food / travel

Take 5: Vromageries And Other Restaurants Turning Traditional Cuisine Vegan

Restaurants around the world take the meat and dairy out of food to make traditional food trendy.

Vegan cheese, made from spiruline and cashew
Vegan cheese, made from spiruline and cashew
Jillian Deutsch

PARIS — Cheese boutiques (or "fromageries' in French) line the streets of almost all French towns. Their expertly crafted — and sometimes infamously stinky — cheeses draw locals every week and tourists from around the world.

But one new cheese shop in the heart of Paris is making something a bit different: vegan cheese, or as the French might one day say, "vromage."

Venezuela-born Mary Carmen Iriarte Jähnke got the idea for the inventive cheese after she moved to Paris to study and started to go vegan a few years later, in 2010. For a culture so proud of its special cheese, Jähnke found it difficult to not partake in the cuisine.

Cheeses were her "Achilles heel, especially in France, where they are so good," Jähnke told French daily Libération in mid-March.

Ten years after arriving in the city, Jähnke is now the founder, owner and chief vegan cheese maker at Jay & Joy near Bastille, in Paris' 11th arrondissement.

The idea of dairy-less cheese might make the French pose questions (and possibly cringe), but Jähnke hopes their curiosity will make them actually taste it. She also has "joyourts," vegan yogurt made from rice, and "fat joy," vegan foie gras from cashew nuts.

Jay & Joy is not the first place to turn a culture's key cuisine vegan. Across the globe, examples abound — from Mexico City to Seoul:

GERMAN CURRYWURST

Vegans don't really flock to Germany for the food. The country's culinary culture relies heavily on brats and beer, the latter of which might be vegan but isn't advised as a sole source of nutrients. But Berlin, the nation's capital and hipster hotspot, has vegan currywurst spots that allow vegans to partake in a local favorite.

Photo: Curry at the Wall's Official Website


MEXICAN TACOS

Vegans can always replace meat with beans in their tacos, but it isn't quite the same. Now any vegan (or adventurous foodie) can find fake-meat tacos that look (and supposedly taste) like the real deal at Por Siempre Vegana (Always Vegan), a taco stand in Mexico City.

Photo: Por Siempre Vegana's Facebook Page


BRITISH FISH AND CHIPS

The British might not be known for their food, but they are known at least for frying a good piece of fish. Vegans don't have to stick to the chips, however. The Loving Hut in Brighton offers a fake fish and chips among the rest of the restaurant's all-vegan menu.

Photo: Loving Hut's Official Website


KOREAN BULGOGI

Being vegan in Seoul is not impossible: Korean food relies heavily on rice and vegetables, after all. But meat is a key ingredient in some of the most beloved Korean dishes, like the beef in bulgogi, pork in jajangmyeon and the seafood in jjamppong. Luckily for anyone in Seoul, they can find vegan version of all the above foods at SaRangBunSik.

Photo: Instagram by kaffeefuchs


AMERICAN BARBECUE

Residents of the Carolinas, Kansas City, Memphis and Texas have fought for decades over who has the country's best barbecue. A less than 10-year-old vegan barbecue restaurant might add Portland to the map. The Homegrown Smoker sells tempeh ribs, burgers and ham from its food truck window. It even offers vegan mac and cheese on the side. Mac and vromage, then?

Photo: The Homegrown Smoker's Official Website

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Economy

Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.


Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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