World Chefs work to Feed the Planet

by Zoja Stojanovic, Co-Editor, World Association of Chefs Societies (Worldchefs)

On the 5th of July 2014, the 36th Worldchefs Congress took place in Stavanger, Norway.

For years, this milestone event has welcomed thousands of food professionals and chefs of all ranks to participate in different culinary workshops, industry oriented roundtable discussions and presentations, to interact, exchange ideas and expand knowledge.

This year’s Worldchefs Congress introduced a big difference.

Feed_The_Planet_LogoAs the global body, authority and voice of the culinary industry, focused on education, competition, humanitarian work and networking, World Association of Chefs Societies (Worldchefs), along with President Gissur Gudmundsson and the Board, has been stepping up its efforts to raise awareness on food waste, health and food security. They have been underlining the importance of sustainable growth for the planet. Hence, setting “How to Feed the Planet in the Future” as the central topic during the Worldchefs Congress 2014, is another example of paving a way to realize its vision, beliefs and responsibility.

Several distinguished professionals from different sectors of the culinary industry, invited by Worldchefs, got together to talk about two crucial aspects: food challenges and the power of chefs.

The “How to Feed the Planet in the Future” roundtable discussion was presided by: Worldchefs President Gissur Gudmundsson CMC, Julian Cribb, Australia’s leading science communicator, Tristram Stuart, UK’s awarded author and environmentalist, Christopher Koetke, Vice President of both Kendall College School of Culinary Arts and Laureate International Universities from the US, and Alexander Throne-Holst, Managing Director of Unilever Food Solutions Nordics.

After screening the UN Secretary-General’s inspiring video message on behalf of Zero Hunger Challenge initiative, Worldchefs President Gissur Gudmundsson opened the discussion by reflecting on recent actions:

“During its 86 years, Worldchefs has been determined to lead the culinary industry for the sake of its members and consumers. Despite our efforts to create practical projects for chefs to implement sustainable practices, recognize sustainability driven educational institutions, organize “Train the Trainer” sessions, launch partnerships and jointly come up with projects to backbone sustainable development, having the chance to sit around this table and discuss future must still be seen as a great privilege! This and other reasons made us realize we need to do more. Fortunately, seeing individuals from different culinary branches, and listening to Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s Zero Hunger Challenge action plan, convinced me we are on the right track to make a global impact and not only to tackle the problem.”

Photo courtes Zoja Stojanovic

Photo courtes Zoja Stojanovic

President Gudmundsson’s introduction led to enthusiastic comments.

“The education sector has been facing some serious challenges. The whole system seeks for an upgrade. We need to add in more educational materials as a mandatory reading, and start raising the awareness form the school desk. As the same time, having professional chefs acting sustainable, our efforts are more likely to be worthwhile,” concluded Koetke.

“Changes need to be made in the field,” added Cribb. “Governments need to step up, support the farmers and send them a clear economic signal, and not put pressure, making them lower the prices and end up producing cheap food of very suspicious quality. Likewise, the aquaculture and new types of food need to be more explored. Simply, we need to change our landscapes.”

“If anyone thinks that we, global food corporations, only see an advantage in mass production, they better rethink the issue. The great amount of food produced causes a great amount of power consumption, and that is something many of us would like to change. Knowing what amount of power is used in meat production, we might as well want to rethink the prescribed daily protein needs,” commented Holst.

Tristram Stuart, a tireless combatant against food waste, couldn’t remain silent: “Supermarkets are one of the crucial confusion agents, as well as the biggest troublemakers by offering “so much for so less.” Once you go in you can easily forget the season or the location. Look around you, Mother Nature is the perfect food supplier. In order to succeed all industry sectors must unite – explore origin’s sustainable natural recourses, let the food supply embrace it and balance it, make chefs set them as trends and provide the general audience with edible examples, as well as to trim down the portions. I have no doubt that expert chefs could produce some really delicious solutions for food waste.”

Photo courtesy Zoja Stojanovic.

Photo courtesy Zoja Stojanovic.

This discussion provoked many questions from the audience, and ended up with a few highlights. They are: enhance education, explore alternatives, make sustainable in vogue, change the language around “waste” and “sustainability”, make partnerships with governments and leading industry players, add value to local farmers, control import and export, engage global consumers.

With hopes that this was only an initial step of a global impact, and a promise to meet soon with the latest feedback, Worldchefs’ “How the Feed the Planet in the Future” discussion ended, or in other words– it has just begun!