Gen.T Honouree Peggy Chan To Publish Her First Plant-Based Cookbook, Provenance

By Charmaine Mok

Fundraising to support the launch of the trailblazing chef’s first digital cookbook began last month

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Cover  Peggy Chan is set to launch her first e-cookbook in 2021 (Photo: Amanda Kho)

For some, 2020 was a write-off year—for others, it was literally a year to write. Peggy Chan, the mind behind the much-missed plant-based Hong Kong restaurants Grassroots Pantry and Nectar and head of Grassroots Initiatives, announced one last project last month to round off the year: her first digital cookbook, Provenance.

The project is more than just a collection of recipes, however. Chan says it’s a culmination of all that she and her team have done over the years at Grassroots, and a collection of memories, knowledge and inspiration that has been collated to benefit the plant-based movement. The recipes and stories aim to coax and guide users into sourcing and cooking plant-based ingredients and dishes, while adhering to best practices that takes the planet’s health and sustainability into consideration.

The project will be funded through a Kickstarter campaign, with part of the proceeds also going towards funding their next impact venture, Zero Foodprint Asia—the first Asian outpost of a non-profit organisation originally started by restaurateurs Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz in 2015. The initiative focuses on food systems as the starting point for real changes when it comes to tackling the world’s global warming crisis. Chan first met the couple in 2018, became fast friends, and will be channelling her efforts to expanding the initiative in Asia—along with incorporating a new technology element that she will unveil later on.

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Provenance, as the name suggests, is all about going back to roots in more ways than one. Through beautiful imagery, recipes and words, Chan wants to nurture the readers’ appreciation for plant-based cuisine as well as educate on the importance of knowing our food systems and the impact that we wield when making daily decisions. The seed of the idea for Provenance actually came from the desire to create more noise around the work of Zero Foodprint, and to get people interested in regenerating the ecosystem. “It also happens to be something I've been longing to create for ages,” says Chan. “The e-cookbook is a way to share knowledge, engage with the public and help others replicate those taste experiences drawn from Grassroots Pantry to their homes.”

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Above  Peggy Chan with Joey Ng of Zen Organics (Photo: Amanda Kho)

The project was also a result of a renewed sense of urgency following the challenges faced by the city since 2019, when the restaurant industry began to seriously suffer—an era that culminated in the difficult decision to close Nectar in early 2020. “As an advocate, you really want to show up for everyone—including our farmers,” she tells us. “However, if the economics are against your business model, then you as an owner pretty much have to face the facts, cut your losses and move on. To be honest, I wouldn't have wanted to remain as a restaurant constantly seeking government subsidies and additional funding. I wouldn't consider that as ‘sustainable'."

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That’s why she decided to channel her energy towards creating something else meaningful and impactful. “Grassroots has always been about equipping people with the resiliency to become sustainable on their own. And it reflects on how we make our team members become leaders and entrepreneurs in their own rights,” says Chan. “Provenance is our way to continue that message and by quickly pooling together our existing knowledge, and sharing that information with others, we're allowing them to become their own best selves.”

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Above  Barbecued mushrooms (Photo: Amanda Kho)
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Above  Fresh cabbage (Photo: Jo Rozman)

So what can you expect from the chef’s first cookbook? Recipes in the mix include iconic Grassroots favourites, such as popcorn 'chicken', pozole verde, palak paneer and raw blueberry cheesecake. The book will also stay true to the Grassroots Pantry ethos, with a strong section on how to put together an affordable and accessible pantry with healthy and sustainable produce and ingredients. “It will definitely last you through the fourth and potentially fifth or sixth wave of Covid,” she says.

Provenance: The Principles Of Plant-Based Cookery is available to support through Kickstarter.

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