October 25, 2019

VEGAN CHRISTMAS IN OCTOBER! THE WICKED KITCHEN LAUNCH REVEAL

It never stops here at Wicked HQ! With launch after launch and the cogs always turning, we managed to catch co-founder Derek for a chat about everything that’s going on behind the scenes – we’re talking the Wicked mission, Tesco sale figures, cooking for non-vegans and what’s coming next!

“We make vegan food for meat-eaters,” has been one of your mottos from the beginning. Have you found that the Wicked Kitchen range been more popular with vegans, or non-vegans?

This is something I’ve said to myself for years, especially when I went vegan. I refused to eat leaves and berries and refused to compromise on indulging in things I enjoyed making and eating. Whether it’s more popular among one group, or not, doesn’t concern me. It’s the fact that we can make amazing food without the use of animals, that is better for the planet and our own health and that’s the priority for us. If we entice just one person to see the possibilities, that person might just be the one that changes their view and the world.

How do you go about creating food you know meat-eaters will love?

I’ve been cooking all my life and most of that time was spent cooking meat – lots of meat of all kinds- in other people’s businesses, or in my own restaurants and at home. When I made the decision to NOT to cook or use animal products anymore, there was an adjustment period I went through. I had to accept and give up some of what I had learned, what I knew and what was ‘normal’ for me. In that discomfort, I never quit learning and that forced something inside me to find a way. What we do is apply innovative thinking to the food we loved as meat-eaters and let the ingredients speak for themselves.

``What we do is apply innovative thinking to the food we loved as meat-eaters and let the ingredients speak for themselves.``

What’s the creative process of producing one of your products?

Developing dishes and products can stem from the simplest of ideas; seeing something that takes you outside of what has been done before. It could be an image, what someone says, or just walking through a grocery store. I’ll usually jot something down as a reminder and then when back at home will play with some thoughts and see how they come out. More often than not, the original idea transforms into what can work and to make something of that idea into a product line requires lots of points that need to be addressed. My personal process is starting from the end result dish, and working backwards from there to see how feasible it is for scaling up, cost effectiveness and how many challenges and obstacles will prevent it from coming to life on a shelf. Currently it can take from 6 months to a year from initial concept, to being on the shelf. This is dependent on many things and it always has to go through approval steps of peers.

What are the sales figures of the Wicked Kitchen range so far?

To date, we’ve sold more than 10 million Wicked Kitchen products, that is 10 million meals without the use of animals, or animal-by products. As great as that is, billions of animals are killed each year. We are proud of the impact we are having so far, but we are nowhere near stopping. The mission is always at the forefront of what we do!

wicked kitchen launch vegan line in Tesco
``To date, we’ve sold more than 10 million Wicked Kitchen products, that is 10 million meals without the use of animals, or animal-by products.``

It’s clear that people have been loving the food then! How do you achieve the result of so many people buying and enjoying your food, especially when a high volume aren’t strictly vegan?

We lead with delicious, chef-crafted, innovative food that appeals to more than just taste buds. It’s in our nature to attract chefs and want to impress and feed our peers. That is our mindset. People want to do the right thing, but more often than not are bound to their habits and what they’re used to. If we can disrupt the norm by creating amazing new dishes that satisfy and delight, we’re hopeful to be a part of the change we all need to make.

Let’s talk food trends. Have there been any emerge since your range first launched and how did you handle rolling with the changes?

Since launching Wicked Kitchen we’ve seen the market explode not long after. Being first to market in an industry constantly changing was a feat. The thing we have on our side is we know this isn’t a trend – the pent-up demand for amazing vegan food was there all along. We were listening and we’ll continue to listen and drive the mission forward in hopes that more and more people will see the clear opportunity and responsibility. We have to make changes where we can.

``The thing we have on our side is we know this isn’t a trend - the pent-up demand for amazing vegan food was there all along.``

The range of products under the Wicked Kitchen line is really impressive, but what’s your favourite? You must have one!

Probably the hardest question of all to answer! I’m a huge fan of the instant pot meals we’ve launched in grocery and am very happy to be able to showcase some of the mushroom innovation we’ve spent years developing. We’re proud to have helped influence the launch into the meat aisle of Tesco and stand by that it’s the right thing to do, to get in front of people that want to cut down and give eating meat and are looking for easy solutions. There’s more coming in the next few weeks and months. It is easier than ever to eat plant-based now and we’re still chewing on how awesome that is and will be for a long, long time!

Earlier this year, you predicted a rise in quality of plant-based meat alternatives. This certainly happened and there are some fantastic products in the market! Where do you see your Wicked Kitchen amongst your competitors?

In terms of quality, innovation, and breadth of offer, I see us as the best on the market. Building a curated and credible range that offers choice, great value (Plant Chef, the more affordable plant-based range that I created for Tesco) and using Wicked innovation have all been at the core. The range has been carefully thought out, with great attention to detail, from a chef-perspective, and I believe it is the best in the marketplace.

You plan to launch a whopping 80 new Wicked Kitchen products in Tesco before 2020. What challenges have you overcome along the way?

That’s right, we’re playing big! Like with everything, when you are trying to smash through boundaries there are inevitable challenges. We have overcome a number of hurdles already, with the end to end supply chain not being as established. For example, we have had to work through encouraging people to flip their perspective on how you can cook with ‘shrooms, using new ingredients and methods/processes to create meaty textures. The packaging is another challenge – we’ve managed to only use recycled packaging (which is also recyclable). The top film is the only thing we are yet to work out – but this is an industry-standard for food safety. We’re on it and will come up with a solution!

Wicked Kitchen has been the most successful Tesco launch to date. What do you think made this the case?

A lot of hard work, dedication and passion about helping people to eat more plants! We always say we want to make it easier for people to do the right thing and luckily many people are on the same page and want to change their habits. Things really are changing. We really believe that anything can be made plant-based, with no compromise on taste, or texture and the reaction to our products has shown that people agree with us! We’re challenging those around us to think differently. It’s a movement that’s gathering speed at such an exponential rate, it’s impossible to ignore now.

``We're challenging those around us to think differently. It's a movement that's gathering speed at such an exponential rate, it's impossible to ignore now.``

What’s still to come from Wicked Kitchen and what do you feel most excited about?

Oh boy, where do I begin? So far the most exciting thing has been finally getting Brown Oyster Mushrooms in Tesco! People can finally make ‘shroom steak in their own kitchen, which is Wicked for us! You can expect more awesome stuff in different areas of the store. So not only offering our amazing snack pots but growing outside of the meals area. We’ve been busy crafting even more delicious treats that further prove you really don’t miss out when you’re vegan! I feel excited that we have taken such a big step in the right direction, to help people eat more plants and for animals to be saved. That’s what this is all about!

October 20, 2019

Wicked Healthy and The Game Changers Movie Premieres

The Game Changers film hit theaters globally September 16th, followed by launching on iTunes on October 1st and October 16th for its anticipated Netflix launch, and we were honored to take part in this incredible launch events by catering both red carpet events in Hollywood and NYC back to back. What a friggin great week it was!

Sarno Brothers

Chefs at Gamechangers

It is always great getting the Sarno brothers together to pull off an event like this. All 3 of us and couple other of our chef colleagues worked our asses off in the kitchens, doing what we know best, cookin’ up some of our classics and new favorites for some of the world’s best plant-powered athletes, vegan health professionals and VIPs who were featured in the movie. Be sure to check out the featured menus below.

 

We know how much sh*t men can get for following this lifestyle and it’s so friggin awesome to see how the paradigm is starting to shift, thanks to messages like what’s featured in The Game Changers movie. This film will cause some serious ripples, and with those ripples will be the challenges that make people step up. You can not deny the science, and this film highlights that. Busting through all the sh*t the media has fed us for years and uncovering the truth about plant-based nutrition – we’re here for it!

 

We knew these premieres would attract a ton of folks that are being exposed to the plant-based diet for the first time, and many of them in the fitness community, so we knew we needed to build a menu that would not only impress on taste but deliver maximum comfort, flavor and culinary experience. We also highlighted some of our favorite products on the market, like a variety of innovative plant-based cheeses. We showcased over a dozen of our favorite bite-sized appetizers on the menu, with some of the highlights being Edamame Truffled Dumplings, King Mushroom Satay with Almond Ginger Sauce, Chipotle Sausage and Gouda Cigars with Lime Creme Fraiche, and the favorite Wicked Sliders with Charred Burger, Tomato Jam, Boursin and Arugula.

 

If you haven’t seen the The Game Changers movie yet, you’re missing out! The title of the movie says it all and it’s as inspiring for a couch potato as it is for an Olympic athlete. This film will push some serious change globally, and it could not be a better time! We learned new things that made us even more proud to support our plant-based mission! We know not everyone is well informed yet regarding sustainable compassionate animal agriculture, or ecology, but some parts of the film are so shocking that any non-vegan watching it will feel encouraged to re-consider their dietary choices after (especially the men – if you’ve seen it you know what we’re saying!)

 

Such great events and we are seriously honoured to be doing what we do best – cooking plants and doing what we can to show everyone there is absolutely no need to consume animals. An absolute pleasure to be part of this awesome film. Check it out on iTunes to download today!

 

Buy The Game Changers here.

The Game Changers launched on Netflix on October 16th 2019.

 

If you want to explore a ton of athlete approved recipes that are packed with protein, and lower in fats, head here, where you’ll find plenty of Wicked treats, meals and sides to fuel your life: https://gamechangersmovie.com/food/recipes/

 

Here are some more photos that capture the events. Enjoy!

September 30, 2019

Derek talks to the Vegconomist

We’re up to something here at Wicked!

 

We’re in the middle of a roll-out of 80 new game changing products to hit the shelves of Tesco stores in the UK, full of comfort food classics and easy-going meat alternatives. And that’s not including the Plant Chef range, a completely different line of affordable vegan products formulated by Derek!

We’re making waves in the plant-based movement, why? Because we want to make it easier for people! We want to tick all your boxes – we want to make sure you don’t miss a thing when eating plant-based. We make Chef-standard food that’s good for you AND the animals.

The Vegonomist interviewed Derek about every damn thing we are up to here at Wicked, from our vision for the Wicked Kitchen line, our “We make vegan food for meat eaters,” motto and why we want to help chicken farmers flip the script and get to growing ‘shrooms!

 

Thanks for the feature, Vegconomist!

Click here to read the full article.

 

March 9, 2019

WICKED KITCHEN’S PLANT-BASED FOOD RANGE DOUBLES IN SIZE!

The demand for vegan food is rising so rapidly that it has become the UK’s fastest growing culinary trend of 2018 and is sure to kick off more in 2019. And rightly so because we all know it’s not a trend! In fact research shows avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce our impact on Earth.

Wicked is here to do our part in supporting by creating delicious, flavourful foods, free from animals! Any reason you can find to reduce and cut out animal products from our diets is a good reason AND eating more plants has never been more important, delicious and easier than it is now!

In the last year, sales of chilled vegan foods at Tesco have soared by 25 per cent, helping to swell the UK vegan market to £310 million. Now, to meet the soaring demand, Wicked Kitchen food range is doubling in Tesco, nationwide!

Wicked initially launched with 20 items in January 2018 with phenomenal success and we’ve been in the kitchen round the clock since, working on continuous improvements and new creations to meet demands. Included in the 26-piece, new item launch are Wicked Kitchen’s own crafted savoury pies, ‘sausage’ rolls, more wood-fired sourdough pizzas, chilled sharing desserts and deli foods plus much, much more, such as:

All The Rage Rolls (kale, mushroom and garlic in flaky puff pastry)

Packed Puff Pie (roasted cauliflower and oyster mushrooms in brandy gravy)

Pesto Lasagne (White and pumpkin seed pesto layered with pasta and wicked style‘ricotta’)

Charred Pineapple Dream Cake (with passion fruit glaze and biscuit crumb crust)

And Spicy Mushroom and Veg Sourdough Pizza (Reminiscent of a childhood favourite and based off of the Wicked sourdough recipe featured in THE WICKED HEALTHY COOKBOOK published earlier this summer).

The Wicked Brand was created by Tesco’s pioneering chef and head of plant-based innovation Derek Sarno, (that’s me) with the support of his brother Chad (that’s my brother) whose mission is to provide the best, most delicious plant based food options geared towards meat eaters and everyone who needs and wants to eat more veg! Retail will never be the same again!

As mentioned in the Tesco press release, Tesco Product Development Director Kate Ewart said:

“We know from our own data that flexitarianism is on the rise and many more customers are dabbling in cutting out meat for a day or so during their weekly diet. With the new range we’re now hoping to attract an even wider audience including customers looking for on-the-go delicious snacks such as a plant based sausage roll, pie or pasty as well as dessert lovers.”

The first batch of the 26 new Wicked Kitchen lines will be launched on Monday October 15, which will be the sharing desserts. Much more will be launched in segments over the next month just in time for Christmas and ready for those taking advantage of Veganuary.

Chef Derek Sarno said:

This is a dream come true for us. When we launched Wicked Kitchen back in January, the response was just phenomenal. We’re excited to be able to announce the expansion of the range today. At the start of the year, I said that veganism was going mainstream, and—as plant-based options are taking over the supermarket shelves—that belief is fast becoming a reality.</p> <p>Thank you so much to everyone who has bought and loved Wicked Kitchen food. I can’t wait for you to try these new items, too.

Chef Chad Sarno said:

Having more plant-based options readily accessible to the public has been a priority for us at Wicked Healthy. The launch of Wicked Kitchen last January was the first important step in making an impact on the market. We could not be more excited to launch this line extension and I want to acknowledge the incredible work that Derek, our partners, and of course Tesco have done to bring plants to the forefront of the food conversation throughout the United Kingdom and with retailers across the globe.

More product photos and fun bits about each item will be shared over the next couple months so be sure to watch this space and stay up to date!

In September, Wicked Kitchen won PETA’s 2018 Vegan Food Award for ‘Best Vegan Range’. 

Another Wicked Healthy note:

Our priority is to remove animal products from foods. And we are also working on the less plastic solution and eliminating the use of other environmentally destructive ingredients. Although some things take more time than others we continue to ask the questions and challenge the current system we’ve been dealt with, that is our mission and the wider view.

Thank you so much for supporting, caring and sharing. We appreciate you and will continue to work hard for what we believe in to be of benefit to the widest audience possible.

And right now we believe a brownie and Charred Dream Cake are in order! Much more to come … stay tuned.

The complete 26 new Wicked Kitchen range is as follows bringing the range to a total of 40 items to choose from:

Charred Pineapple Dream Cake

Red Velvet Brownie

Smoked Carrot Celebration Sandwich (Holiday Sandwich)

Bubble and Squeak Sandwich (Holiday Sandwich)

Cali Roll Cold Cuts Sub

Mac Attack Salad Bowl

Citrus Noodle Salad Bowl

Tex-Mex Salad Bowl

Turmeric Cauliflower and Coconut Bites

Curried Protein Pot

Toasted Three Onion Dip

Hella’ Cold Cracked Corn Dip

Hipster Salad

Street Market Rainbow Slaw

Almighty Green

Painted Potato Salad

Packed Puff Pie

Pesto Lasagne

Big Bros Enchilada

Fiery Filthy Fries

Stir Fried Black Pepper Tofu

Chinese BBQ Shreds and Greens

Margarita Sourdough Pizza

Spicy Mushroom and Veg Sourdough Pizza

All The Rage Rolls

Curried Cauli Pasty

February 21, 2019

LAUNCH OF GOOD CATCH™ FISH-FREE TUNA!

Today is a vegan, plant based win! Today we launched GOOD CATCH with our great team! Some Wicked crazy cool shit if you ask us! What started as a thought and aspiration turned conversation and then into development. Lots of work! It’s now manifested into a tangible product, an action that is part of a solution to some of the crazy issues we face.

After almost two years in development, we’re excited to announce that our Good Catch™ Fish-Free Tuna is launching three shelf-stable products: Naked in Water, Mediterranean and Oil &amp; Herbs. We are so excited to see this product come to life and could not be more proud of the team behind it!

Cheers to bringing dreams of creating solutions and alternatives to animal based products to market with a compassionate focus!

“We’ve created a true tuna texture and taste profile,” said Good Catch Co-Founding Chef Chad Sarno. “Good Catch products are a one-to-one swap in any recipe that calls for tuna, and can be the centerpiece of any entrée, sandwich, chowder, or salad. Plant-based Tuna is the culmination of our experience as plant-based chefs, combined with our passion for healthy eating as well as animal and environmental welfare. We’re redefining seafood for omnivores and plant based eaters alike.”

Good Catch is the first plant based brand that truly rivals animal seafood.

“Our mission is to disrupt the seafood category with delicious plant based options,” said Good Catch co-founder and CEO Chris Kerr. “And give consumers everything like they like about seafood, but without the mercury poisoning”

In the meantime, check out this video and stay tuned for Good Catch recipes and videos like the one below for our Deli-Style Tuna here on the blog!

To purchase, visit your local Whole Foods or go online to Thrive Market (click on logo below)!

December 20, 2018

LAST-MINUTE WICKED HOLIDAY LIST!

 

We’re not ones to play favorites, but c’mon! The Wicked Healthy Cookbook is packed with delicious flavors and super-vibrant, emotionally comforting, fresh AF food with a wicked twist on great ingredients. GET IT!

 

Vegan Fat Kid | Plant Pusher Tee

 

Vegan Fat Kid hanging out in our our Plant Pusher tee … get your own: they are super soft + super sexy!

 

The Whole Foods Cookbook

 

The Whole Foods Cookbook, packed with 120 plant-forward recipes, low in oil, whole-foods centered and wicked delicious!

 

How to go vegan - Veganuary

 

What to go vegan, but don’t exactly know how to go vegan? Get How to go Vegan by our friends over at Veganuary and get plant empowered!

 

 

Bamboo steamers. You know we love ’em. Pack them with plants and watch the magic happen.

 

mortar and pestle

 

Mortar and pestle. Grind up yer hottest peppers, spices and savor the fresh flavor!

 

vegan chocolate

 

Vegan Chocolate. Need we say more?

 

Need a wicked awesome knife? We love Shun Cutlery!

 

VitaMix

 

Vitamix. Life changing! Use it in smoothies, for vegan cheese making and so. much. more!

 

cutting board

 

Wooden cutting boards. Easy to clean and won’t dull your knives!

November 28, 2018

WICKED HEALTHY INTERVIEW SERIES | TIMOTHY PAKRON OF MISSISSIPPI VEGAN

Our Wicked Healthy Interview Series features individuals who are making a big impact in the plant-based world and beyond. Today we’re featuring Timothy Pakron—photographer, forager, food stylist and passionate southern chef behind the blog and instagram account Mississippi Vegan.

Taking the vegan food world by storm with his wicked welcoming southern style and gorgeous + comforting dishes , Timothy’s taking it a step further with the recent release of his debut cookbook, Mississippi Vegan: Recipes and Stories from a Southern Boy’s Heart. We’re stoked to sit down with him to chat about some of the influences behind his work, how he’s recently settled into NOLA, and share a recipe from the cookbook!

We’re wicked excited about your cookbook! Can you tell us a little bit about the concept behind it?

Yes! Mississippi Vegan is a cookbook that explores the undercurrent of veganism. I wanted to show people that you can still have delicious southern, Cajun, and Creole food without using animal products. I also wanted to prove to people that it’s not that crazy of a concept to veganize these recipes. Some of them are already pretty close to being vegan! Furthermore, I wanted to show people that you can still recreate these recipes with loads of flavor. I wanted to share recipes that have a story attached to them. It’s basically a love letter to my childhood and my home state of Mississippi. I wanted to the outcome to be emotional, touching, and also funny.

What was one of the most challenging aspects of creating your cookbook? How did you evolve as a cook/food writer from the beginning of the process to putting on the final touches?

Well, my process was a bit different than most because I wrote, styled, and photographed everything myself. This was definitely stressful and daunting, but I wanted to be in control of everything. I also wanted to end result to be as authentic as possible. Basically, this cookbook is like my baby. What happened during this process is I learned how to really write a recipe. At first, I had this vision of using lots of wild and unique ingredients. As I was writing the book, I realized that this would be frustrating to my readers and also make the book inaccessible. So I had to forego all of the wild and foraged ingredients ( well, there are some) and really stick to what most people can get a regular grocery store.

You recently moved from Mississippi to NOLA. What are some of the things you miss most about Mississippi and what kind of new-to-you things have you discovered that NOLA has to offer?

There were a beauty and charm to my neighborhood, Belhaven, in Jackson, MS which I miss. There is definitely a comfortableness there. It’s hard to explain. But I always feel it when I am there. Maybe because it’s where I was born and raised. When I finished my book, I knew that it was time for me to go somewhere else. New Orleans is where I landed and I am totally vibing with the city! There are so many fabulous restaurants and lots of delicious cocktails. What I’ve noticed about NOLA is there is a festive spirit here that’s infectious. There are lots of fun events always happening. Even with all of that, my favorite thing here is still my garden which is just a baby at the moment.

What is your favorite fall dish? We’d love to hear any special memory or story that goes along with it!

I love roasted pumpkin seeds! When I was a kid, my school would always take a field trip to a pumpkin patch. There was something about the gray sky, the burnt smell in the air, and the bright orange pumpkins laying in the field that resonated with me. After carving the pumpkin, my family always roast the seeds which I gobbled up! I love it when a recipe is connected with the process of harvesting the produce!

November 6, 2018

THE WHOLE FOODS COOKBOOK LAUNCH!

A week ago, we started out on the East Coast and then to LA to help promote the new cookbook, THE WHOLE FOODS COOKBOOK with our friend John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market. Check out the stations we visited and what we covered in each segment below!

First we stopped by Good Day New York to discuss the cookbook. Here’s what we chatted about! Next up, we visited the TODAY Show to make sweet potato barbecue pizza, whole wheat pizza dough and baguette pizza with veggies. If you want the recipes, check these out! We then flew over to the west coast for Good Day LA to discuss the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle and trends around plant-based eating, while preparing some of the recipes from the cookbook. Here’s what we chatted about and cooked! Stay tuned! Several recipes from the cookbook will be available on Whole Foods Market’s hot/salad bars throughout the season. We’re wicked excited about it all!