Why is sustainability so important in hospitality?

One of the key focuses for National Chef of the Year is sustainability. Our organisers and judges spend a great amount of time considering ingredients and the competitors’ brief to ensure it’s planned with sustainability in mind. We’re proud to work alongside sponsors who also have sustainability at the heart of their businesses, and we’ve been going behind the scenes of both the young and senior competitions to learn more about the work these companies are doing.

Sustainable sourcing

Our headline partner, Knorr Professional is proud to be part of Unilever Food Solutions, the dedicated foodservice business of Unilever. A world leader in sustainability through the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, their goal is to source 100% of our agricultural raw materials sustainably by the end of 2020. You can find more out about the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan here.

Nick Smith is competing in his second National Chef of the Year final on the 1st October and he told us: “Sustainability is very important and is always part of the ethics of the kitchen.   Seasonality and using local produce is also very important as is educating the younger generation about seasonality as products are more available throughout the year now.”   


Direct Seafoods has put sustainability at the heart of its business and continues to lead the way in seafood sustainability in the foodservice sector. They offer one of the largest ranges of MSC certified products, with 130 lines, and crucially they will not sell seafood products that have been caught or farmed unsustainably or unethically. A great deal of the work they do takes place “behind the scenes” as far as chefs are concerned; the Director of Sustainability Laky Zervudachi works tirelessly to promote sustainability and marine conservation, and sits on numerous advisory panels including the Responsible Fishing Scheme, Sustainable Seafood Coalition and Project UK. Direct Seafoods also provide plenty of direct support for chefs, including monthly ‘catch-up’ customer newsletters including information on sustainability ratings and in season species; red and green rated posters for fish species; and sustainable seafood courses and training videos. 

Jane Aukim, head of marketing at Direct Seafoods said: “Sustainability is becoming increasingly important to consumers, and younger consumers in particular are actively putting sustainability concerns at the centre of decisions such as where they go and what they eat. We’re all consumers, of course, and it’s just as important to remember that those working in hospitality, whether that’s in kitchens or for suppliers like Direct Seafoods, want to know they are making a positive difference.”   

Reducing plastic waste

A company that’s making big steps to reduce plastic waste is our chef jacket sponsor, CCS. The Chefs Against Plastic Waste (CAPW) campaign has been designed by CCS to give all chefs a chance to turn their chef whites into chef ‘right’s’. Each jacket consists of plastic bottles fished from the UK coastline and they are expertly tailored not only for the perfect fit, but also with the aim of raising awareness of recycling and the need to reduce plastic waste in the hospitality and catering sector. We love the fact that worn out jackets can be recycled again, and it forms part of a long-term solution to the modern-day fight against waste.

Chloe Rodgers, marketing manager at CCS said: “Waste is only waste if you don’t do something with it, regardless of whether it’s plastic or anything else. The RPB (Recycled Plastic Bottles) collection is enabling the industry to reduce plastic waste, help the environment and maintain the food chain by making one small change. We are delighted that for the second year running the judges and finalists will be wearing these CCS jackets at the National Chef of the Year final on the 1st October.”

Reducing waste

Food waste is another hot topic for the hospitality industry and the NCOTY competition. Sponsor of the competition fruit and vegetables, Mash, work with their suppliers to constantly evolve the range of produce that they offer. It’s important they recycle over 100% of food waste and are proud of the work they do around sustainability.

Mash work very closely with The Felix Project, a truly thought-provoking and inspiring local charity, that collects good quality food from suppliers and redistributes to charities and schools so that those most vulnerable get a healthy meal or snack. Put simply, they save food and help to change lives.

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Who is responsible for sustainability?

It’s always good to get the views of chefs and we caught up with former finalist, Andrew Ditchfield from the House of Commons. He said: “We always have a big drive on sustainability, especially plastics. We source things as locally as possible and support small producers and this will become even more important now with Brexit as British suppliers and farmers will need support. At the House of Commons, we follow the guidelines to the letter on sustainability for example with composting and food waste.” 

Chloe Rodgers from CCS shared her views: “Technically we all are, and we must all take responsibility for our own environmental footprint whether that’s within our personal or work life. When discussing food waste automaticity, the hospitality industry does come into the conversation due to the nature of the business, this is a food related industry and waste can be a common dominator within it. As this has been a hot topic within hospitality for a few years it’s clear to see there has been a significant change to how business and establishments eliminate their food and general waste. This mentality is what we need to make a difference and to create a sustainable future.”

Last year’s runner up, George Blogg from Gravetye Manor added: “Sustainability is crucial, and it covers a massive amount of topics, but the main area is the environment and the products we use.  We are an independent business and we are doing a huge amount of work towards reducing energy bills, reducing the use of single use plastics and recycling efficiently – we compost as we have large gardens.  We have an obligation to lead the way in what we do and are taking as many steps as we can. When it comes to equipment we also try and buy the best energy rated equipment and we have moved from gas to induction which has resulted in incredible savings in energy bills but is also a greener form of energy.”

What more can the industry be doing?

Jane Aukim, head of marketing from Direct Seafoods added: “It shouldn’t be an add-on, sustainability needs to be at the heart of menu planning and supplier decisions. Just as important, it shouldn’t be a chore – building menus around fresh, sustainably caught seafood is very rewarding for chefs and has huge appeal to consumers interested in the variety and provenance of the food they eat. The process of being more sustainable will never stop, it’s a continuous journey that we’re all on, and we all - supplier, chefs and operators, and consumers - have to work together. Our view is that maintaining a sustainable supply chain is paramount to the continued success of our business and the industry as a whole, and we work hard to guide and influence our customers and suppliers towards more sustainable methods of capture and production.”

George Blogg told us: “The industry can be quite wasteful as it is sometimes easier and cheaper to not be environmentally friendly, but you need to try and change the culture of thought with the people within your organisation and around you and look at the subject as a priority.”


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