs almost nothing .
The talk with Veyet took place just days after the UN published a lapidary report on climate change and its consequences, such as heat waves, melting ice and rising sea levels. We see climate change with fires right now in Greece, California, Algeria Its the apocalypse. This has to make us reflect. Eating insects or algae is going to be more and more necessary, Veyet said.
In a report, FAO stressed that a number of 15,000 liters of water to generate a kilo of beef. On the other hand, an insect farm is going to consume a hundred times less water than one of traditional animals, they told the channel. France 24 from the French company Agronutris, one of the leaders of the sector in Gallic land.
Livestock also represents the 60% of greenhouse gases of the agricultural sector And according to some experts, if cows formed a country, it would be the third in greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, livestock occupies the 30% of the earths surface of the planet and 33% of all arable surface, destined to produce forage. The logging to create grasslands is one of the main causes of deforestation, especially in Latin America, where 70% of the forests that disappeared in the Amazon were dedicated to livestock, highlights the UN.
That is why the international body asked in 2019 to reduce the consumption of beef to reduce the environmental impact of the sector. Our use of the lands  it is not sustainable and contributes to climate change , said then the co-chair of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Climate Change of the United Nations, Valrie Masson-Delmotte.
As reported by FAO, the insect production is very efficient. On average insects can convert 2 kg of feed into 1 kg of insect mass, while cattle require 8 kg of feed to produce 1 kg of body weight gain. In addition, it generates significantly less emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases. Among other positive aspects, the insects can be raised using various waste streams, such as food waste and facilitate the composting process.
Experts also speak of a safe consumption, at a time when zoonosis. According to the entomologist Philippe Le Gall from the French Research and Development Institute, evolutionarily they are very different from us and this remoteness means that they have very little risk of transmitting their infectious agents to us, either virus or bacteria .
Veyet also considers that coronavirus pandemic, of possible animal origin, can help change eating habits. With the pandemic, we gain time, the reflections are made more quickly, people are more predisposed to change their behavior, is increasingly aware, he said.
However, Veyet is under no illusions. I dont think the French will one day eat insects like they eat meat, he said. In his opinion, the consumption of insects does have a good chance of growing as protein supplement, noodles and various snacks.
Noodles are the product that can grow the most because you cant see the insect, He opined like other preparations such as energy bars or hamburgers made with cricket or worm flour. In his restaurant Veyet sells everything from chocolate bars to crackers made with these bugs. Also flavored insects ready to eat like french fries.
Veyet has already traveled to some Asian countries to see how insects are cooked, returned inspired and created a fresh mango salad cooked in the Thai way, with lobsters and mealworms. Now the chef is waiting impatiently for the pandemic to end so that he can travel to one of the main countries of the insectivorous revolution: Mexico, where about 300 species are consumed.
As a cook, Veyet affirms that insects awaken his creativity and represent a real challenge in what is the search for the flavors and ingredients to accompany them. It is only a beginning, everything is to invent with insects. Be it dishes, products, you can create a lot of things .
According to FAO, the most consumed insects are beetles (coleopterans), which represent 31% of the total, followed by caterpillars (lepidopterans, 18%) and bees, wasps and ants (hymenopterans, 14%). They are followed by grasshoppers, locusts and crickets (orthopterans, 13%), cicadas, fulgoromorphs and leafhoppers, mealybugs and bedbugs (hemipterans, 10%), termites (isopterans, 3%), dragonflies (odonates , 3%), flies (Diptera, 2%) and other orders (5%).
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