Food & Drink Minced cricket rarebit, pulled cricket tacos: Why 2024 is...

Minced cricket rarebit, pulled cricket tacos: Why 2024 is the year of insect dining

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Taylor, whose co-founder is Aaron Thomas, an entomologist, says he got the idea from his childhood, which he spent in 12 different countries, many of them in Asia, following his father’s work in international aid. Long term, they want to show that crickets can be a sustainable source of protein. They hope to sell the cricket meat wholesale, as a competitor to meat alternatives such as Beyond Meat. Unlike many meat alternatives, crickets are not processed: they only add seasoning and a bit of flour.

Yum Bug are looking to venture into selling cricket meat wholesale as a competitor to Beyond Meat

The restaurant follows a sold-out pop-up they opened before Christmas, for which they recruited a range of chefs, including MasterChef veterans, to come up with dishes using their innovative cricket-based protein. The pop-up was so oversubscribed they ended up with 1,000 people on the waiting list. A permanent site was the obvious next step. It’s a way to showcase what might be possible, with a menu that draws on culinary influences from around the world. ‘We didn’t want to tie ourselves to one cuisine,’ Taylor says. ‘Crickets are eaten everywhere, and we are about the ingredient.’

Edible insects are like nuclear fusion or driverless cars: a herald of the future that is always a few years away. No New Year passes without some prognostication or other that this will finally be the year we all turn to munching bugs as a source of environmentally friendly, sustainable, ethical protein. Unlike carbon-intensive, highly intelligent cows, pigs or sheep, invertebrates are cheap, plentiful and less cerebral than traditional livestock. If you don’t mind eating a fish, you probably won’t mind eating a cricket.

A cricket caesar salad: the trend 'heralds a future that is always a few years away'

Despite insects’ popularity in other countries, particularly in south-east Asia, where they are a common snack, they have never quite taken off. You might get the odd edible bug. Rene Redzepi’s Noma, five times named the best restaurant in the world, has a nice line in wood ants. But for the most part, our palates have yet to welcome our culinary insect overlords. Yum Bug currently sources its crickets from Cambridgeshire. For now, they remain more expensive than traditional meat, but Taylor is confident economies of scale will drive the price down.

‘On top of the regular challenges of starting a business, you’re starting with a product people have some aversion to,’ Taylor says. ‘The central challenge is changing perceptions around insects. There’s a perception that insects are disgusting. Step one is showing people that they’re not.’

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