Food is Broken but Chefs are Serving Solutions


A report by the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP), a group of 130 national academies of science and medicine around the world has issued stark warnings about how global food systems are failing humanity and speeding up climate change. The report urged action at the UN Climate Change Conference, (COP24), which started today in Poland.

Climate-smart agriculture; incentives for consumers to change their diets; innovative foods; and cutting-edge technologies combined with rigorous social science are indispensable for addressing the root causes of our failing global food system, according to the report.

“The current approach to food, nutrition, agriculture, and the environment is unsustainable and must change. There is no time to waste"
Chefs are the link between farm and fork and they must be central to the conversation about changing the global food system. They are uniquely placed to educate the public and instigate cultural change in how we think about food, to alter what the consumer wants and stimulate demand for socially responsible eating.

At the annual MAD Symposium, a two-day event in Copenhagen featuring presentations from chefs, farmers, academics, thinkers, and artists, dedicated to expanding their culinary knowledge along with a higher awareness of environmental matters, Chad Frischmann, the Vice President & Research Director at Project Drawdown gave the below speech to an audience made up of the very best of the restaurant industry.

Movements like the SDG2 Advocacy Hub are building a global community of like-minded chefs who are determined to use their position at the top of the ‘food chain’ to make a difference. Together with over 100 chefs from all over the world, they have created a Chefs’ Manifesto - a thematic framework which outlines how chefs can contribute to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals through simple, practical actions. The manifesto is written by chefs for chefs and serves as just one of many examples of how the industry is taking on the mantle of social responsibility.

At the Food On The Edge symposium in Galway, Ireland, legendary chef Albert Adrià spoke about the need for chefs to change the way they think about using fish in the kitchen and to look for alternative cuts and lesser-known species to serve their customers, utilising every part of the fish in their cooking as a way to help decrease the demand that drives intensive fishing.

All over the world chefs are stepping up to the plate to use their unparalleled knowledge and influence within the food industry to contribute to more sustainability. In Italy, Massimo Bottura captured the world’s attention with his Refettorio soup kitchen initiative which utilised waste food to feed the poor. His Food for Soul initiative brought his initiative to Rio de Janeiro, London, as well as the US.

New Yorker Dan Barber has long been an advocate for the elimination of food waste in kitchens. His Blue Hill, Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurants utilise as much produce form responsibly grown sources as possible. In his book ‘The Third Plate’, Barber describes “an integrated system of vegetable, grain, and livestock production that is fully supported - in fact, dictatedby what we choose to cook for dinner.”

In kitchens everywhere, chefs are mobilising to lead the way in how they think and treat the food that lands on our tables. Joan Roca, of El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, partnered with Oceana, the world’s largest international advocacy organisation focused solely on ocean conservation. Joined by a league of the world’s best chefs, including Andoni Luis Aduriz, Ferran Adrià, Gaston Acurio and Grant Achatz to name just a few, Oceana claims to have helped protect over one million square miles of ocean, protecting it for the future.

Matt Orlando, chef/owner at Amass in Copenhagen is waging his own war on waste. He has managed to reduce food waste at Amass by 75% but insists there is no point in recycling waste ingredients unless the finished product is delicious. This where chefs’ creativity is key to catalysing broader change in the food industry. So much of how we produce and consume comes down to culture and by taking what is perceived as waste or useless and turning it into something desirable we can see the beginnings of a sea change.

As food production and consumption becomes increasingly politicised, sustainability is more than a trend, but a tectonic shift in the way the restaurant industry does business. Many challenges lie ahead but form the number of world-leading chefs embracing these challenges, the future need not be as perilous as we are sometimes led to believe.

Food has the power to change the world and chefs are stepping up to the plate.