How, Why And Where To Choose #FoodMadeGood This Autumn
Choosing a different dish on a menu in a restaurant really can help the planet. Here's how, and some of the restaurants making a real difference.
Tue 20 Oct 2020
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, every time we choose a more sustainable dish when eating out, we are saving half a kilogram of Co2.
It may not sound huge but add together everyone’s efforts and you start to realise that your appetite really can be powerful and a force for good.
To demonstrate the scale of the potential positive change we can make when eating out, the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) have done the maths.
Firstly, they asked consumers about their dining habits, interest in environmental issues and willingness to change their meal choices in favour of more sustainable dishes.
Almost two thirds of concerned consumers said they’d be likely or very likely to try a restaurant’s most sustainable dish over their regular favourite, if they knew what it was.
That readiness to swap increased when they offered people real examples of dishes that could make a difference.
For example, 75% said they’d consider, be quite likely, or very keen to order a dish in which some of the meat had been replaced with vegetables, like a burger in which some of the beef was replaced with lentils.
With scientists agreed that avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on climate change, ths is a stunning starter of a recipe for a sustainable food future.
Using the UNFAO’s half a kg of Co2 per meal figure and the findings of the consumer survey, the SRA calculated that UK diners could take a massive 367,828 Co2t-e bite out of climate change if they made good on their avowed intention to choose a more sustainable dish over their usual menu choice – only half the times they eat out.
That’s the equivalent of the entire population of Swansea (225,000) flying to New York and back or of planting 736 hectares of broadleaf forest, a space the size of 1,051 full-size football pitches, or 1,288,000 trees annually.
The saving would also be enough to offset the entire personal carbon budgets of 150,000 people – or a whole city the size of Oxford.
For every 22 burgers ordered, he’s saving the carbon equivalent of flying from London to New York
What can you do and where can you go to use the power of your appetite?
Covid restrictions in your area permitting, you can take your pick of the thousands of members of the SRA who are plating up planet-friendly food, thereby tackling the climate crisis and supporting your favourite restaurants in their darkest hour.
Look out for #FoodMadeGood in its many, varied and delicious forms, whether that’s the tastiest, zingiest veg-based dishes assembled from a network of amazing local growers or plates created with ingredients many of which could have been destined for the bin.
5 British restaurants helping you to reduce your meat intake
One chef combining all these planet-friendly food hacks, is Chantelle Nicholson at Tredwells in London’s Covent Garden. The menu showcases dishes that are big on flavour, vast on veg and miniscule on waste – exemplified by her miso grilled cabbage, from Laines Organic Farm in West Sussex with miso aioli, crispy linseed and cobnuts.
To ensure nothing is wasted, Chantelle cooks and then pickle the stalks and then whizzes up the aioli using another by-product, aquafaba (the liquid you get in a can of chickpeas).
Head to Versa on the Isle of Man, the only entire nation to be a member of the UNESCO world network of Biosphere Reserves, and you’ll get to choose off a menu that takes local sourcing into hyperdrive.
Pippa Lovell won the San Pelligrino Award for Social Responsibility for UK and Northern Europe earlier this year, in recognition of her dedication to showcasing the best of the island’s food.
In fact, if it doesn’t come from within walking distance, it won’t appear on the weekly changing menu.
Right now, the dish that epitomises Pippa’s approach is the super local garden beetroot pearls, horseradish, cold-pressed rapeseed oil from up the road, elderberry capers and wild herbs.
Over in Carmarthen, at The Warren, the Good Food Guide’s Best Local Restaurant in Wales, 2020, chef Deri Reed is choosing liberally from the local larder too, with a strong focus on veg.
One of his and his customers’ favourite dishes is purposely designed to change with the seasons to include whatever his network of nearby growers have in season. Right now, its courgettes. So, his courgette bhajis, buckwheat salad, local leaves, beetroot hummus, coleslaw and homegrown chives is going down a storm.
He also wowed regulars this summer when, on re-opening, he’d re-booted his burgers.
30% of the beef was replaced with buckwheat, mushrooms and soy sauce.
For every 22 burgers ordered, he’s saving the carbon equivalent of flying from London to New York.
Ollie Hunter, author of 30 Easy Ways to Join the Food Revolution, and former Masterchef contestant, has also scaled right back on the meat on the menu of his Wiltshire pub, The Wheatsheaf in Chilton Foliat.
The mushroom burger is given a food-waste busting flavour kick with kimchi made from the cavolo nero and cabbage stalks, while the last of the season’s cucumbers make the perfect pickles.
If you’re looking for the ultimate in waste to taste experience, then head to Ozone in East London, where chef Sam Scott takes that mantra to the max.
So committed is Sam to making the absolute most of all the fabulous ingredients he sources, he’s created a menu on which 60% of the dishes include an element of rescued food, or kitchen by-product as he calls it. The ends of sourdough loaves, bruised or ‘second selection’ mushrooms, herb stems and spent barista milk from Ozone’s busy coffee bar combine in some kind of food alchemy to create Sourdough trim gnocchi with mushroom sauce, jerky mushrooms and smoked ricotta.
You can almost taste Sam’s pride in this dish and his approach. “At every opportunity, we want to make sure that the food we are putting on the plate is gangster, and drives home our approach to what good food, prepared well, and with consideration, should be.”
And finally, if for you, eating out really isn’t a treat without meat, be sure to choose a restaurant that not only serves meat raised to the highest environmental and ethical standards, but also practices nose to tail cooking, using all the animal.
At the recently re-opened Poco in Bristol, customers don’t tire of the smorgasbord of ways in which they’re serving wild boar, sourced from the nearby Forest of Dean. The lonzino from the loin is luscious, and streaky bacon banging. Then there’s the pulled Severn Boar burger…
This winter, remember, where you choose to eat out matters, both for restaurants and the planet – now more than ever – and you can make a difference. Choose #FoodMadeGood
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