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FoodGiorgio Locatelli: “Chefs Must Help to Save the Planet”

Words by Nathan Irvine

Celebrity chef, Giorgio Locatelli tells us why the restaurant business needs to go far beyond a vegan menu in order to help save the planet for future generations.

Charismatic Italian chef, Giorgio Locatelli is at the forefront of a revolution. His restaurant, Ronda Locatelli, has recently introduced a vegan menu to attract a more environmentally conscious clientele, which is part of a bigger plan to help change the world. The Michelin-starred chef now feels a big responsibility to help shape the future of the planet and he wants the rest of the restaurant industry to join in.

Speaking exclusively to EDGAR, Locatelli talks about the challenges of catering to vegans, the reforms needed to meat production and much more.

Giorgio Locatelli

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On the inspiration behind the vegan menu

It was my daughter. She said she wants to be vegan along with her friends, so we worked at it in the kitchen and restaurant organically. And then all of sudden we were like “hmmm, this could be a dish”. So we tried and made a bigger selection of them.

On challenging his staff

Creating a vegan menu helps to challenge the guys in the kitchen – to corner and force them to come up with something different. It’s like, “these are your ingredients. Go make something’. And they don’t have a choice, and sometimes some very good dishes come out of it.

When you give them [the chefs] a chance to use anything in the kitchen they will come up with something crazy. But when it’s only three or four ingredients, the creativity needs to be focused.

On always learning

The great thing about cooking, no matter who you are, is you can learn something new. I know everything about Italian food – wait, I sound so full of myself! – I know a lot about Italian food, but I still discover new things today.

I love Japanese food, but that’s a whole new world to discover, too. It doesn’t matter how much you learn, taste or whatever there will always be something to make you go “wow” or  even a new take on a traditional dish with new flavours.

Giorgio Locatelli

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On making vegan food attractive

We look at a traditional vegan dish and then we think of how to build it up, and give some structure to the dish.

We did an experiment recently with celeriac. It’s a big plant that you can shape as you want. Visually, if you have one main piece that stands out, that person feels better than if it’s a flat dish or mixed with other things. We’re not sure why, but that’s what happened.

So we turn it [celeriac] into something that looks like a fillet steak. In fact, we can cook it in like 25 different ways. We can cook it for hours, and maybe in smoke, and the consistency is amazing.

And then we make this brown veggie sauce, and it looks incredible. So much so that the other people on the table are looking over and going “No, that’s not vegan”. But this has been the challenge for us, to really build them up.

On veganism affecting the restaurant business
There’s more pressure on us, yes, because there are more vegan people around now. It’s not a trend; it’s something that is here to stay. It’s not just about how much electricity is being used [in the restaurant], it’s also about the food and the impact on the environment. I think the affects of this are already happening.

 

Giorgio Locatelli

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On saving the planet

I think chef’s must carry the responsibility, not the restaurants. We really need to push the agenda with food that is environmentally-friendly. The role of the chef has changed. We’re no longer these guys shut in a kitchen, we’re out in the media and we have the power to make a difference.

On fixing food waste

Reducing food waste is something we should all be working towards. In London we’re responsible for picking up food from other shops and restaurants and then cooking it for those less fortunate than the rest rather than throw it away. It’s a very important social experiment.

My people in the kitchen are used to a certain type of customer, but when you cook for the needy it totally changes your perception to food. One of my guys was crying recently because a lady came in from the freezing cold and she didn’t have any shoes. He was so upset he went to the shop next-door and bought her some footwear. They now understand the impact that food can have on society, not just the restaurant, and that’s special.

Giorgio Locatelli

1

On the environment

There’s more sensitivity to the future now. The kids look up to our generation and say “You’ve burned out most of the planet, what’s going to be left for us?”, and this makes me feel really bad. I’m convinced my granddad, when he died, was completely convinced that he left me a better world than the one he lived in, but you can’t say that about us.

Veganism is one of the things that has come from this. The amount of CO2 that is created by [mass producing] meat is damaging and we need to treat Mother Earth with more respect. For example if the whole world decides to live on steak and chips tomorrow, we will implode in two years – the world will be finished.

On the meat industry

We’re not going to make people stop eating meat. It’s what made us who we are today. We had to eat it to stay alive and that’s how we survived. We weren’t herbivores in the beginning. However, we need to be eating very good meat that has been reared in a very good environment that’s better for the animal.

I don’t want to take this away and would always want someone at our restaurant to have this option. We just need to know how it’s been bred, where it was raised, what it was fed, how it was transported – these are the problems today, and we need to reduce them. We don’t need to eat it everyday. We just need to cut consumption.

If we eat it everyday then the world will be over in 30-35 years. But if you have this idea that meat is available at a higher price, and it is distributed differently so everyone can have access to it, we will get better quality.

Like in America, there are 12,000 cows and one strand of grass. This is not natural – these cows wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for these facilities. But then you go to Scotland and see 200 cows in the fields living a normal life, then this is much better overall. It’s the same with milk. The production of milk is cruel. We really need to change this for the good of the planet.

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