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Paul Ivic, of Tian restaurant, Vienna, spoke at Food On The Edge in Galway about how we can protect the future of food.
Some years ago, Ivic bought some free-range eggs at a farmer’s market. The lady who sold them to him had told him that they had been laid that morning. He brought them home and made some scrambled eggs and when he tasted them, he was transported back in time to his childhood spent running around on his grandfather’s garden in Croatia.
It really made an impression on him. He realised he was a part of a problem that was making people physically and mentally sick. He was focused on profit and not the wellbeing of his customers. He resolved to change.
Ivic believes chefs have a responsibility to educate people to eat healthily, to contribute to how food effects society and for him, it starts with the soil.
As the Head Chef in his restaurant, he acts like the soil to his employees, conveying good values, inspiring them and sharing knowledge with them.
It was a struggle at Tian initially to find small organic farmers but now, eight years later they work with 20 organic suppliers. Ivic sees them as part of the team. They buy locally but utilise the flavours of the world. Migration and the movement of people enrich the food and culture of every country.
Ivic is half Croatian and half Austrian, it took him a long time to realise that his diversity was a strength and today it is something he imbues his food with – the pride of a rich and varied history.
Ivic says that the food industry has taken a direction that is damaging our health and our environment. Just a third of the food we produce is consumed, if we could stop food waste, we could feed the world. Farmers have to overproduce, which is wasteful and environmentally destructive. We need to support the independent, organic producers. We need to listen to nature and obey seasonality.
Working with nature is an important, valued and fulfilling job and we need to encourage our children to aspire to work with it. Biodiversity is critical to our own flourishing and it begins with the soil, it must be free of pesticides. Our meat and fish must be free of hormones and chemicals.
How we cook and how we eat, how we think about food and how we buy food all form an an ecosystem of behaviour that can have a huge effect on our environment.