A Vegetarian and a Meat Lover Debate the Plate
An interview with authors and chefs, Maggie Pleskac & Sean Carmichael
One author is a staunch vegetarian. The other is a raging meat lover. Were these two friends and culinary competitors able to find a common ground between the pages of their book, Dueling Chefs: A Vegetarian and a Meat Lover Debate the Plate? We interviewed the authors to find out more about their experiences penning this unique collection.
Q: Dueling Chefs is enhanced by a sense of competition and one-upmanship between the two of you as well as the excellent introduction and (pardon the pun) biting commentary following each recipe. How did you come up with such a unique and entertaining take on the standard cookbook?
Maggie: I don’t know how we came up with the idea exactly. We just always teased and taunted each other as chefs. Sean and I always try to prove to one another that our recipes are ones that the other should envy. It was all ego really, as most chefs seem to tout. Now we have come to a kind of common ground where we accept more of the other’s ideas.
Sean: We came up with the idea for this book on Thursday, August 25, 2001. We were sitting on Maggie’s porch having our usual friendly argument when Maggie said we should write a book! Five years later, we
Q: Maggie, imagine you have to prepare a dish from this collection for the meatiest of meat eaters—a great big man with a great big appetite for steak and absolutely no interest in vegetables outside of the boring baked potato. Which dish would you choose to tempt his typically carnivorous taste buds?
Maggie: The wild mushroom seitan stroganoff is definitely a meat and potato style dish. On Father’s Day, I made this for my dad, who is a farm-raised, die-hard carnivore. I may have actually impressed him (which is very hard to do!). The "meaty" seitan and the rich cream with egg noodle will satisfy anyone!
Q: Sean, I am not a vegetarian, but I’m not a big fan of meat dishes, either. I can take or leave turkey, forgo the finest filet mignon, and pass on the poultry. Which dish from this book might you prepare to turn me into a meat lover?
Sean: I think I would either prepare you the Saffron Poached Tilapia or the Dirty Rice-Stuffed Peppers. The artfulness of the tilapia would attract you to the table, where the intermingling nutty sweet flavors would escort you back to the life of a full stomach. The meat in the Dirty Rice is very subtle yet enticing and it would leave you with a strong desire of the flesh that would have to be satisfied.
Q: What lesson did you take away from this fascinating culinary experiment?
Maggie: The lesson learned is we must agree to disagree. Favor the flavor and trust the taste. Also, Sean can drink all the Starbucks he wants! And I will support local business.
Sean: I learned that writing a cookbook is not as easy or as romantic as it seemed before we started the process. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast and I would do it again and again and again if I could. I also learned that the friendship that Maggie and I have will weather anything, even my addictive jaunts to Starbucks.
Q: Sean, is there any chance you will “go vegetarian” anytime soon?
Sean: I don’t believe I will ever willingly "go vegetarian." There are too many interesting flavors and tastes to explore without limiting myself or my palate.
Maggie: Touché! And, in case you were wondering, I would maybe eat meat someday. But only if it was humanely raised and cared for and I killed it myself with a hand-forged sword on an island where I had been stranded for lots of days!
Maggie Pleskac is owner and chef at Maggie’s Vegetarian Café in Lincoln, Nebraska. She is on the board of directors of Open Harvest Natural Foods Grocery and the vice president of Slow Food Nebraska. Sean Carmichael, a graduate of the Art Institute of Colorado, is executive chef at Chez Hay catering in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Want to hear more from our dueling chefs? Tune in for Maggie’s and Sean’s upcoming television and radio spots:
Thursday, November 1st at 11:00am
Channel 8 "Midday Forum", Stacey Kulow, Host
Wednesday, November 7th at 8:15am
KLIN Radio "Morning News Show" with Jack & Ashley
Wednesday, November 7th from 6:30pm to 7:00pm
KZUM Radio "Book Talk" with Mary Jo Ryan, et al