Tal Ronnen, the goateed chef behind Kite Hill, quivers with humiliation as he recalls the beginning of his three-year quest to create the world's best vegan cheese.
"Steve Wynn had just gone vegan," Ronnen says, referring to the Las Vegas casino magnate. "In 2009, he hired me to develop vegan menus for 12 of his restaurants." Ronnen was well known for having designed Oprah Winfrey's 21-day vegan cleanse. Nevertheless, he felt intimidated by the task of creating vegan menus for a half-dozen cuisines at once. So he was already nervous when he brought Wynn's chefs together for a tasting of vegan alternatives to staples like eggs, butter and milk.
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"I brought in a vegan cheese that I thought was a decent product, and one of Wynn's chefs spit it out in front of everybody," Ronnen says, still palpably mortified. "It was so embarrassing."