Day 1: Chefs' Manifesto is one year old! Looking back, and looking forward to global growth

By Jules Mercer

Chefs from all corners of the globe gathered in London, in the extraordinary setting of Omved – surrounded by woodlands and food gardens. Their greenhouse was the centre for the meeting of minds full of knowledge, energy and enthusiasm.  This dynamic group took time to look back at the first year… 

Photo: Diana Patient/OmVed Gardens

Paul Newnham, Facilitator of Chefs' Manifesto: “The next few days are all about showcasing what people are doing as best practice, in order to encourage and inspire other chefs to do the same.  It’s allowing chefs to articulate how they can work with the SDGs and ask what progress is happening.  Also to create a mix of inter-relationships between scientists, corporate, private sectors, innovation, food development, all in one space. 

One of the challenges we see at the moment is that there’s lots of polarity – you’re seen to be in one camp or another – we need to be more divergent in our thinking to be able to work across spaces, and think about how it feels to develop”.


Quality of time…

A brief look at what’s been cooking:

  • Chefs Manifesto was born at the EAT Forum in 2018
  • 2020 for 2020 Campaign – this is a way of enacting the Manifest’s Thematic Area 2: Protection of Bioversity and Improved Animal Welfare, helping mobilise chefs to take measureable action.
  • Chefs' Manifesto became a supporter of the UN ActNow Climate Campaign.  We see this as a way of enacting Chefs' Manifesto Thematic Area 1: Ingredients Grown with Respect for the Earth & it’s Oceans.
  • The London Action Hub continued an active approach, hosting a Deep Dive on Soil & Seeds and a Deep Dive on Organic.
  • On the eve of the Mandela 100 Festival, SDG2 advocates gathered for a high level dinner– “Building on Madiba’s Legacy: Ending Hunger and Malnutrition on the African Continent” for a meal curated by the Chefs' Manifesto crew.
  • EAT-Lancet launch: Chef Conor (IRL) and Chef Mokgadi (RSA) travelled to Rome to create a delicious evening for 400 delegates in line with the reports findings.
  • Chefs' Manifesto Bristol Hub was formed – founded by Chef Ben and Jen at Poco Tapas Bar.  The Hub grows from strength to strength with a carefully selected network on engaged chefs ready to drive action.
  • Chefs' Manifesto Peru Hub – aimed to launch soon.. watch this space!

Slow, but sure…

The reach of the Manifesto has grown healthily on a global scale, backed by increased engagement on social media.  This is deliberate: the intention is, and has always been, organic, slow and considered growth, this is slow cooking worth the wait. The Chef’s Manifesto’s organic pace of growth will allow us to create a more purposeful and engaged audience, which in turn will feed the growth of sturdy and nourishing hubs globally.  

Photo: Diana Patient/OmVed Gardens

Kindness is an essential ingredient in our recipe

Chef Kamilla Seidler from Denmark, (LOLA, Denmark) wanted to send a message for the industry to create a more inclusive environment for all that enter.  From her experience with immigrants and younger chefs, Kamilla feels “a more patient approach to teaching and willingness to learn from others would boost a healthy kitchen environment”.  Watch Chef Kamilla's talk here. 

Photo: Diana Patient/OmVed Gardens

Stirring up a pot of excitement

Chef Anahita Dhondy (Sodabottleopenerwala, India) brought her passion for millet, along with a few grains.  Her message was simple: that chefs can drive the demand for underutilized, agro-ecological ingredients by delivering dishes with enthusiasm and creativity to ignite interest from diners. Who knew that millet is a far more water-savvy crop than both wheat and rice? Watch Chef Anahita's talk here. 

Photo: Diana Patient/OmVed Gardens

Down to earth…

Chef Arthur Potts-Dawson (Omved Gardens), highlighted the importance of soil – or as he referred to it – ‘black gold’.  Healthy soil plays an incredibly huge part in climate change, and focusing on agriculture that restores health to our soils is a must. Watch Chef Arthur's talk here. 


Photo: Diana Patient/OmVed Gardens

To quote Michael Pollan – let’s try ‘eating food’

Chef Tom Hunt led everyone on a beautiful journey of his walk to a more sustainable approach to cooking – and life.  “Root to Fruit Eating is a sustainability philosophy, and a simple way we can all eat better, more nutritious and delicious food for no extra cost whilst reducing our impact on the planet. 

Root to Fruit Eating breaks down into 3 key parts, Eat for Pleasure, Eat Whole Foods and Eat the Best Food You Can. A sustainable diet must suit the eaters’ local environment, taste and budget. Good food should be affordable and for everyone. Learning to cook whole foods from scratch, and investing in the best food we can means we can cook simple and delicious meals with little cost implication and the quickest preparation”. 


To expand on the Michael Pollan quote – what exactly is food today?

Bee Wilson of “The way we eat now” fame, held the audience captive with every word she delivered.  Bee is passionate about our modern food habits and her in-depth research had our minds jumping from South Korea to Chile, to nursing in the 70’s in Scotland with nourishing, one-hour lunch breaks. 

Her book takes in depths look at the complexities of the modern diet, and the reinvention of how we consume food.  

“Eating is a primal need, not a fashion… The question ‘What is food?’ should have different answers all over the planet, and yet, we find ourselves creating a kind of homogeneity in our global diet”.  The perspective of investigative food journalists is another layer of flavour in this spiced-up recipe of sustainability. We are all trying to forge ahead in whatever way we can to achieve a strata of success – and it’s nothing but comforting to know that the industries of science, publishing and education are supporting and speaking out about these issues.  Bees’ messages touched on the dwindling lunch hour in working life, the rise in liquid food substitutes and the simple fact that much of the food we eat does not actually feed us.  All this tied up in the dark world of food marketing:

 “food is hunting us now, as opposed to us hunting food”.


A lot on your plate…

“Food is the single strongest lever to optimize human health and environmentally sustainability on earth” – EAT-Lancet report.

Sandro Demaio, CEO of EAT Forum, gave a brief informative presentation of the EAT Lancet report that sparked great conversation and debate. 

 “Regarding a call to action, I think it is for chef’s to see their central role in connecting stakeholders, translating the challenges and science into tasty, aspirational and everyday solutions, and using their ‘rock star’ roles to inspire a global movement for food systems transformation. Reducing food waste, changing diets and even voting with our notes are all things consumers will need to embrace, and chefs can be at the centre of this!  There will be no business on a dead planet”

Although the complexities of the SDGs and involvement of chefs can seem, at times, overwhelmingly complex, day one’s speakers clearly showed that the collaborative effort of all industry participants is key to bring change. 


Big thanks to OmVed Gardens for their continued support and hosting of the Chefs' Manifesto London Action Hub. 


“Huge thanks to all for such a great few days.  So many inspirational talks and friendships made.  I look forward to the network growing and collaborating with you all moving forward!”

Justin Horne


“A BIG thank you to all, it’s always such an amazing time meeting and learning from everyone and taking it back to our country.  Hope you enjoyed the spices and ‘Ghar ka Khana (home-cooked meals).”

Anahita Dhondy