You only need to look at one piece of the food cycle to realize how closely the system is interwoven with broader ecological concerns. Take waste: The amount of food thrown away each year is staggering. The CO2 which that food eventually creates in the USA alone is double that of all road traffic. Let that one sink in for a sec: The food that you’re trashing is causing more CO2 than your CO2 belching car.
It’s not surprising, then, to discover that making the restaurant industry more sustainable is mammoth task. Along every part of the cycle you’ll find people working to reduce waste and increase sustainability. There are agricultural and aqua-cultural programs focused on better using soil and plants; food waste advocacy groups who aim to inform the public and repair our bad habits; and chefs striving to create kitchens that rectify the bad practices of the past.
When we talk about sustainable chefs, we don’t mean the ones who tell their servers not to pour ice water unless you ask. We’re talking about renegades who grow herbs on the roof, re-engineer kitchens to be fossil fuel free, and train staff to fight the good fight. Below you’ll find a few of our favorite sustainability-game changing chefs around the world:
Jonathan Tam, Relæ — Copenhagen, Denmark
Relae was just awarded the World’s Most Sustainable restaurant from the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and shortly thereafter Chef Jonathan Tam took over as head chef from Chef Christian Puglisi. Chef Tam started at the infamously popular NOMA before becoming a founding member of Relae. He cites “curiosity” as the driving force behind his journey as a chef and his restaurant benefits from his continued curious nature.
Tam and co. continue to up the game for everyone else when it comes to sourcing real food and utilizing every aspect of it. Relae has its own organic farm — raising both vegetables and proteins — and their biodynamic wine is delivered by bicycle.
Alex Atala, D.O.M — São Paulo, Brazil
Chef Alex Atala is perhaps Brazil’s most important chef right now. He’s fighting for Amazonia rights, indigenous food cultures, and feeding the needy by repurposing throw away food. He’s a busy man, and his flagship resto, D.O.M, is poised to climb to the top of the World’s 50 Best sooner rather than later.
Basically, you’re going to be hearing a lot more from Chef Atala and indigenous Amazonian food cultures in the next years.