By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS
VRG Research Director
Since their 2011 debut, the Vegetarian Seasoned Seitan Gyro and the Vegetarian Seasoned Seitan Sausage created by Taft Foodmasters have expanded into several different market venues and their reach is ever-growing. As of August 2012, these high-protein, wheat-based foods are available in approximately forty restaurants and supermarkets in the New York City area.
Jessica Taft, founder and CEO of Taft Foodmasters, created the seasoned seitan. She told the VRG that most of her clients, recognizing her product’s versatility, create new menu items using the Seasoned Seitan as the dishes’ centerpiece. Taft mentioned most recently to us that the executive chef at Manhattan’s Fairway Markets “…is busy creating fabulous recipes with the Seasoned Seitan…Starting October 1, 2012, it will be at their deli counters.”
The most popular way restaurants are serving the original Seasoned Seitan is as a seitan gyro served in a pita or wrap with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and tzatziki sauce (either yogurt- or soy-based).
Other restaurateurs put their own signature spin on dishes featuring Taft’s Seasoned Seitan. For example, Sao Mai Vietnamese Cuisine offers Seasoned Seitan in its Banh Mi Chay sandwich with its own unique sauce. Tian at the Riverbank serves it in a variety of sauces including spice orange, escabache, tomatillo thai chili, or citrus ginger sauces. Taft related to us that while dining once at Tian at the Riverbank, “I have personally been there when the chef made a fabulous ‘flash sautéed’ seasoned seitan with mole sauce (a typically all-vegetable Mexican sauce). It was delicious!”
In September 2012, Taft told the VRG: “We just got into our first Chicago restaurant, Gyro-mena… [They are] so excited to bring the product on to please vegetarians (though we know you don’t have to be a vegetarian to eat one.) Chicago will be a giant market for us, being the hub of meat gyros. One executive of a gyro manufacturer said, ‘There are more Muslims than Greeks! And more and more young people are not eating lamb as their parents did.’” (Taft Foodmasters Seasoned Seitan is halal-certified and will be kosher-certified by the Vaad Harabonim of Queens in Fall 2012.)
Seasoned Seitan Gyro is also ideal for fast food-quick casual restaurants because it thaws easily and needs only to be heated for seconds before serving. The seitan comes infused with authentic Greek seasonings. Taft explained to The VRG that restaurants serving the seasoned seitan gyro may create their unique tzatziki sauce by using a wide variety of ingredients such as sour cream, yogurt, garlic or something very different.
Restaurants may serve the gyro in different ways. For example, Pita Grill offers feta cheese as a condiment in their gyro. Other restaurants serve the seitan gyro with French fries (as an “authentic” gyro) or rice pilaf. Price varies depending on the restaurant or supermarket, but $6 to $9 for a seitan gyro in a pita/wrap is typical.
Made by hand at Taft’s Queens, NY facility, the pre-cooked, frozen seitan may be purchased wholesale either pre-sliced, in cubes, ground, or in loaf or cone form. Because Taft’s Seasoned Seitan will keep for up to nine months, and keep refrigerated unopened for up to two weeks, it is an optimal high-protein stock item for distributors, schools, hospitals, institutions, and vendors as well as restaurants.
The Ingredients Statement for the Original Seasoned Seitan reads as follows: “vital wheat gluten, water, spices (see following), soy sauce, canola oil, kombu, garbanzo bean flour, dried malt, agave, lemon juice, sunflower lecithin. Spices: cumin seeds, coriander seeds, ginger, salt, clove, nutmeg, turmeric, parsley, chili, fenugreek, cinnamon, black pepper.” The Vegetarian Seasoned Seitan Sausage (“Italian Seitan”) contains the same main ingredients but has a different spice profile. The Seasoned Seitan Sausage may be used as a vegan, high-protein pizza topping or served in a sub/hero sandwich.
Taft’s seitan may be purchased unseasoned. As of September 2012, this is available only for foodservice. Those interested should contact Taft directly: http://taftfoodmasters.com
Taft told us in September 2012 that the unseasoned seitan “…is paired fabulously with Chinese restaurant sauces; e.g., sesame sauce, orange sauce, General Tso’s sauce. We are currently marketing it to the higher-end Chinese restaurants for use this way. We are not making the sauces, just consulting with restaurants on how they can use our seitan.” Price varies but $10-$14 for the seasoned seitan in an entrée, salad or platter is typical.
Taft Foodmasters plans to offer its Vegetarian Seasoned Seitan Gyro as a retail “heat-n-eat” kit. Distribution will begin in the Northeast United States by the end of 2012. Later, it will be available nationally. The kit will contain, according to Taft, “…bread, seasoned seitan gyro, and yogurt tzatziki sauce.” Taft’s goal is “to get Seasoned Seitan into mainstream restaurants and supermarkets everywhere under our own label as well as into private label items…[We want] to encourage people to include Seasoned Seitan Gyros and Sausage regularly in their diets as healthy and delicious high-protein foods…Above all, we want our Seasoned Seitan to be viewed not as a ‘meat substitute’ but rather for what it is in itself: an all-vegetable, nutritious and delicious high-protein food that everyone may enjoy: preservative- and chemical-free, with no trans fat or cholesterol, and little saturated fat per three-ounce serving.”
Recipe suggestions for Seasoned Seitan are available at http://taftfoodmasters.com/recipes/Recipes%20Using%20Taft%27s%20Seasonsed%20Seitan.pdf
The contents of this article, our website, and our other publications, including the Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company employees or company statements.Information does change and mistakes are always possible. Please use your own best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. Further research or confirmation may be warranted.
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