On Monday 26th March we, The Sustainable Restaurant Association, joined forces with Forum for the Future and the University of West London to discuss sustainable food and culinary training for the next generation of chefs.
We wanted to know why culinary arts are taught with a focus on meat — we’re talking beef, lamb, pork, chicken and fish — with something to feed vegetarians tacked on the end. Only by working across the hospitality industry and culinary education sector can we drive real and tangible change in protein consumption and eating out.
To kick off proceedings we asked the students where they get inspiration for new techniques in the kitchen. The results were as follows:
Panel 1: First we heard from three leading industry voices, each making the case for a shift towards plant-based eating. Please download all slides from the day here.
Sarah Halevy, Sustainable Food Advisor at WWF, introduced us to effects of protein consumption on planetary health. Whilst we are drastically over consuming meat-based protein, WWF have engineered a plate logic that would create a 30% reduction in greenhouse gases.
Next we heard from Kate Arthur, a Nutritionist at Alpro, who explained that it’s not just about reducing meat; there are vast nutritional benefits that come with a plant-based diet. Whilst numerous leading health organisations support a plant-based diet, it has also been proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer amongst other diseases. Please download ‘The Plant-Based Paper: The Future of Food & Drink’ here.
Finally Lucy Pedrick, in charge of insights at Bidfood, outlined the business case for plant-based. Bidfood began the year by analysing social trends and food service. Without doubt Veganism has been a key trend, and as a result they have adapted their product range to help consumers achieve their goals.
So it’s official; a well-balanced plant-based diet will support our planet, our health and the economy.
Panel 2: What actions need to be taken by chefs and the food service industry. James Stagg, The Caterer; Chentelle Nicholson, Tredwell’s; Jovan Ratkov, Havey Nichols Groups; Sarah Miller, Baxter Storey; Juliane Caillouette-Noble, the SRA.
Sarah Miller kicks us off talking about the cultural change required in commercial kitchens. Traditionally chefs would baulk at developing the veggie dish at the bottom of the menu — if we can flip this culture and instill plant-led / meat-free dishes as menu items in their own right, then consumer behaviour will move too.
Trials in Havey Nichols restaurants, say Jovan, have been hugely successful in challenging diners to try plant-led dishes, new ingredients (tapioca, lentils, seitan) or a type of dish that they may not have had before.
The #OnePlanetPlate campaign has challenged chefs to create their own vision of a sustainable food future. By making the chef’s recommendation sustainability-led, 120 chefs representing >1000 restaurants have added a dish like this to their menu — again this challenges chefs’ creativity and diners habits.
Chantelle explains the operational difficulty in serving exquisite plant-based dishes. Where meat requires prepping, marinating and grilling, to prepare and cook veg in a way to develops wholesome flavour and texture takes a great deal of time — and cannot be sold as a £22 cauliflower steaks…
So how do we engage chefs and diners?
Chantelle explains that using the term ‘plant-based’ rather than vegetarian or vegan has been successful in helping them sell dishes. Jakov’s key message is to cook seasonally — driving the message of local, seasonal veg, cooked well is deeply valuable when communicating to diners.
Juliane: Experimenting with menu language and design can have a drastic impact on the psychology of diners — remove any reference to vegetarian or vegan — it’s all food so why put it in a silo? Move plant-led dishes to the top of the menu and watch them sell — see the toolkits below for more info on this and our #FliptheMenu campaign.
Analysis: It seems that developing locality and seasonality on menus and building trust with diners is a key driver of the conversation today.
Spanning multiple food-trends (which may die as quickly as they spring to life on instagram), eating more plants and less meat (but better quality) is the only realistic direction of travel for diets.
Chef-diner inclusivity has never been stronger due to the rise of social media and food programmes like Masterchef. Building on this with friendly language (e.g. plant-based) can engage diners who feel that they can’t be a part-time vegan or vegetarian.
And why not call food, food. Chantelle explains how their aquafaba (chickpea water) meringue is just called meringue. It looks and tastes like traditional egg white meringue and adding the word aquafaba is 👻 scary 👻 for diners not familiar with it.
10:55 Lucy Pedrick, Bidfood talks driving consumer trust in the food system: Consumers are more concerned than ever with the provenance, sustainability and safety of their food. Following foot and mouth, horse meat and the use-by dates scandals, consumer trust is low.
Consumers are looking to companies to help them meet their long-term health and well-being goals — whether it’s eating less meat, exercising more or cutting out alcohol.
By understanding current food cultures such as flexitarianism or casual veganism, foodservice providers can build relationships with consumers, driving loyalty and building trust.
Veganism has risen by 360% in the past decade, with 1 in 20 people trying Veganuary and 1 in 12 raising children as vegan. This is the tip of the iceberg and the industry needs to innovate or be left behind.
What drives these movements? Bidfood’s research says taste. Above environmental, health or societal benefits, they have found that consumers are finding plants increasingly tasty over meat.
And finally — transparency! Consumers care about provenance, short supply chains and what goes into their food. As consumer knowledge around the topic grows, those businesses with good practices and transparent practices will succeed.
10:40 Kate Arthur, Alpro takes the stage to explain the societal benefits of plant based diets: There is a broad spectrum of plant based diets — ranging from hard-core vegans to new proclaimed flexitarians. As consumers seek to manage meat consumption and get protein from plant based proteins it is up to the industry to provide tasty and affordable options.
The average consumer still doesn’t eat a well-balanced diet. Recent health food trends have boosted saturated fat intake (coconut) and reduced fibre intake. Sugar intake is still high due to added sugars in many products — including those labelled as healthy.
What’s the cost? 80% premature heart disease, strokes, T2 diabetes and 40% cancer could be avoided with balanced diets. The strain on the NHS is dramatic.
It’s not simply a case of reducing meat intake — but really the dramatic health benefits of diversifying diets through eating a broad range of plants.
10:27 Now we hear from Sarah Halevy from WWF, explaining the planetary case for tackling the protein challenge: As we all know, meat is expensive — land, water and resources are required to produce relatively low levels of protein and calories from animals. 33% of global land and 70% of
fresh water is used for agriculture. And half of this island produces plants, purely to feed animals.
We vastly overconsume the protein required for survival — getting almost as much as we need from the plants we eat, but topping it up with far too much animal protein — all this despite wasting a third of all food (~20% meat, ~45% fruit & veg) . Whilst we can afford this financially, we cannot afford it environmentally.
WWF’s Livewell Plate sets out the menu for sustainable diets leading up to 2030. Taking into account realistic consume diets, the plate sets out 6 key principles:
- Eat more plants
- Eat a variety of food
- Waste less food
- Moderate your meat consumption (both white & red)
- Buy foods that meet credible cert. standards
- Eat fewer food high in fat, salt & sugar
Lunch: Jon Lilley and the Lexington Catering team presented the ultimate smorgasbord of plant- based goodness:
- Jerk Quorn & jack fruit curry, served with rice & beans
- Tomato, lime & coriander salsa
- Coconut & mint yoghurt
- Hand crafted Quorn rotis
- Homemade ginger beer
- Grains and Greens
- North African spiced Quinoa Falafels
- Korean Fried Seitan with dipping sauces
Beluga lentil, smoked tomato and roast squash tabbouleh with ardana crusted
fennel Warm cumin roasted carrot, freekah, orange and cashew salad with rainbow chard, lemon, mint and olives
After lunch, chefs teamed up with University of West London culinary students to present live demonstrations of four delicious plant-based dishes. The remaining attendees were split into teams to circulate the demo-kitchens, and get progressively more full…
Station 1: Baxter Storey. Rik Razza, Chef Director in charge of chef learning and development.
For the past 18 months Baxter Storey have been working on their latest concept, ‘Food Equilibrium’ (‘EQ’). With a 30–40% reduction in meat and fish, and with that a ‘gap’ in the dish, the idea behind EQ is to find balance. This is achieved with healthy ingredients, and bringing flavour (specifically Umami) back to the veg in order to create the Maillard reaction. The result? A healthy alternative to meat-centric dishes, that keep their clients focused.
Station 2: Bidfood. Shaun Hill and Martin Eshelby with development chefs.
At the “rebellious” station we were presented with pitta breads, containing a reduced portion of Mozambique lamb, doused in Piri Piri and coconut and accompanied by white cabbage, apricot and spring onion slaw with a natural yoghurt, cumin, lemon juice sauce, and hoummus. As Shaun rightfully said, when it comes to cheffing “nothing’s chapter and verse, nothing’s right or wrong” — it’s not about eliminating meat, as we learnt from Baxter Storey, reducing is also an option.
Martin also presented a jackfruit wrap cooked with BBQ sauce and served with vegan coconut mozzarella and cheddar. It was delicious.
Station 3: Lexington Catering, Tom Bradley
Head Chef Tom won Best in Class at Hotelympia’s Quorn Vegan Challenge with his delicious rotis.
Given half an hour to produce a recipe, Tom added toasted nigella and cumin seeds to quorn, water and gram flour to create his showstopping rotis, which he then upscaled to feed 120 at this very event!
Station 4: Ottolenghi. Calvin von Niebel, Development Chef.
Last but certainly not least was Calvin. Whilst he admitted the sustainable credentials of the dish were not perfect, Calvin blew us away with his veggie little gem creation. After roasting an aubergine on the hob for about 30 mins (turning every 10), he blitzed the smokey contents with tahini, yoghurt and lemon. Covered with chili (2 ways) and parsley soaked cucumber.
Workshop: Transforming Culinary Education and Training
Whilst the chefs ran cooking demonstrations with students in the kitchen, over 20 delegates food catering industry and educational sector met to reach agreement on key actions for helping inspire the next generations of chefs.
The barriers shortlisted by the group included meat protein is centre of culinary education; that plant-based is not on the agenda in technical training, and there is a lack of inspiration and creativity around veg-based cooking.
Two key actions that the group agreed that were important for culinary education:
- Integrate plant-based cooking and principles across all the existing models, not have as a single module, e.g. changing the importance of animal protein on the plate
- Create a central set of tools around plant-based cooking techniques and principles(e.g. menu positioning) for continued professional developments for chefs in the industry, as well as those teaching
Francesca Glass, Marketing Assistant
& Peter Hemingway, Community Manager
at The Sustainable Restaurant Association
Any questions? Get in touch
TEL: 0203 903 2777 HELLO@THESRA.ORG
Get involved with with our campaign at oneplanetplate.org
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