By CECILIA PADILLA-BRILL
SILVER LAKE — Chef Michael “Mick” Schepers opened Haché LA on Sunset Boulevard last fall with a menu featuring 100% Angus Sirloin burgers, made-from-scratch, triple-cooked fries, homemade drinks and select beer and wine. The menu is similar to his restaurant in Irvine, Mick’s Karma Bar. But Silver Lake is a far cry from Irvine, Schepers found out.
Vegetarians and vegan customers would ask him on a daily basis why he did not have a meatless patty on the menu. Schepers’ response would be, “Maybe later?” Schepers’ employees at the restaurant put the pressure on him to create one as well.
A meat-eater himself, Schepers could not understand why a vegetarian or vegan would want to eat a meatless burger. “Our specialty is fresh ground beef. I didn’t know why people would want a vegetarian burger when I can make them a veggie sandwich,” he said.
Schepers set aside his own perceptions and listened to his Silver Lake customers and employees. He put his 25 years of culinary experience working in restaurants in Europe and Orange County to the test. It was the first time in his career that he had attempted to create a meatless patty.
“The trick is so that it doesn’t dry out,” he said. “I’m not going to serve product that is dry and mushy, I prefer not to sell anything.”
What Schepers came up with was a complex, light and airy patty that looks hearty, even by a meat-eater’s perspective. Key ingredients include barley, raw cashew nuts, roasted mushrooms, chickpeas, Korean fermented soybean paste, Japanese eggplant and Mexican Ratatouille to prevent it from drying out while being cooked. Schepers used breadcrumbs as a binder.
The vegan patty is cooked when ordered on a separate side of the broiler. Since egg is in the bun, the actual burger is more on the vegetarian side rather than vegan.
Jimmy Su, co-owner of Haché LA, said that he has to have the vegan patties ready to go on a daily basis or “he’d be in trouble.” He also has a few scars on his arm from cooking the patties.
With the support from Su, Haché LA employees and feedback from the community, Schepers was able to create a vegan patty that he can call his own.
“It’s my vegan patty. It took some time,” Schepers’ said. But “you kind of have to adapt to the local community.”
Cecilia Padilla Brill is a communications writer and journalist. She writes news, health, education and feature stories. Cecilia is currently working on her first novel. She has lived in Echo Park since 1999