Chefs of the world united for health, equality and sustainability

Chefs of the world united for health, equality and sustainability

December 22, 2020

Chefs of the world united for health, equality and sustainability

With their influence, chefs, the protagonists of a sector hit hard by the pandemic, can help to break down many barriers, including economic ones, and promote respect for the environment and people's rights.  

Achieving a more sustainable planet also lies in the hands, or rather the kitchens, of chefs all over the world. Through their actions, and the products they choose to buy and serve, they can make a difference. A thought shared by the various internationally renowned chefs who took part in the Resetting the Food System from Farm to Fork Forum promoted by the Barilla Foundation and Food Tank. A look at the world of catering by some of its main players, who, rather than focusing on flavors and culinary techniques, concentrated on the different areas which, if properly driven, can make a valuable contribution to society, health and sustainability. A task that is more important than ever today, at a time when the world is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We have seen how the Earth has healed and recovered during the pandemic only because for a short period of time we stopped polluting excessively”, pointed out Asma Khan, chef and founder of the Darjeeling Express restaurant in London, in a speech that preceded the panel dedicated to chefs. With COVID-19, people realized that they are equally vulnerable and that they do not live in isolation. So everyone must contribute to the community and consume less. “I say to anyone now opening a food company or beginning to take an interest in any aspect related to food, be respectful of the Earth and see this as an opportunity to make a difference. You will be rewarded, even in business terms” is the appeal launched by Khan.

Chefs on the front line 

For Massimo Bottura, chef and owner of Osteria Francescana, chefs can influence public policies, public opinion and can make a difference to their communities, the planet and the future of food. “When a chef gains notoriety, he can actually influence far more people than those who dine in his restaurant,” explained Danny Meyer, founder and CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group. A chef who believes in what he buys, uses and cooks will encourage people to grow it and produce it with confidence. According to Tanya Holland, chef and owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen, thanks to multimedia platforms, chefs can reach more and more people and show their values of sustainability. “We can help use our influence to break down many barriers, economic borders and closed doors,” said Bobby Chinn, chef, TV host and restaurateur, who believes it is important to use local, organic plant products not treated with chemicals, which can be cooked a few hours after harvest in order to maximize their nutritional value and reduce the carbon footprint

Respecting health and rights

The vast majority of deaths from COVID-19 are linked to underlying conditions, many of which, as noted by Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, are in part diet-related, including type 2 diabetes, obesity and some heart conditions. The chef believes that the current food system is killing people who cannot spend more on food to an extent that is not yet fully understood. 

But respect for the environment must be accompanied by respect for the rights of workers in the sector. Here too, chefs can make their contribution by trying to reduce the gaps between people and creating opportunities for those who usually have very few. As Chinn does, for example, by hiring many women and recently focusing on underprivileged boys, or like Khan herself, who will be setting up a mentoring school early next year to encourage women, who are too often undervalued, to become industry leaders. 

Cooking is an act of love and now cooking is a call to action”, concludes Bottura, who is also at the helm of the Refettorio Ambrosiano in Milan, an example of social value and the fight against waste.

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