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What does sustainability mean for our National Chef of the Year finalists?

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With the National Chef of the Year competition just a few weeks away we’ve been putting sustainability in the spotlight with a full week of focus on this key industry topic. It’s vital that organisations like the Craft Guild of Chefs play their part in creating awareness of industry issues and sustainability is a key part of the NCOTY competition; for organisers, judges, competitors and sponsors.

Sustainability is about much more than the environment, it also relates to your staff and making sure we continue to drive talented chefs into hospitality, so the industry will grow and flourish. But what does sustainability mean for the chefs who are already working in busy kitchens? How much time do they have to think about it? How will placing more emphasis on sustainability affect the future of our industry?  We’ve been chatting to our ten finalists to find out.

The National Chef of the Year finalist Tom Westerland is the head chef at Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa and will be competing in the competition for the second time on the 2nd October. He told us: “Sustainability is such an important topic because it’s the future; whether you are looking at the sustainability of British produce and ingredients or if you’re looking at the chefs and waiters of tomorrow. Without investing in the next generation there won’t be anyone to carry on and keep pushing the great British hospitality industry. I do believe that the industry needs to adopt a nurture culture to help entice the future of the industry to thrive.”

“It’s basically our bread and butter as chefs” said finalist Stefan Sewell. “You need to strive for the best products and produce and must keep it continuous. This includes the development of chefs within your workforce.”

Martin Frickel has been busy working on an exciting sustainability project over the last few weeks. He revealedIt’s a massively important topic within the industry, both in terms of how and where we source our ingredients and the waste that can be generated. By examining both, we can make a real difference to the local economy by supporting producers and farmers. Chefs can also play a part in reducing waste and help other people who don’t have enough to survive. That’s just one reason why I’m involved in a fundraising dinner called Wasted. It’s designed to raise awareness of food waste in the Lakes and to raise money for four inspiring charities: Windermere food bank, Growing Well, Cumbria Community Foundation and Kendal People’s Café. These all help people suffering because of food poverty.”

For head chef at Gravetye Manor, George Blogg, sustainability is about so much more than food telling us: “Whether you relate sustainability to individual careers, the availability of skilled workers, environmental impact, business longevity or even to the growth of the hospitality industry as a whole, sustainability is always a key issue. As an industry we need to be looking to the future, short and long-term, and it is essential in our busy lives that we find time to work together, discuss, plan and improve the situation we find ourselves in.”

David Nielson will be competing in his first ever competition when he takes to the National Chef of the Year stage and was keen to share his thoughts on this big issue: “Sustainability is such an important topic to the industry. So that we are able to control the amount of food produce to a level that does not threaten any species or plant life and to be able to replace what we have taken for the future.”

Finalist, Glenn Evans has impressed the National Chef of the Year judges regularly over the last few years and we are excited to see him in the final. He said: “Millions of customers are very aware of the environment these days. As a restaurant group we need to be actively seen or heard to be doing the best we can to reduce wastage and minimise the impact we have on the environment. We must focus on using sustainable ingredients and products which then gives our customers the reassurance they need to come dine with us.”

Working with sustainable produce must be the number one priority for chefs of this generation believes Liam Fauchard Newman. “We spend the majority of our day teaching new chefs how to cook with fantastic produce which they might not be able to use in the future, because nature couldn’t keep up with our demands. That seems like a waste to me. As chefs it is our responsibility to cook sustainably.”

Head chef at Borthwick Castle, Derek Johnstone added: “Food sustainability is so important because it affects us in so many ways. We rely on our food sources for overall health and wellbeing, our economy depends on having good, sustainable producers and food also helps shape our cultural identity.”

Kuba Winkowski was extremely passionate about the subject of sustainability and the responsibility that chefs have. He said “Sustainability is such an important topic for our industry and beyond, because we can't rake our planet without any consideration. Already seas are over-fished and forests are disappearing, along with all the wildlife within it. Chefs work every day with ingredients given by nature, so I believe that it is our responsibility to educate people that good, healthy and ethical food can't be driven by price. We are over eating, especially meat and fish so we need to eat less, but also look more at what we eat, following the seasons, not only to stay healthy but also to keep the resources of our planet at a safe level. It is vital there is something left for the next generations.”

Finalist, Nick Smith believes that all chefs have a responsibility to work seasonally. “Chefs should truly care about the ingredients they use and where they are sourced from. It has become more and more of a necessity for chefs to help with the balance of the environment.”

Look out for more sustainability stories throughout the week on the Craft Guild of Chef’s social media channels.

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