Interestingly, a friendly wake-up call from piles of chefs in the region who agree that China with more than 9.6 million km² land area, has been a great country in agriculture. Back to three decades ago, Chinese still relied on sustainable farming, but, as urbanism in demand, the dining table culture is dramatically changing. The reality upsets the gastronomy industry, nevertheless, the profound culture is rediscovered gradually, yet in silence.
What excites is that an increasing number of young chefs line-ups in mainland China draw the movement into attention and the gastronomy capital Hong Kong is also at the forefront. Here are some of the forward-thinking chefs that believe sustainable table more than from farm to table, and it is a responsibility to build an eco-conscious community.
Peggy Chan, Nectar, Hong Kong
In Hong Kong, the plant-based culinary movement came into the spotlight from 2012 when Chef Peggy Chan opened Grassroots Pantry (GP) which the concept was built of sustainable sourcing principle, to introduce Hong Kong diners about plant-based cuisine and cultivated an appreciation of the farm-to-table philosophy.
Following the evolution, Chef Chan transitioned GP into Nectar in July this year, a new chapter featuring locally-sourced and forgotten ingredients. “Our experiential multi-course tasting menus feature nutrient-dense ingredients that nourish the mind and body, spark curiosity and protect the environment, ” Chef Chan has launched three set menus to present beliefs on locally seasonal ingredients, food-healing science, and carbon emission reduction - inspired by Project Drawdown, an International strategy to reverse global warming.
Specifically, Chef Chan believes that the Asian culinary history is based on ancient food-as-medicine remedies such as Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, whole foods, preservation and fermentation. Therefore, she will do more to learn from traditions, and then to modernize.
“We hope to generate impact at a much greater scale,” apart from Nectar, she initiated Pollen Lab, an educational platform offering structured educational programs, interactive workshops and cooking lessons and a research center in plant-based, raw and functional foods. Additionally, Chef Chan also expands The Collective’s Table to share knowledge with local celebrated chefs on using plant-based alternatives, minimizing food waste and adopting zero waste practices.
Christopher Kostow, Ensue, Shenzhen
As the third youngest chef to receive three Michelin stars in the United States, Chef Christopher Kostow at the helm of The Restaurant at Meadowood hasn’t expected he would open a restaurant in Shenzhen, a breathtaking hub of innovation in China. Till the project Ensue landed, he realized the charms of the vibrant city and then meshed California farm-to-table culture and techniques with Cantonese tastes and ingredients.
“One of the most important responsibilities we have in our generation is leading the way forward for a cleaner planet through sustainable agriculture,” Chef Kostow explicated it is the nature of his Napa Valley cuisine, which informs every element of Ensue too.
Chef Kostow does believe that true sustainability means managing an eco-friendly supply chain, including sourcing locally whenever possible, meeting farmers and implementing a plan to champion food waste. “To support the next generation of leaders, Ensue supports and collaborates with local universities, ”added Chef Kostow.
Currently, the menu by Chef Kostow at Ensue pays respect to the local products, unique palate and culinary traditions. It purchases locally farmed seafood products and the farm-raised chicken. Also, Ensue’s wine list is from sustainable-certified wineries.
Rosetta Lin, Voisin Organique, Shenzhen
Organic farming is welcomed in the world of from farm to table, but do you know what may affect the quality? For Voisin Organique (V.O.), the soil is one of the biggest challenges. Rosetta Lin, the executive chef of V.O., revealed that the terms referring to organic, zero-waste and local ingredient come from a healthy ecosystem, otherwise it is ineffective.
Hands with the founder Tina Chen, they have partnered with a group of agricultural scientists to improve the soil structure and agricultural techniques for their own EU certified organic farm. They believe the scientific technology can create an eco-friendly environment for better farming.
Adhere to the idea of from farm to table, V.O. carries the philosophy of from food to land. Incorporating classic Chinese culinary art, Chef Lin has pushed boundaries to create Contemporary Chinese Cuisine. “We try to explore the possibilities of ingredients such as drying, pickling and fermentation, ” illustrated Chef Lin.
“Sustainable table is more than from farm to table, it should be a supply chain,” Chef Lin clarified that they have upgraded the organic ingredient delivery platform to share the eco-consumption lifestyle.
“The restaurant is our platform used to accelerate change and to educate,” Chef Chan explained that they are to drive the fundamental system forward. “We hope to generate impact at a much greater scale”