Five of the world’s best known chefs sat down for a chat last week in LA with one topic on the table: Sustainability. The crew, led by Massimo Bottura, included Mario Batali, Dominique Crenn, Roy Choi and Mary Sue Milliken.
The lively round-table was organised by Food for Soul, sponsored by S.Pellegrino, and part of the month long Food Bowl festival organised by the LA Times.
Food for Soul is an organisation started by Massimo Bottura during the World Expo in Milan. Their aim is to open community kitchens around the world where food waste is transformed into delicious meals for those who need it most.
Fronted by Jonathan Gold, the talk centred on the idea of sustainability in the food chain - a topic that’s gained more and more attention in recent years. Each chef had their own views on the overriding idea of sustainability and the benefit of watching them debate on stage was the convergence of ideas.
Below you can watch the full video of the debate, skip to 17 minutes for the action. We’ve also selected some of our highlights from the talk below.
Mary Sue Milliken
It’s such an enormous problem and it’s so fixable... It’s great that we are talking about it and making it into something that is hip, cool and sexy to not waste food.
I think in America we are to abundance, an excessive amount of abundance, portion sizes are enormous, I think it’s a whole retrying of how we think about food. Maybe we could bonus anyone who cleans their plate, the clean plate club in your restaurant, if you clean your plate you get a discount.
Food waste is something that is a lot bigger than what happens in restaurants, and we may throw away some scraps and there may be some things that don’t happen right, but at the end of the day our fundamental food waste is based on products that never make it to market because it’s easier or less expensive to throw shit away before it ever gets to the store.
If we can figure out a way to incentivise people to use that for their profit you will see quickly things change. If they look at it as charity or some kind of way of abstractly helping the greater good, yeah, it’s kind of like in the third or fourth tier, but if theirs an incentive to use products - to make some kind of patty that we can use in the fast food space with a partner in the fast food business, then, all of a sudden you can have a lentil and banana peel patty.
It’s harnessing the power of the American market place that’s going to make this go away, not just some chefs thinking that saving all of our scraps is a good idea because we’re leading the people down the right path - which is still ideologically correct but it’s a much bigger problem that what we’re going to solve in our individual restaurants.
If people to start to think before eating or cooking, the world would be a better place.
Society is all about perception, it’s about how something looks, if something looks good it’s going to be on the shelf, if something doesn’t look good it’s not going to be on the shelf. I’m going to tell you, this is bullshit because it tastes the same.
It’s not just about restaurants, let’s talk about supermarkets ,let’s talk about other things that we need to look at. It’s not about us that don’t want to do something, the government is not really helping us to do something.
The point for me is…that chefs right now are much more than the sum of their recipes. They can influence so much the people, even the people at the government are listening, they are listening because they understood we have good ideas. Now in the UK they are discussing the pass a law exactly as they did in France and in Italy, this is the point, you need a regulation also here in the United States. (Bottura is referring to a law passed in both France and Italy that forces large food suppliers to cut food waste).
What we call waste is not waste, it’s just different.
Part of it is to stop stroking our own egos as adults I think. And to stop looking at ourselves as the only agent of change, our restaurants individually are small, you can look at other things that are much larger.
You have to look at it not just from… the educational end or the scolding end… if you’re a young kid you maybe haven’t developed the difference between right and wrong yet, I think it’s about hitting emotional points, just making it fun and exciting, making food something that they really want to be a part of.