'We live and work in a global broken food system... and the decisions we make as chefs impact people on the other side of the world we aren't even aware of. Yet we can do a lot!"
This was an over-riding message from the Irish Action Hub gathering, taking place on December 1st 2020 and streaming live from GROW HQ Ireland around the world. 30+ chefs gathered together from multiple countries, to hear, share, learn and grow together. Chef Conor Spacey kicked off proceedings with a warm welcome, and an honest explanation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how coming to understand their meaning has deeply shaped the way he now works. Chef Conor introduced all participants to the Chefs' Manifesto: a manifesto written for chefs, by chefs. The Chefs' Manifesto breaks down the complexity of the SDGs using language that is accessible, into 8 thematic areas that can easily be implemented into kitchens, with the goal of building a better food system and achieving SDG2 - zero hunger - by 2030. Conor encouraged all participants if they haven't already, to start by doing something. As the middle people in the food system, buying food from farmers and influencing consumers to make changes in their lifestyles and food choices, chefs have immense influence to enact great change.
Download Chef JB's recipe for Fermented Celeriac Skin 'Remoulade' below!
Paul Newnham, Director of the SDG2 Advocacy Hub, gave some startling facts regarding biodiversity and consumption, drawing links between climate change, crop production and malnutrition. Inspiring participants to see their integral role in fixing the food system, Paul stated that food and agriculture are at the heart of the 2030 UN SDG agenda placing chefs in a pivotal change-making position. With practical invitations to join in the advocacy movement, Paul shared multiple pathways to participate in shaping a more equitable and just future: sign up to the Chefs' Manifesto; join Good Food For All; be a part of the Food Systems Summit Dialogues occurring throughout 2021; set a practical goal of how you will incorporate the SDG agenda into your kitchen.
Chef JB Dubois introduced GROW HQ, the home of the GIY (Grow It Yourself) movement, and food education centre in Ireland. Sitting on a four acre site in Waterford, Ireland, GROW HQ houses a cafe, gardens, shop and event space. Chef JB implored participants to educate themselves further in order to make better decisions about their food choices, so that together we can build a better food system. He stressed the importance of passing on this knowledge and education to all people, so that they too can participate in building a better food system. During a cooking demonstration where Chef JB showcased salsify, celeriac and millets, he talked us through the importance of incorporating the Future 50 Foods into our diets. He also stressed the importance of using the whole ingredient, always remembering "before you put it in the compost, wait, think, and ask, what can I create from this? Then go and create!" Chef JB rounded out his session by encouraging participants to "not be afraid of foods you don't know. It is exciting to change, it makes your brain keep working and then change is easy."
Running through the 8 thematic areas of the Chefs' Manifesto, Conor and JB shared briefly how they incorporate the areas into their kitchens. The 8 thematic areas were written for chefs, by chefs, in a language that can be understood globally. They both passionately agree that by thinking about your end goals in being part of the solution of fixing a broken food system, you will uncover what it is you can do differently, today. Chef Conor stated, "It is not about what we (chefs) want to cook right now and what looks good on a plate, it's always about my footprint and the bigger picture... taking responsibility as a chef to deep-dive into the food system."
Guest chefs Chantelle Nicholson sharing from London, Radhika Khandelwal from New Delhi, and Anahita Dhondy from New Delhi, all imparted wise words about running kitchens dedicated to fixing the food system, as well as creating beautiful, nutritious food. Chef Chantelle has a particular focus on plant-based dishes in her restaurants, teaching her staff that respect and education are the keys to being part of a healthy food system. Her motto, "anything we can eat doesn't go in the bin" ensures her kitchens are working towards being zero-waste. Chef Radhika shared her journey behind shifting her language in the kitchen to make waste more accessible and beautiful. Curating menus around potential waste ingredients has shifted her staffs' perspective, and she hopes as she continues to educate and condition, will filter through to consumers. Chef Anahita shared her passion for representing lost cuisines and forgotten ingredients, explaining how she uses her platforms to educate and inspire her followers. She shared her enthusiasm for good change, and encouraged participants to be unafraid to try new ingredients.
After some break-out sessions where participants had the opportunity to share, listen, learn and grow, the Irish Action Hub was farewelled. The over-arching message from the day was that chefs are positioned in a powerful place, to enact good change in the food system by implementing the SDGs into their kitchens. Chefs should not be afraid to try new ingredients, new ways of curating and experimenting, or new recipes. They should be leading the way forward to ensure that our future indeed holds good food for all.